Remember that game last year when Ryan Tannehill threw for 351 yards and three touchdowns … and the Miami Dolphins lost?
Or the one against Denver the year before when he threw three touchdowns, completed 72 percent of his passes and, that’s right, the Dolphins lost?
Or those 38 games since 2012 in which the Dolphins — either as a strategy or out of necessity — put the game in Tannehill’s hands, asking him to throw more than 35 passes?
Miami’s record in those games is 10-28.
So gunslinger Ryan Tannehill has known much more failure than success.
Game-manager Ryan Tannehill is a different story. That’s a feel-good story.
Game-manager Tannehill, who doesn’t have to throw practically every down to win the game, who isn’t asked to carry the team, and throws 32 or fewer passes in a game, is very successful. That guy is actually championship-quarterback successful.
That quarterback has played 21 games for the Dolphins since 2012.
And his and the team’s record is 17-4 in those starts.
Do you see where I’m going here?
The Dolphins have definitely found an identity the past month or so with their steamrolling offensive line clearing space for physical running back Jay Ajayi. That run-first approach has helped the Dolphins improve their time of possession, which has helped their defense, which has been able to limit opposing offenses, which are scoring less points, while the Dolphins are scoring more points.
Three consecutive wins.
But a less obvious outgrowth of this new run-first strategy has been the binding of gunslinger Tannehill.
And the loosing of game-manager Tannehill.
The Dolphins quarterback, you see, has not been asked to carry the team in recent weeks. He hasn’t had to throw it a bunch. He hasn’t had to play the hero.
Tannehill has simply been asked to — avert your eyes if you must — be a game manager.
As you’ve just read, he’s darn successful when he doesn’t have to throw it 35 or more times to win a game. But he’s competent and successful when he’s part of the solution and not the only solution to the complex problem of winning NFL games.
So what you have is the Dolphins becoming a running team and not asking the quarterback to do too much, or pass too much, and that’s great because this quarterback is so much more successful when he doesn’t have to do too much or pass too much.
Perhaps the best thing about this fruitful synching of roles and personalities is that everyone seems comfortable with it. Everyone so far seems cool with the idea of Ryan Tannehill, the team’s second-most expensive player this year and most expensive next year, as a game manager.
“Whatever it takes,” said Tannehill, who threw for a modest 149 yards on 28 attempts against the Jets on Sunday.
In a victory, by the way.
“Obviously, that was plenty last week,” Tannehill continued. “If we need 300 this week, then that’s what we need. It’s just a matter of game by game [doing] whatever it takes to move the chains and put points on the board.”
This is where you need to know Dolphins offensive coaches in general and coach Adam Gase in particular are protective of Tannehill.
They don’t want defenders bothering him while he works because that affects his body and performance. They don’t want fans yelling when he’s on the field because that might force him to bark signals louder and laryngitis is a thing. They don’t want geek reporters asking about whether Tannehill being a game manager is a good or bad thing because that might affect his self-esteem. Or something.
“I look at it as the quarterback’s job is to make sure he puts his team in the best position to win a game,” Gase said glaring at the reporter who asked about game-manager Tannehill. “I mean., I’m sure [Kansas City Chiefs game-manager QB] Alex Smith really doesn’t care how many times he goes to the playoffs as long as he’s going. Call the guys game managers. Their job is to win.”
And then Gase spit at the reporter.
No he didn’t. But I bet he thought about it.
Anyway, offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen thinks it’s good to be a game manager. (Love Clyde). He doesn’t think the term is disparaging in the least — even in a league that values star quarterbacks.
“No quarterback should be offended,” Christensen said. “It should be a compliment, but it kind of has this derogatory term of making you a non-playmaker [and] you just manage the game. Absolutely not.
“In fact, you guys [those dang reporters again] make our job a little bit harder, because [players] do look it as a … It’s like a possession receiver. What’s a possession receiver? You catch the ball underneath. It has this derogatory connotation, and yet, it’s absolutely a critical, critical position.
“I think game manager for a quarterback falls in that one [category] that has this negative connotation, but not inside the coaching rooms it doesn’t. Not at all.”
So to recap: Ryan Tannehill wins more when he’s able to fill a game-manager quarterback role. Winning is good. He’s fine with it. The Dolphins are fine with it.
And reporters are idiots for apparently coming up with a term the Dolphins say offends no one:
Winning game-manager quarterback Ryan Tannehill.