Tonight the Dolphins will start 8th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft Ryan Tannehill off of a very impressive performance in their first pre-season game. It is unquestionable that the most talented quarterback on the Dolphins roster is Tannehill, but the question is should they prepare him to start the first game of the N.F.L. season, or should they take the other approach and let him learn behind veterans David Garrard and Matt Moore.
The reason for the Dolphins to start Tannehill, I imagine, are not just based on the football field. The Dolphins play in one of the nation’s perceived most exciting cities (I’ve never been). A city that offers people a lot to do, much like in San Diego. If the Dolphins are bad fans don’t have to show up, there is a lot to do in Miami and the weather is always beautiful. The Dolphins have also been second-rate in their division for awhile now and Tannehill offers the fans legitimate excitement because of his big time physical abilities. There is real appeal for the Dolphins to start Tannehill.
But on the field its a little more complicated. Tannehill did not have a lot of starting college experience. Though he played WR at Texas A and M early he was still considered a quarterback there as well. He received practice reps, but he took about 800 snaps at the quarterback position in his career. He’s not considered a seasoned rookie quarterback.
The other issue is the Dolphins are devoid of big time play makers at WR. The Dolphins are relying on players like Legedu Naanee, Brian Hartline, Jeff Fuller, or Robert Wallace (among other contenders) to become #1 WR. Naanee is the most intriguing of these players, but to consider him a number one WR at this point is extremely optimistic. He has good size, but he has 1200 career receiving yards and four touchdowns in five NFL seasons. In 10 starts last year Naanee he had 467 yards receiving. At TE the Dolphins have Anthony Fasano and rookie Michael Egnew. Even if Tannehill plays well it’s very possible that it will not translate into numbers or wins.
Last year Cam Newton and Andy Dalton had very good rookie seasons, but both teams were better offensive situations. The Panthers had two good tight ends, Steve Smith, and the league’s best running back duo. The Bengals had A.J. Green, clearly better than anyone on the Dolphins roster at WR, Jermaine Gresham, and some nice young WR. Dalton also was more NFL ready than I believe Tannehill is, and it could show if Tannehill is thrust into action from the very beginning.
Tannehill is the best quarterback on the Dolphins team, but I can think of a number of situations in which players were made into starters right away to see their career’s held back or possibly destroyed. David Carr, Alex Smith are two that come right to mind. Big Ben and Cam Newton saw immediate success, and Peyton Manning took his early lumps to become one of the league’s historically great quarterbacks. But is that because the started their first game, or was it in spite of starting their first game.
On the flip side, many of the league’s best quarterbacks all sat and learned before they became starters. Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and Tom Brady all set their rookie seasons. Others like Matt Schuab, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Michael Vick, Jay Cutler also sat out part of, or their entire first year while they learned how to play the game.
Tannehill will someday be the franchise QB for the Miami Dolphins, but that day does not have to be today. Letting Tannehill learn will not stunt his growth, in fact it’s possible that it might actually help him flourish.
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