Ever since 1999 — the year Dan Marino decided to hang up his cleats — the Miami Dolphins have had nothing but inconsistencies and question marks at the quarterback position. Outside of Chad Pennington, Miami has struggled to find an efficient quarterback, most notably one they can build their franchise around. By drafting Ryan Tannehill with the eighth overall pick in 2012, the Dolphins believe they have found their man. Despite the hope, Miami is feeling the wrath of developing Tannehill, as the team has had their share of struggles over the last two seasons. With the team failing to make the postseason since 2008, this season will be a make or break year for not only the team, but for Tannehill as well.
In his first season in the National Football League, Tannehill was held on a leash. Clearly, the Miami Dolphins simplified their offense to tailor Tannehill’s inexperience. It showed on the field, as Miami’s playbook was essentially cut in half. Tannehill finished the season with just twelve touchdown passes and thirteen interceptions. Luckily, Miami played in a poor division, allowing them to finish in second place; however, their record was just 7-9.
It was obvious that the 2013 season was panning out to be a different story for Tannehill. Former General Manager Jeff Ireland did a phenomenal job with surrounding Tannehill with offensive weapons. Ireland signed wide receivers Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson to long-term deals, while taking a chance on Dustin Keller with a one-year contract. For the most part, the team did not benefit from these three signings. Dustin Keller tore his ACL, PCL and MCL and dislocated his knee cap in the preseason, Brandon Gibson tore his patellar tendon halfway through the season, and Tannehill regularly struggled with Wallace.
Despite struggling throughout the season, a late season winning streak put the Dolphins in an excellent position to make the playoffs. All the team needed to do was win one of their last two games, and they were in. This seemed very realistic, as the team was coming off of three straight victories against New York, Pittsburgh, and New England. Seeing Miami crumble the way they did was a surprise to many people. In the last two games against Buffalo and New York, Miami’s offense stalled, scoring just seven points. Tannehill finished off the last two games of the season with just 286 passing yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
Although you can easily put the blame on Tannehill, one of the main reasons the team struggled down the stretch was because of the offensive line. In the second to last game against Buffalo, the defense was able to sack Tannehill a total of seven times. Allowing your quarterback (especially a young one) to get sacked seven times is one of the best ways to level their confidence.
Losing the last two games of the season was a crushing defeat for Miami. They fell to third place in the division, finishing with a record of 8-8. The late season collapse raised many questions about whether Ryan Tannehill and Head Coach Joe Philbin are the men for their jobs.
Even though they suffered through a late season debacle, there is still reason for optimism in Miami. First and foremost, new General Manager Dennis Hickey has made an attempt at fixing the offensive line. He made his first big move as Dolphins GM when he signed Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert in free agency. Hickey continued to add pieces to the line by drafting right tackle Ja’Wuan James in the draft.
Hickey has also done a good job in terms of continuing to surround Tannehill with targets. Miami brought in running back Knowshon Moreno to help improve their lackluster running game. Moreno, who is coming off a career year in Denver will offer Miami an effective pass-catcher and blocker out of the back field. Not to leave out, Moreno also ran for 1,000 yards last year.
In addition to Moreno, Miami drafted Louisiana State star receiver, Jarvis Landry. During his time at LSU, Landry developed into one of the best receivers in the NCAA. Landry finished his junior season with the Tigers with seventy-seven receptions for 1,193 yards and ten touchdowns. Landry’s sure hands and savvy route-running ability should help Miami’s passing game moving forward.
Another reason for optimism in Miami is because of the changes made to the coaching staff. Over the last two year’s it was quite obvious that offensive coordinator Mike Sherman was out of touch with the way the offense should run. Many questioned his willingness to open up the playbook for Tannehill and ability to integrate Mike Wallace into the game-plan. The good news is Miami parted ways with Sherman; anointing former Eagles QB Coach Bill Lazor as their new offensive coordinator. Last season, the Eagles offense was electric, finishing in the top ten in both pass yards per game (9th) and rushing yards per game (1st).
As the Eagles QB Coach, Lazor worked with young quarterback Nick Foles. Last year, Foles had one of the best first-year performances in some time. He finished the season with twenty-seven touchdowns and just two interceptions. Along with his incredible touchdown-to-interception ratio, Foles threw for 2,891 yards, while maintaining a passer rating of 119.2. With Miami’s offense being stagnant the past couple of years, it is exciting to see a coach come in who has had recent success.
Still, despite all the moves that Miami made, this season will ultimately come down to how Ryan Tannehill performs. It is imperative that he takes the next step forward in his developmental stage. Tannehill has had some flashes of greatness; however, he has also had some dull moments. With an upgraded offensive line, added targets, and a new offensive coordinator, this is the season in which Dolphin fans will see how Tannehill’s future will play out. Miami is hoping the inconsistent play from Tannehill is a thing of the past. Over the past couple of years Miami has made countless acquisitions to improve the team. If they continue to struggle this year, you can bet that change will be looming. As the leader of this team, this season has turned into a make or break year for Ryan Tannehill.