The Dolphins have a lot of work to do this offseason. I'll break down their free agency and draft needs in a future article. Right now I want to focus on a position the Dolphins have struggled to fill since Dan Marino retired in 2000. Ryan Tannehill has shown glimpses of greatness, but overall has wallowed in mediocrity.
When the Dolphins drafted Tannehill they brought in his college coach, Mike Sherman, to run the offense and make the transition to the pros easier. That move seems to have backfired though. There were multiple sources that said Tannehill was frustrated with Sherman's play calling by the end of his second season. Tannehill wasn't the only person griping about the play calling. Everybody felt like Sherman would give up on the run too early, and take unnecessary shots down the field at unnecessary times during the game.
So, Sherman's out. The Dolphins went and hired Bill Lazor. Lazor seems to be the man responsible for the spectacular year Nick Foles had in Philadelphia. We will have to see if Tannehill responds to Lazor the way Foles did. Lazor is also going to have to adjust from being a QB coach to a full time offensive coordinator, so that could have its own turbulence.
Tannehill does have the benefit of a security blanket Brian Hartline. And after a slow start Tannehill and Wallace seemed to find a rhythm that they can continue to develop this off season. My biggest concern for Tannehill is staying upright. In a lot of games he couldn't seem to get anything going, because he was being put on his back 5-7 times a game. It's easy to guess that if you're getting sacked that much; you're getting hurried twice that many times.
Let's focus on the things that Tannehill can control, unlike the roster or coaching staff. His arm strength and accuracy are debatable. Depending on who you talk to he either has a canon and misses or has touch while lacking in strength. I think he can make NFL throws, but his arm is a work in progress.
He does however have great feet. I think that is something he doesn't utilize enough. He has innate speed and quickness that he fails to show when plays break down. He played wide receiver for the large part of his college career, so it's clear that he can run. I really only saw his legs on display in the snowy Pittsburgh game. He rushed for 56 yards, 48 on one run.
He did show his ability to keep his poise late in games. He kept the Dolphins close with very few fourth quarter mistakes. He even had a few comeback wins with the most impressive being against New England in week 15.
I also hopes he locks himself in a film room. His reading of defenses left something to be desired. It seemed like he would routinely misread coverage and end up throwing at opposing DBs instead of his WRs. The nice thing about this attribute is that it's something that can be worked on. You don't have to have special gifts to be good at reading defenses. It just takes time, application, and patience.
I don't think Tannehill will ever be a top 5 quarterback in the NFL. I think he's a long shot to be in the top 10. But I definitely think he can fit in that 10-15 range. Honestly, the Dolphins don't need him to be a top five guy. Those kinds of guys come along once a franchise and the Dolphins had theirs. Tannehill just needs to show everyone that he can be a starter in the NFL. He needs to not lose games and win some every once and a while.
If Tannehill doesn't take that next step in 2014, I can see the Dolphins moving on, especially with some QB heavy draft classes coming up over the next few years.