The similarities between Nick Foles and Ryan Tannehill are obvious: Two NFL quarterbacks of like faith. Both 29 years old, both out of the 2012 NFL draft, both onetime Texas prep stars.
And that’s a good jumping off point if you’re a Miami Dolphins fan because it’s easy to point to the similarities and career paths of these men and make the fateful leap that, here we go, if Foles could unexpectedly land in the right situation, and surrounded by the right talent could raise his play, and lead his team to a Super Bowl title, then …
… You know what’s coming, right?
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I’ve heard this from multiple NFL people since Super Bowl 52. That game ended with Foles standing on the platform, wearing a big smile on his face and confetti in his hair while holding the Vince Lombardi Trophy aloft. I’ve heard it since Foles threw for 373 yards and three touchdowns against Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots defense.
And, I figured, this would be something of an uplifting column. Why not tell Dolphins fans that everything is not doom and gloom following last year’s 6-10 season because some smart people believe Tannehill can do what Foles did? Why not explore the evidence behind the Dolphins’ unwavering belief that Tannehill can be a championship quarterback?
Why not float some hope?
So I went about researching Foles and Tannehill. I’ve compared their NFL careers. I’ve scoured their game-by-game performances for parallels.
But what I come away with is that Foles and Tannehill actually aren’t that much alike aside from the obvious.
Their on-field production offers more contrast than comparison.
The idea that because Foles won a title two years after he considered leaving the sport, does not really suggest Tannehill might do the same after spending 14 months away from the game because of injury.
Before he weaved a miracle after taking over for injured starter Carson Wentz, Foles enjoyed significant success earlier in his career. In 2013, his second NFL season, Foles threw 27 touchdown passes with only two interceptions.
His 119.2 quarterback rating that season was better than Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Russell Wilson. It was better than Peyton Manning’s quarterback rating in a year Manning, under Denver offensive coordinator Adam Gase, threw 55 touchdown passes and posted a 115.1 rating.
The point is Nick Foles soared to heights in recent months. But the rarefied air up there was not foreign to him.
That ’13 season, in the playoffs against Brees and the New Orleans Saints, Foles threw two more touchdowns without an interception and completed nearly 70 percent of his passes. His quarterback rating that game was 105.0.
Yes, the Eagles lost that game 26-24, but that was a stellar season by every measure for Foles.
That season Foles posted a quarterback rating over 103.0 in 11 of his 13 games. He had one game in which he threw seven touchdowns.
And, yes, the four seasons afterward were a struggle for Foles. He was barely mediocre in 2014 before breaking his collarbone. He was bad with the St. Louis Rams in 2015, although his 4-7 record suggested he was outperforming teammates on a 5-11 squad.
And his 2016 season in Kansas City was spent mostly in the shadows as a backup.
But the point is when Foles came out of those shadows in December of 2017, he surprised folks who maybe shouldn’t have been because he was repeating something he’d done before.
He played six games, including the postseason, and delivered four games in which his quarterback rating was over 100 — which, again, is something he’d done before. And as he had in the 2013 postseason, Foles played well in the ’17 postseason. He completed 72.6 percent of his passes, he threw six touchdowns and only one interception. His rating for the playoffs was 115.7.
So has Tannehill ever done anything similar that suggests greatness in the future?
Well, to begin, Tannehill has never played a postseason game. That’s not a knock. That’s a fact.
The Dolphins went to the playoffs in 2016 and Tannehill played a key role in helping them get there — delivering a 7-5 record in games he started and finished.
But he missed the final three games of the season so it was Matt Moore who delivered two playoff-clinching wins in the final three games to get Miami to the playoffs. And obviously Tannehill wasn’t able to compete in the postseason despite hopes he might.
So the next time Ryan Tannehill succeeds in a playoff game will be the first time.
While Foles showed a run of excellence to finish off this past season, he’d done that previously back in ’13.
Tannehill has never had such a run.
Tannehill has only once managed consecutive games in which his quarterback rating was 100 — that came in November of 2014.
Tannehill has never posted a QB rating above 100 in three consecutive games during his 77 starts.
That doesn’t matter, the Dolphins might argue. Tannehill showed signs of finally starting to catch on to Gase’s offense just before that injury in 2016. And he can pick right up from there — about 630 days later — the next time he plays in an NFL regular season game.
But here’s the thing: When Tannehill last played he had a really good month of November. He threw eight touchdown passes with only one interception and had a 107.9 rating that month. The Dolphins were 4-0 that month.
But the next month, December of 2016, Tannehill played two games and threw four touchdowns and four interceptions. His rating dropped to 86.9. The Dolphins were 1-1 in those two games.
So one month’s excellence enjoyed no lasting consistency the next month.
None of this is proof Tannehill cannot suddenly find his game and register one great game after another in a Super Bowl run. Or in a playoff run. Or in a regular-season run.
He might someday show us a miracle similar to the one Foles weaved recently. But has he, like Foles, given hints he’s capable of doing this before?
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero