There’s a vocal segment of the Dolphins fan base (and to be frank, the sporting press) that’s only happy when their hot takes about Ryan Tannehill are validated.
And with his ups and downs in his first few seasons, Tannehill certainly gave the skeptics ammunition.
That steady stream of criticism eventually got to Tannehill, Dolphins safety Michael Thomas acknowledged on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show Monday.
“I'd definitely say different pressures, especially while losing, it can affect guys differently,” Thomas said, when asked about the sense that Tannehill wasn’t ready, maturity wise, to handle the fire early on. “I’d say it’s fair to say that, but I definitely say it’s helped him. He’s learned from it and now I feel like he is that leader. He is that leader in the locker room. He is that leader of our team and it’s made him better.”
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Thomas added: “I definitely think a lot of people, they ride him a little too much, but I see the grind that he puts in every single day staying late. He’s even helping us out trying to decipher what offenses are trying to do to us. So I think he is taking that next step to be an elite quarterback.”
If nothing else, he’s an improved quarterback. Tannehill set career highs in 2016 in completion percentage (67.1), yards per attempt (7.7) and passer rating (93.5). And he put the team in position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008 before suffering a a major knee injury in December. He fortunately didn’t need surgery, and Tannehill participated without limitation in the team’s offseason conditioning program.
What’s the biggest change? Tannehill now has the full-throated backing of his coach, Adam Gase, which wasn’t the case with Gase’s predecessor, Joe Philbin.
“I felt like the addition of coach Gase and his offensive staff definitely helped Tannehill take that next step,” Thomas said. “I saw him make all the throws that they ask him to make, especially when that protection was there and the O-Line was clicking. We got that run game going with Jay Ajayi, and then when (Tannehill) used his legs, I felt like that’s when he’s at his best, showing his athleticism.”
A couple of other interesting things Thomas said during his in-studio radio appearance:
▪ “Obviously, a lot of people thought that last year was smoke and mirrors,” Thomas said of Miami’s 10-6 season in 2016. (He’s right; Vegas thinks the Dolphins will win fewer than eight games.) “What you did last year doesn't matter.”
▪ Gase, early in his first season with the Dolphins, was determined to stop the avalanche of negative stories out of the locker room that buried the previous regime. “We had a lot of leaks, a lot of stories coming out of here in the past. [Gase told us,] ‘from here on out, everything is going to stay in-house.’ Everybody has bought into it.”