The injury to quarterback David Garrard is the best thing that could have happened to the Miami Dolphins as the preseason commenced here Friday night.
I don’t mean that to be flippant, and intend no disrespect to Garrard, the veteran whose knee surgery derails or at least delays his comeback from back surgery. But when an aging QB’s physical condition recurs as a question and a doubt, perhaps it is a gift of the fates to nudge his reluctant team to re-think, to consider other options.
Give the football, the season, the future, to Ryan Tannehill.
And now more than ever, after the show he put Friday.
Let the first-round rookie fly, and take Dolfans’ hopes with him.
This might sound familiar to some of you; I wrote this on the first day of training camp. It bears repeating. Loudly. Incessantly. Then, Garrard was healthy and Tannehill was a holdout who hadn’t yet reported to camp. I wrote it anyway
Now the framework has changed but that bottom line has not.
Garrard, No. 1 on the depth chart before his injury, should not be seen as the man carrying this franchise forward, not even when healthy again, not even for a little bit. (Although on his behalf I would wonder aloud why this minor arthroscopic clean-out surgery wasn’t done a month ago or in the spring rather than at this odd time).
Neither should Matt Moore, the incumbent and the man who started the rain-marred preseason opener here vs. Tampa Bay, be the starter-by-default now. (Moore did pretty well last season, but, after all, his being viewed as not good enough is why Miami drafted Tannehill in the first place).
Time to move past the veteran-caretaker phase and the OK-but-not-great phase.
Time to fast-forward the future.
New coach Joe Philbin hopefully got the hint he needed with this unexpected Garrard health development. This should serve to rip the blinders off the organization and convince it to let this year be Tannehill’s learning curve. Why wait?
What rookie is better suited to start right away than one on a team whose no-huddle based offense is the very same one his Texas A&M coach, Mike Sherman, has installed here as Dolphins offensive coordinator?
What rookie should start right away if not one on a team that hasn’t won a playoff game since 2000 and isn’t forecast to break that streak this season?
Tannehill is supposed to be this club’s first QB since Dan Marino to be up to carrying that “Next Marino” yoke without collapsing under its weight.
Let’s find out. Time to breathe life into this team, this season, this franchise-turned-moribund.
From this point forward Tannehill should get all of the practice repetitions with the first-team unit and be inundated with accelerated learning.
Dolphins QB icon Bob Griese said this week of Tannehill: “I smile because I know the future is taken care of. I think they’ve found it. I think it’s about time. He’s going to make it.”
Let’s unwrap that gift now, with the understanding there will be rough spots, rookie mistakes and inconsistencies — but with the good feeling that Tannehill would be banking now (not later) the one essential thing a young quarterback can’t get as a backup under a ballcap: Experience.
None of what I have written, by the way, relied on anything that happened in Friday’s exhibition opener.
It didn’t matter that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Dolphins 20-7 in a snooze-fest typical of first dress-rehearsals — this one a reminder there are few things in sports more depressing than sitting in a downpour in a half-empty stadium watching your team lose in a fake game worked by replacement officials. (Tampa at Miami was nobody’s Super Bowl preview to begin with. Toss in Jacksonville and our state is to the NFL right now what the state of Texas is to snow-skiing).
It didn’t matter, either, that Moore looked just OK Friday. He completed 7 of 12 passes for 79 yards, though his three series of work ended in two punts — one after a Chad Johnson drop — and a batted ball that was intercepted.
Nor did it matter much that Tannehill looked pretty damned good in his five series, entering to cheers and completing 14 of 21 passes for 167 yards including an 11-yard touchdown strike to Charles Clay. That’s a 106.6 passer rating. He had another TD pass overturned on review. On the scoring series Tannehill was 7-for-8 for 84 yards, his arm visibly stronger than Moore’s — the Dolphins’ future and present seeming to merge as if by time-lapse photography.
Moore could have looked great Friday and Tannehill awful. It still wouldn’t have altered the bottom line that Garrard’s injury merely makes easier to see now, and so hard to ignore.
There should be no equivocating from this point forward.
Dolphins, quit putting off the future for which fans have waited for so long.
Time for Tannehill.