Ryan Tannehill had just rallied his team to a fourth consecutive fourth-quarter comeback victory on Sunday, and Jimmy Johnson had seen enough to make one of the grandest of pronouncements that an analyst can make about the quarterback position.
“To take them down the field for that winning drive, he has shown he’s a franchise quarterback,” the Fox analyst and former Dolphins coach said.
If anybody could ever make the case for that, now would be the time.
Consider what Tannehill has achieved:
▪ He has thrown six touchdown passes and one interception and has a 99.3 passer rating during this five-game winning streak. If that 99.3 had been his rating for the entire season, it would be tied with Russell Wilson for eighth-best in the league.
Tannehill’s 91.1 overall rating is 19th but ahead of his 85.9 career average and 88.7 rating last season.
▪ Tannehill has completed 67.8 percent of his passes during this winning streak. If that held as his accuracy rate for the entire season, it would rank fifth in the NFL, tied with Matthew Stafford and behind only Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Sam Bradford and Matt Ryan.
▪ Though Tannehill is just 20th in passing yards this season, he’s 10th with 7.7 yards per attempt, which is a more accurate gauge because it doesn’t penalize him for rushing attempts.
Coach Adam Gase had a conviction that he could win with Tannehill and that he could be a quality quarterback. Gase was asked Monday when he determined that and why he felt that way.
“Before I even took the job; that’s why I took the job,” Gase said. “When you feel comfortable with the quarterback you are coming in with, that’s a good starting point. And, obviously, there’s a huge checklist going down after that.
“I felt really good about him coming in, and the more we worked together the better I felt. As we’ve gone along, it probably took me a little longer than it should have to figure out what we can do well on offense. That was a little disappointing. It’s really my fault not waking up and realizing we can do this, this and this and stay away from these things. That was bad coaching.”
Gase said Tannehill “has done a great job of sticking with our process and trusting me on some stuff. There were a couple things he changed that probably [weren’t] really comfortable for him and he did it, and that showed a lot of trust with him.”
“Some things with footwork,” Gase said. “It was not easy to go about changing some things if you’ve been doing it a certain way. Getting your third new coordinator in five years.
“I’m sure Sherm [Mike Sherman] had some things he liked [that] he wanted him to do. Bill [Lazor] had some things he wanted him to do, and I come and say, ‘Do it this way.’ At some point, when you’re a fifth-year quarterback, you’re like, ‘How many times do I have to change this?’ He did a good job as far as buying in and doing it the way I asked him to do it.”
Tannehill has made dramatic improvements in two areas that were considered shortcomings: fourth-quarter play and throwing the deep ball. His fourth-quarter passer rating, which has traditionally lagged, is up to 90.8, 19th-best in the league.
“He hasn’t done anything to show me he can’t do things in the fourth quarter,” said Gase, who then cracked to reporters: “What your experiences are and what my experiences have been have been completely two different things. When we get into the fourth quarter and it’s a close game, I feel confident.
“Between him being able to play in the fourth quarter and the deep balls, I kind of question your guys’ evaluation skills right now. I’m glad you’re not in personnel.”
Of the quarterbacks with the NFL’s 20 richest contracts, Tannehill and Minnesota’s Bradford are the only ones who haven’t had a winning season or gotten to the playoffs. Now both have their teams at 6-4.
“Adam Gase was brought in as much as anything else to fix Ryan Tannehill … and he has done that,” Johnson said. “He has done a tremendous job with the entire team. But the crucial thing is Ryan Tannehill. Everybody said he had athletic ability, he could make the throws, but he didn’t make the crucial throws in the crucial games.
“He has shown in the last month he can do it. He made great throws last week against San Diego to win that game.”