For more than a half-decade, Ryan Tannehill and Mike Sherman have been a package deal.
Whether they will remain one going forward is unclear. However, there is no conceivable way they will if Tannehill’s 2014 ends like his 2013 did.
Sherman, the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator, has been the target of fan and player angst from nearly the moment the Dolphins were eliminated from the playoff hunt. In the locker room following the season-ending loss to the Jets, some privately called for Sherman’s job, a cry that only has intensified in the days since.
And if NFL.com’s reporting is accurate, count Tannehill among the doubters. The website reported that the Dolphins quarterback has lost faith in his play-caller and groomer.
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But after the way Tannehill finished his second pro season, it would be tough to blame Sherman if the feeling is mutual. With the season on the line, Tannehill played his worst football of the year.
In the first 14 games of the season, Tannehill completed 62.4 percent of his passes, averaged 259 yards and tallying a passer rating of 86.6.
His stats in his final two: 44.8, 143 and 43.5.
No big surprise then that the Dolphins were outscored 39-7 in the season’s final 120 minutes and out of the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season.
“We didn’t finish strong, plain and simple,” said Tannehill, whose career record as a starter is 15-17. “We didn’t finish the way we wanted to. Obviously none of us saw this coming.”
Perhaps not. But many of the issues were there all along, but simply masked by the team’s success in early December.
The Dolphins’ offensive line allowed 51 sacks in the first 14 games. It surrendered seven in the final two. Miami’s ground attack averaged 95 rushing yards through mid-December. It went for 14 and 92 in games book-ending Christmas.
And the Dolphins somehow managed to go 8-6 despite Tannehill misfiring on the deep ball time and again. They lost their last two games largely because he never could fix the problem.
Tannehill completed just 25 percent of his passes thrown 20 yards or longer this season, and threw more interceptions (six) than touchdowns (three) on attempts of that length.
Mike Wallace had only five touchdowns all season. Considering how open as he consistently found himself, he could have had 10 more, including one on a play that defines this wasted season.
The Dolphins were leading the offensively impotent Jets 7-0 in the first half when Wallace, yet again, got behind the secondary. A completion there could have put the game out of reach. Instead, Tannehill overthrew his receiver, and the Dolphins did not score again in 2013.
“It was missed opportunities we had,” Tannehill said after the Jets game. “We had a couple drops, miss-throw to Mike on a stutter-go, he’s got 3 yards on a guy and I overthrew him; that would have been a touchdown.”
Tannehill continued: “It was just all day, whether it be in the run game, throwing the ball, catching the ball; we just missed some opportunities that we should have taken advantage of.”
Tannehill has not spoken publicly since that loss, and he was not in the right frame of mind a week ago to self-assess his second pro season. (”This one hurts right now,” he said at the time.)
He does, however, believe he made strides. But like his team as a whole, those strides weren’t long enough. Miami finished with just one more win than it did in 2012; Tannehill’s passer rating improved by just 5.6 points.
The incremental growth might be enough to convince Ross to give everyone — the head coach, the general manager and Sherman — one more year to get this thing straightened out.
But in Year 3, for both a quarterback and a regime, there would be no excuses. Everyone would be on the hot seat.
“We are an 8-8 football team,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said last week. “That’s an average record. That’s .500. The performance of the team … starts with me — offense, defense, special teams. The expectations here are high, and I understand that.”