The Dolphins have to know Ryan Tannehill is not doing his job right now. They must see, as we all do, he’s not getting the offense in the end zone enough, he’s not reading the whole field all the time, he’s sometimes staring down receivers, he’s sometimes not getting rid of the football fast enough.
Everyone sees this.
The Dolphins must see this.
So why did coach Adam Gase, who is more intimate with these issues than anyone, anoint Tannehill his starting quarterback the rest of the season late Sunday afternoon after the quarterback laid another egg?
Why did the coach, asked after a 30-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans if he considered benching Tannehill during this two-interception day, steamroll the question in much the same way the Titans plowed his defense for 235 rushing yards?
“He’s not coming out,” Gase said with conviction. “You can ask me 100 times. He’s going to be in there the rest of this season.”
And for a moment, I thought there must be something about working for the Miami Dolphins that simply makes smart people do and say dumb things.
Remember in 2014, when the team was in the middle of losing three games in the season’s final four weeks and owner Stephen Ross announced Joe Philbin had earned another year?
That was the time Ross gave the coach a contract extension, when the entire rest of the Earth was calling for Philbin’s firing.
For a minute, I thought I was living a similar moment. The Dolphins seemed to be rewarding ineptitude all over again.
Tannehill has, by every statistical measure, regressed this year. He’s thrown seven interceptions and six touchdowns. His quarterback rating is the lowest it has been since 2013.
Tannehill is the quarterback, so he’s ultimately judged by how many games he wins. And the Dolphins are off to a 1-4 start, their worst since 2011.
So that gets him a season-long endorsement as the starter?
Fans are not going to be happy. A contingent of them raised the chant of “We want Moore,” meaning they wanted backup quarterback Matt Moore replacing Tannehill during the second half.
And that’s not the full scale of dissatisfaction right now.
Fans are jumping ship on this franchise every day. They’ve seen enough. Been through enough. These people write to me after games in growing numbers to announce their departure from Dolfan status as if the email makes their intent official.
So it might seem smart to appease these people by offering them a sacrifice: Tannehill.
But backing away from the emotion of another loss, that would not be the intelligent approach. Gase’s proclamation about Tannehill is actually the intelligent approach.
Let’s face it: The Dolphins just lost to one of the worst teams in the entire NFL so that pretty much makes them one of the worst teams in the entire NFL. And that makes the rest of this season about a lot of things, but unfortunately none include making the playoffs.
Nope, this season has become about finding out who’s going to be on this team next year. The rest of this Dolphins season has become about deciding whether to keep or cut players such as Mario Williams, Byron Maxwell, Jermon Bushrod, Kenny Stills, Koa Misi, Jelani Jenkins, Arian Foster and Jordan Cameron.
And heading that list of players the Dolphins must make a decision about is none other than Ryan Tannehill.
That’s Job One — deciding if Tannehill is part of the problem or can be part of the solution.
That decision was looming anyway even before the Dolphins got off to this wretched start. Tannehill, you see, is counting $11.64 million against the salary cap this season. That’s a lot.
But next year, the extension he signed in 2015 kicks his salary into overdrive, and he is scheduled to cost the Dolphins $20.3 million against the cap.
That cost is prohibitive even for a good quarterback. But no NFL team would want to carry a mediocre or inconsistent quarterback for that price.
So, the rest of this season allows the Dolphins to decide if Tannehill is basically a mediocre or inconsistent quarterback — a middle of the pack guy due a top of the mountain payday.
If Tannehill proves himself less than worthy of his payday, the Dolphins can walk away from him and actually save salary cap space in the transaction.
And the only way the team — or anyone — can honestly make that decision at the end of the season is by letting Tannehill play and prove himself worthy of the big money. Or not.
“I know coach has confidence in me — I have confidence in myself — and I think the guys on offense have confidence in me,” Tannehill said.
That’s good. But that confidence comes with an end-of-season expiration date unless Tannehill improves significantly.