This football club’s proud past segued to its promising future — a ceremonial handoff of sorts — in a neat little moment during Sunday’s Dolphins game here.
Defensive greats Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas were up in the press box holding a news conference following their halftime induction onto the club’s stadium Honor Roll when, down on the field, rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s right hand was a scalpel cutting deftly through the St. Louis Rams’ defense as the third quarter commenced.
A television directly behind Taylor and Thomas had been muted, so you saw in pantomime Tannehill’s seventh completion of the drive — an arrow into the end zone onto Anthony Fasano’s chest for what proved to be the winning points.
“It was awesome,” Zach was saying.
He meant seeing his and Taylor’s names revealed into franchise immortality.
He could as well have been describing what increasing evidence suggests Miami has found in this kid QB. The Answer at last, is what it has found. The future.
There was so much crazy about this 17-14 victory that leveled Miami’s season record at 3-3. The Dolphins were outgained more than 2-to-1 in total yards. The running game didn’t, and the defense spent much of the afternoon getting trampled.
“It wasn’t pretty,” coach Joe Philbin told his players in the winning locker room.
Nobody was talking about Tannehill afterward, and yet all he’d done was have the best game of his young career, at least statistically. He was an efficient 21 for 29 for 185 yards, with a 29-yard scoring strike to Marlon Moore before his game-winner to Fasano. He had zero interceptions. His passer rating topped 100 for the first time.
On a day when a strong Rams defense bottled up Reggie Bush and the ground game and forced the result into Tannehill’s hands, all he did was deliver, though quietly, as if it was fully expected.
On a day when a Tannehill turnover would likely have turned this game, he kept it clean.
This is a good sign: When your rookie quarterback’s strong performance begins to become assumed, like, no big deal.
“I thought his decision making was good. Again,” said Philbin, when prompted. “When you don’t throw the ball to the other team, that’s a good place to start.”
Tannehill took a couple of sacks, avoided more than a few with his mobility and rollouts, and continued to earn respect of his teammates. A rookie — especially at this position — does that by making his teammates begin forget he’s a rookie at all.
“He’s getting better every single week,” said tackle Jake Long.
Said Fasano: “His growth from game to game has been critical and incredible.”
This NFL season will not stop being the year of Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III when it comes to rookie quarterbacks. Tannehill will forever be, well, the third. But Dolfans will be increasingly pleased with the player fate gave them the more we see games from him like Sunday’s: Accurate, efficient, turnover-free.
A Dolphins team that had found ways to lose has begun to find ways to win, something hardly coincidental with Tannehill’s progress.
“It’s been changing for this team,” said Moore. “We’re getting it together, point blank.”