Sunday focus | Dolphins

Miami Dolphins’ Ryan Tannehill takes control

 

Dolphins Hall of Famer Bob Griese expects quarterback Ryan Tannehill to take on more of a leadership role with the team in Year 2.

abeasley@MiamiHerald.com

If Bob Griese is right, Ryan Tannehill will be using far more blue language in his second professional season.

But he won’t be cursing errant throws so much as he’ll be keeping presnap chatterboxes in line.

“When you’re in the huddle and someone is talking, when you’re a rookie, you sort of look over and say, ‘Ah, Mr. Larry Little, could you please be quiet because I have to call this play?’ ” Griese, the Dolphins legend and Hall of Famer, said last week.

“The second year, you say, ‘Shut … [pause for effect] … your … [pause again, this time for an expletive] … mouth,’ ” Griese said. “There’s just something about going from the first year to the second year.”

The entire Dolphins 2013 blueprint is based on that assumption. The apprenticeship is over. The pieces are in place. Now, Tannehill must seize the moment and become the franchise leader — both in demeanor and production — if the Dolphins are to end their playoff drought, which is at four years and counting.

Tannehill showed flashes of both traits this spring. His command of the huddle and comfort level in his own skin were evident to the most casual observer. In the final drive of minicamp, he won the intrasquad scrimmage by leading a patchwork offense on a hurry-up touchdown drive.

When asked Thursday how much further along he was from last year, he responded: “I think a good deal.”

“Last year, I didn’t even know what position I was going to be in, as far as the depth chart,” he said. “I got to grow as a leader over the camp, the spring. Take control of the offense. Take control of setting things up. Getting guys together. I think that’s the biggest jump, I would say.”

That’s just what Griese wants to see. And when he speaks, people usually listen.

Now 68 and long the Godfather of the Dolphins quarterback tree, Griese is like many South Floridians his age. He’s battling skin cancer.

Griese recently had a basal cell carcinoma — which is rarely life-threatening — removed from his face. Skin cancer has also been cut out of his back, the price paid for too many Indiana summers spent in the sun as a kid.

Still, Griese shows no signs of slowing down. He again agreed to serve as a color analyst for the Dolphins’ radio broadcasts.

And so it was a big deal last week when he predicted Tannehill would make a noticeable jump in Year 2.

Why the faith? Because that’s precisely what both he and Dan Marino did in their second professional years.

In his sophomore season, Griese improved in most every statistical category — completion percentage, touchdowns, interceptions, quarterback rating and, most importantly, wins.

“Everybody was talking about, ‘What a great year that rookie Griese had,’” he said. “I didn’t think it was so great. My thought was, ‘If these people think that was good, wait until they see me playing pretty good, throwing more touchdowns than interceptions.’ ”

Sixteen years later, Marino set the bar even higher. In Year 2, Marino directed the Dolphins to their fifth — and most recent — Super Bowl.

Marino was a bona fide star, breaking single-season league records for touchdowns (48) and passing yards (5,084) en route to league MVP honors.

No one’s asking that of Tannehill, at least not yet. Griese says 2013 will be a success if the Dolphins reach nine wins — just two more than they had a year ago, when Tannehill started every game.

“With Tannehill going into the second year, being the guy who controls the offense, knowing what he wants to do with the football, he will be the guy similar to Bob and Dan,” said Nat Moore, a former Dolphins receiver who caught passes from both Griese and Marino during his career.

“They told us where they wanted us to be and they got us the ball, and gave us a chance to catch the ball and do something with it.”

Still, growth is inevitably painful, and Tannehill has been far from perfect this spring.

He threw at least one interception in most every practice that was open to the media this spring. And he still struggles with balls tipped at the line. Tannehill had 13 batted passes in 2012, tied for sixth-most in the league.

On that, Griese — who, like Marino, attended a day of minicamp last week — has a suggestion.

Tannehill needs to do a better job at looking off defenders, he said — not just safeties on deep and intermediate routes, but also defensive linemen on check-downs.

It’s the sort of savvy that only comes with experience.

Sort of like cursing out a mouthy offensive guard in the huddle.

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