Ryan Tannehill said Wednesday that coach Joe Philbin has told him that he remains the Miami Dolphins’ starting quarterback but also admitted that Philbin’s refusal to acknowledge that fact publicly “obviously doesn’t feel good.”
In one of the oddest news conference in recent Dolphins history, Tannehill became the first athlete in memory to assert that his coach has created a distraction.
“It creates a bunch of stir and a bunch of distraction in the locker room, mostly from the outside coming in and guys having to deal with the distraction of it,” Tannehill said. “It’s not a good feeling.”
Does he wish Philbin had handled this differently?
“Honestly, yes,” Tannehill said. “Does it feel good to deal with all the distractions that have been created because of the situation? No. That’s life. You face distractions. You face adversity in life. You have to fight through it and become a better man, a better player because of it.”
Philbin has been asked every day whether Tannehill would start Sunday’s game against the Oakland Raiders in London.
Philbin has never answered the question directly, instead saying he will play the 46 players that give them the best chance to win.
Tannehill said he became aware of Philbin’s refusal to commit to him publicly because he received “texts from basically anyone I’ve ever known, offering support, which is a good thing, I guess.”
Tannehill said he asked Philbin why he’s not naming him the starter publicly. Tannehill declined to say what Philbin answered, but according to a league source, Philbin is doing this because he doesn’t want to violate his self-imposed policy of not identifying starters publicly.
But Philbin has made exceptions before, such as noting before the season’s opening game that Daryn Colledge and Shelley Smith would start at guard. Philbin was not trying to motivate Tannehill, the source said.
Nevertheless, Philbin’s handling of this has been criticized inside and outside the locker room.
Asked whether it has created a distraction, backup Matt Moore said: “Maybe a little bit. Absolutely nothing has changed. I’ve taken zero reps at practice.”
Several players privately questioned Philbin’s handling of the matter, though none beyond Moore was willing to say that publicly.
NBC Sports Network analyst Tony Dungy and Jason Taylor also criticized Philbin’s approach.
“One of the first lessons I ever learned as an assistant coach working for Chuck Noll, and then Bill Walsh and Dennis Green, is that you don’t start a quarterback controversy … you’re telling everyone, ‘I’m not sure I believe in Ryan Tannehill,’” Dungy said.
Said Taylor: “It’s kind of a head-scratcher to me. If you’re going to make the change, then make the change.”
Philbin — who called Dungy last year when he thought Dungy was criticizing his handling of the Dolphins’ bullying scandal — said Wednesday that the opinions expressed by Dungy and Taylor are “totally fair.
“I think everybody is entitled to their opinion. They certainly can feel free to express it, and at the end of the day, I have to go to sleep and put my head on the pillow and do what I think is the right thing. I have no issues with any of that.”
Tannehill said Philbin has “been clear with me” about remaining the starter.
Asked whether Philbin left the door open for changing quarterbacks during Sunday’s game, Tannehill said: “He didn’t tell me anything about that. Obviously … anything can happen. That wasn’t part of the discussion.”
Moore said he also was given no indication that he might be summoned off the bench during Sunday’s game if Tannehill struggles.
But Moore admitted Philbin’s refusal to commit publicly to Tannehill “kind of caught me off guard.”
Moore said the situation is a little bit awkward “considering I’m answering questions like Cam Newton.”
Tannehill ranks tied for 12th in the league in touchdown passes with four and has thrown just two interceptions. But he ranks 29th in passer rating (74.1), completion percentage (56.5) and last in the league in average yards per completion (5).
He’s 35th in fourth-quarter passing rating, at 51.6. That ranks ahead of only Colin Kaepernick and Tom Brady. He’s 29th in third-down passer rating, at 63.7.
And despite the presence of one of the league’s most accomplished deep threats in Mike Wallace, the Dolphins remain one of the most inefficient teams in converting big passing plays.
Among passes that traveled 20 yards or more in the air, Tannehill has completed 1of9 for 22 yards in three games. The only other starting quarterbacks performing that poorly with deep balls: Brady (1 for 13) and Eli Manning (1 for 9).
Last season, Tannehill completed 16 of 64 such passes.
In Tannehill’s defense, he has been sacked nine times and barely avoided several other sacks. And Dolphins receivers have dropped seven passes.
“I feel confident,” Tannehill said. “All the stuff from the outside makes it seem like the world’s collapsing. The guys in the huddle are confident in their ability and mine.”