It’s Time To Give Ryan Tannehill Some Real Competition

Alex Donno
March 29, 2018 - 2:12 pm

      In his first two seasons coaching the Miami Dolphins, Adam Gase hasn’t had true depth on the bench at quarterback. Until he does, he’ll continue to build his head-coaching legacy on a flawed foundation. All signs point to Ryan Tannehill entering another season as the unquestioned starter.

Sure, there are things to like about Tannehill. He’s smart, athletic, and seems to mesh well with Gase’s offensive philosophy. In 2016, the Gase-Tannehill connection led the Dolphins to a 6-game winning streak and an eventual playoff berth. Tannehill was out injured for the final four games that year, including the playoff loss in Pittsburgh, but the progress was clear. Two knee injuries and a year and a half later, Gase is ready to welcome Tannehill back to his starting role. But should it come without a fight?

At this moment, Tannehill’s backups are a journeyman in David Fales and a former epic free-agent-bust in Brock Osweiler. Neither should be seen as any sort of threat to Tannehill’s job. They will both be competing for a backup spot and a warm seat on the bench. Since drafting Tannehill in 2012, the Dolphins have never added a quarterback in free agency or the draft to compete for his job. Matt Moore was never a threat, even if fans would occasionally chant his name on days when Tannehill struggled. Should a quarterback with a 37-40 career record and zero playoff wins be so untouchable? The Patriots once drafted Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round despite having a guy named Tom Brady on their roster. The Chiefs took Patrick Mahomes in the first round, even with a solid Alex Smith holding the starting job.

     Drew Brees was once a Charger, yet the team still drafted Phillip Rivers. It’s time to rattle Tannehill’s cage. It’s time to give Gase another option. The legacy of every NFL coach is closely tied to his quarterback. Gase is considered a quarterback whisperer, so it’d be a shame to see his ship sink with Tannehill at the wheel and no one else to turn to. I’m not saying Tannehill cannot succeed or will not succeed. I’m saying Gase deserves a plan B in case plan A doesn’t reach elite status. And while he wisely won’t come out and say it publicly - at least not directly - it would appear that Adam Gase is ready for that plan B to arrive. Gase sounded positively giddy at the NFL owners meetings when asked about Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. The Heisman Trophy winner likely won’t fall to the Dolphins at number 11 in the draft, but stranger things have happened (paging Laremy Tunsil.)

Plus, Miami COULD decide to trade up to select him if they so desire. “We’re close in personality, probably,” Gase said of Mayfield. “I enjoy watching him play. I like the way he plays. I think Baker’s personality is something that is infectious to other guys. There’s competitiveness that you love to see. As a coach, you always love guys like that. You want to be around them.” Upon hearing these comments, WQAM host Channing Crowder reacted: “He was kissing Baker’s butt. I think Adam Gase might be showing his hand more than he wants to.” Was Gase intentionally inflating his interest in Mayfield as a smokescreen, or is he strongly and sincerely hinting that he views Baker as a worthy potential protege? Gase likes Tannehill and thinks he can succeed with Tannehill. But that shouldn’t mean he has to put every one of his eggs in the Tannehill basket.

If the Tannehill eggs crack, what then? When Tannehill got hurt in 2017, the Dolphins made a desperation move, signing the recently-retired Jay Cutler to a one-year deal. The result? 6-10. The time has come to stock the shelves at the quarterback position. Dolphins fans deserve it, and so does Adam Gase.​​