The pendulum swings week to week, and if you allow yourself, you can get dizzy riding the emotional roller coaster.
One week, when rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill struggles, some quick-to-judge Dolphins fans fear the worst.
Then, on days like Sunday, the optimism rises that he’s the long-term answer at the most critical position.
Tannehill’s exemplary work against woeful Jacksonville — when he completed 22 of 28 passes for 220 yards and posted the highest quarterback rating of his career (123.2) — was encouraging, though faith in Tannehill’s potential remained strong inside the organization even when he was slumping in recent weeks.
“Yesterday,” offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said Monday, “was a good indication of what he’s capable of doing. Made great decisions. Was very accurate. He’s had some very good games. He shows a lot of promise.
“I think he has an excellent future, and he’ll just continue to get better.”
Though Tannehill’s quarterback rating ranks 29th among 35 qualifiers, this should bring a smile to Dolphins fans:
• Tannehill woke up Monday with a higher quarterback rating than No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck, 75.9 to 75.5. That’s largely the result of Tannehill having a higher completion percentage (58.7 to 54.6) and fewer interceptions (12 to 18). Luck has thrown twice as many touchdowns (20 to 10) and for far more yards (3,978 to 2,929).
• Tannehill has not thrown an interception in three games, and only seven quarterbacks with as many or more pass attempts have thrown fewer.
Was Sunday the most efficient game that Sherman has seen him play in the pros? “Would have to be right at the top,” Sherman said.
Asked to cite the qualities that make him most encouraged about Tannehill’s future, coach Joe Philbin cited “decision making and … his overall awareness as a young player.”
Sherman reminded reporters on Monday that Tannehill “hasn’t played that position as much as maybe some other quarterbacks have at a very high level. So he’s learning on the job, and he processes things and tries not to make the same mistake twice. We put an awful lot on him.
“His mind-set, that’s the beauty of Ryan. He knows when he makes mistakes. He’s fairly critical of himself but doesn’t beat himself up. When you evaluate quarterbacks, you really have to look at their psyche as much as their talent. As a rookie quarterback, you’re going to make mistakes. You just can’t let every mistake weigh heavily on your shoulders, and Ryan doesn’t do that. ...
“That’s the sign of a good quarterback that has a chance to be a great quarterback.”
The Dolphins want to take advantage of Tannehill’s scrambling ability, as they did Sunday when he had eight carries for 52 yards, including a 30-yard scamper.
Even simply moving him around in the pocket “can take someone out of coverage, if he’s unimpeded,” Sherman said. “It gives him more time to buy routes with his feet, and he throws very well on the move, as well as in the pocket.”
But asked about the possibility of using the spread option more, Sherman said, “At this level, you have to be very careful. It’s something that we’ll do but not a real heavy dose of.”
For years, the Dolphins, Bills and Jets have been looking for the type of consistently good quarterback play to help them seriously challenge Tom Brady and the Patriots.
It remains to be seen if Tannehill can lift the Dolphins to those heights. But for a change, two AFC East teams — Buffalo and New York — have a more muddled quarterback situation than Miami’s.
Bills’ QB status
With the Bills, who visit Sun Life Stadium on Sunday, Ryan Fitzpatrick has decent numbers (22 touchdowns, 15 interceptions, 83.5 rating) but has not validated last year’s six-year, $59 million extension.
The Bills were 4-2 when Fitzpatrick signed the extension. They are 7-17 since, and only Philip Rivers has thrown more fourth-quarter interceptions than Fitzpatrick’s six.
Bills general manager Buddy Nix said last week: “There’s a time when you can move up a round to take a quarterback, and I think that time’s now for us. We need a good, young quarterback, and we’re going to do our best to get him.
“There are two ways of doing it. You can get your quarterback first and then try to fill other holes around him. But then you take a chance on breaking his confidence down.” That hasn’t happened with Tannehill, despite a nondescript supporting cast.
Meanwhile, the Jets’ Mark Sanchez entered Monday’s game in Tennessee with the NFL’s third-lowest quarterback rating (71.8). The Jets must pay him $8.25 million next season regardless of whether they keep him or not. So most expect New York to keep him but also add competition. Options include free agent Michael Vick and Alex Smith, if the 49ers part ways with him.