After the Miami Dolphins suffered a defeat at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs at home last week, Head Coach Joe Philbin refrained from explicitly endorsing his starter for the subsequent game against the Oakland Raiders at Wembley Stadium in London.
Philbin stated, “We utilized the players the best way we saw fit,” intending to establish a precedent of avoiding weekly discussions about injuries and depth chart changes—a consistent messaging approach throughout his tenure in Miami.
The absence of an explicit endorsement for Ryan Tannehill, the current starter, fueled speculation that the Dolphins might be considering a change at the quarterback position following a 1-2 start to the season.
Amid ongoing media speculation, Tannehill expressed frustration with the coach’s consistently lukewarm stance toward his starting role against Oakland.
Tannehill even took it upon himself to announce that he would be the starter for the upcoming week’s game, asserting, “Nothing has changed since Week 1.”
In hindsight, Philbin acknowledged the distraction he inadvertently created and apologized.
Given the turbulent history, particularly the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito incident in 2013, a media distraction is the last thing anyone at the Dolphins facility would desire.
The perplexing question remains: why was Joe Philbin initially hesitant to commit to Tannehill?
The Miami Dolphins initiated the season positively, securing a victory against the perennial AFC East divisional champion New England Patriots at home.
However, after this triumph, they encountered two consecutive losses, accompanied by a decline in offensive production.
Local media, particularly Omar Kelly, scrutinized Tannehill for the diminishing production and lack of success in the past two weeks.
Despite spending over seven years in the NFL, including a stint in training camp with the Miami Dolphins, the perspective on Tannehill’s performance differs.
The adjustment Tannehill has had to make this season is more significant than anyone who hasn’t been in a football (much less NFL) huddle can understand.
In the off-season, the Miami Dolphins brought on Bill Lazor as their offensive coordinator, entrusting him with the play-calling responsibilities previously held by Mike Sherman.
This move carried significance for a couple of reasons. Mike Sherman had coached Ryan Tannehill during their time together at Texas A&M.
Under Sherman’s guidance, Tannehill’s smooth transition into the NFL contrasted with the typical challenges faced by most rookie quarterbacks in their inaugural year.
Despite being somewhat overshadowed by fellow rookies Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, and RGIII, Tannehill’s stats stood out as impressive, especially considering his non-quarterback background in college:
He posted a 58% completion rate, threw for 3,294 yards, recorded 12 TDs, 2 Rushing TDs, and achieved a 76.1 passer rating.
In comparison, Andrew Luck’s QB rating that year was 76.5, with a 54% completion percentage.
The adjustments Tannehill has faced this season transcend the understanding of those unfamiliar with the dynamics of a football, let alone an NFL, huddle. His communication now involves a different language.
Although the play-calls may appear similar, they are conveyed distinctly. The rhythm, timing, and overall philosophy of the current off-season differ significantly from the Dolphins’ approach in 2012-2013.
It takes time for a new offensive scheme to integrate and become second nature fully. Once a quarterback masters an offense, instinctive play without overthinking is allowed.
An offseason and three games into a season prove insufficient for any quarterback to fully internalize a system.
These considerations only account for the adjustments a quarterback must make without delving into the complexities faced by the other ten positions on the offensive side.
In the dynamic landscape of the NFL, roster changes are a constant, driven by factors such as injuries, performance issues, or positional needs.
Successful teams often boast roster continuity, allowing players to anticipate their teammates’ reactions in the heat of the moment, enhancing the likelihood of on-field success.
The ability to play without overthinking enables players to perform at their peak.
The Miami Dolphins faced a unique challenge this season with five new starters on the offensive line, an uncommon occurrence for a non-expansion team.
Building cohesion among these players takes time, as they aim to become the most synchronized unit on the field, relying on effective communication for success.
A significant off-season acquisition, Knowshon Moreno, has grappled with injuries since joining the Dolphins.
Despite his impactful performance in the lone win of the season against the Patriots, his absence due to a dislocated elbow has added pressure on Ryan Tannehill and the passing game.
Defensive adjustments to new personnel are quicker than offensive changes but remain a factor.
However, Miami’s defense has been labeled “predictable,” allowing opposing offenses to anticipate coverages, contributing to the team’s 27th ranking in points allowed.
Amidst these challenges, Ryan Tannehill retains the starting quarterback position with only three games into the season.
Given the careful evaluation that led to Tannehill’s selection in the first round, it’s premature to consider a change.
His athleticism aligns with the zone read scheme, his accuracy suits Bill Lazor’s passing game, and Miami’s league-leading 12 drops emphasize the collective responsibility for offensive struggles.
While the offense’s performance remains a concern, allowing Tannehill another game to showcase progress in the system is advisable.
The upcoming bye week allows the Dolphins to reassess the quarterback situation and make adjustments if necessary.
In the interim, a call for patience is warranted. Installing an NFL offense with a roster of new faces takes time, and media expectations should not dictate the pace.
Ryan Tannehill remains the clear choice as the starting quarterback against the Raiders in London, with further evaluation and adjustments on the horizon.