The Miami Dolphins have taken an all-in approach with Ryan Tannehill as the team's franchise quarterback, and that approach is indeed justified.
The franchise invested the eighth pick in the 2012 NFL draft on the inexperienced Texas A&M starter.
The franchise invested 32 starts into his career, and even married him to his former head coach at A&M, and his college offense, which was directed by Mike Sherman for the first two seasons.
The hope is the investment will payoff soon, and Tannehill will become one of the NFL's upper echelon starters in 2014.
This year Tannehill has a new offensive coordinator - Bill Lazor - who helped turn Nick Foles into the NFL's top rated passer last season for the Eagles. He has a new offensive line, which features two former Pro Bowlers, and three first-round picks, and a new starting tailback in Knowshon Moreno to help him get the offense in gear.
But how far does he have to go? Where is Tannehill coming from? Where does he stand in the NFL's existing quarterback hierarchy?
In my opinion there are six ELITE quarterbacks in the NFL, and those individuals are Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger. Those quarterbacks prop up whatever team they play for, and usually have their teams in playoff contention, and in pursuit of Super Bowls.
Then there is the second tier of upper echelon quarterbacks like Eli Manning, Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, Alex Smith, Matt Stafford, Jay Cutler, Carson Palmer and Joe Flacco. Some of them are aged, some are declining, some are game managers, and some are inconsistent. But there's little debate that each is better than Tannehill right now. Their paychecks certainly say so.
That brings us to a total of 14 quarterbacks better than Tannehill, and we haven't even gotten into the young guns yet.
Most of the young guns - Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III, Nick Foles, and Andy Dalton - are Tannehill's peers. They have all outperformed him in just about every area that matters in the NFL, whether it be statistical comparisons, or team accomplishments. Most are trending upwards.
Nobody is saying Tannehill won't be better than some of his peers because he could absolutely have a Foles-like come-up in 2014. But right now he's trailing that group, which brings the total of quarterbacks Tannehill is presently behind to 21.
And now we get to Tannehill's contemporaries - Sam Bradford, Michael Vick, Jake Locker, Josh McCown, Matt Schaub, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Cassel - and the second-year starters (E.J. Manuel, Geno Smith), or rookie quarterbacks (Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, David Carr and Tom Savage).
That's 14 quarterbacks coming for Tannehill's spot as the NFL's 22nd best quarterback.
Every Dolphins fan's goal SHOULD BE for Tannehill to become a top 16 passer in the NFL, which means he's in the better half of the league's starters. Last year Newton and Dalton's 88.8 passer rating got them inside that cut, and ironically Brady (87.3 rating), Luck (87) and Stafford (84.2) were on the outside looking in.
Where was Tannehill? His 81.7 passer rating had him ranked as the 24th best quarterback last season, but his season-ending nose dive vs. the Bills and Jets tanked his stats.
Here are a couple more numbers that highlight where improvement is needed from Miami's starting quarterbacks:
Tannehill was 10th in yards passed for (3,913) and 12th in touchdown passes thrown (24) last season. But only six quarterbacks threw more passes (588) than Tannehill last season, and those six - Peyton Manning, Brees, Stafford, Ryan, Brady and Flacco) AVERAGED 32 touchdown passes last season. That means Tannehill is eight touchdown passes off pace for being a high volume passer.....
Tannehill's fourth-quarter passer rating (64.3) ranked him 35th in the NFL last season, and his play in football's most important period was behind a few backups (Matt Flynn, Josh McCown, Matt Cassel, Thad Lewis, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kellen Clemens, Jason Campbell, Brandon Weeden, Terrelle Pryor and Mike Glennon). But in fairness to Tannehill, he did lead the Dolphins to fourth-quarter victories over the Colts, Falcons, Chargers, Steelers and Patriots last season....
On third down throws Tannehill has a 74.6 passer rating (24th best in NFL). He completed 59.1 percent of his passes on third downs, and threw nine touchdowns and eight interceptions on that critical down. Only two quarterbacks (Palmer and Flacco) threw more interceptions on third downs last season....
In yards per attempt Tannehill's 37th in the NFL with 6.7 per throw. However, there are only 31 quarterbacks who threw more than 140 passes ranked higher than him....
When it comes to completion percentage Tannehill's 60.4 rate from 2014 ranked him 24th amongst QBs who threw more than 100 passes last season....
Tannehill threw 4.1% of his passes for touchdowns last season. Last season 19 starting quarterbacks had a higher percentage of their passes thrown for touchdowns.....
Tannehill threw 2.9% of his passes for interceptions last season. Twenty starting quarterbacks had a lower percentage than him....
Only six quarterbacks threw more interceptions last season than Tannehill, who threw 17. Twelve of those interceptions occurred in losses. And the Dolphins lost every game Tannehill threw multiple interceptions - three vs Saints, two vs. Bills in game one of that AFC East division game, two vs. Patriots in game one of that series, and three in the season-finale vs Jets, which prevented the Dolphins from qualifying for the final AFC Wild-Card spot....
I've consistently pointed out an 85 passer rating should be the standard for EVERY Dolphins quarterback considering the franchise has only produced one season without a .500 or better record in a year the starting quarterback turns in a 85 passer rating. And that season was in 2011 when Matt Moore (87.1) rallied the Dolphins back from a 0-7 start to win six of the final nine games.
Last season the Dolphins had a 6-2 record in games where Tannehill produced a 85-plus passer rating. The only losses were to Ravens and Panthers, and both of those games were fourth-quarter losses that could be placed on the defense's shoulders.
The point....Tannehill needs to become a 85 rated quarterback in 2014 of the Dolphins need to move on because he'll have proven he's not good enough to make the franchise relevant because quarterback No. 21-24 just won't cut it.
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