You will hear a lot about growing pains associated with rookie starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill as he formally takes over this Dolphins team and this offense and attempts to see his football skills grow to NFL standards.
Friday night reminded us that it will be Dolphins fans feeling that pain.
This could be excruciating, folks, a year that challenges long-suffering Dolfans to discover how much patience remains in the emptying reservoir.
As long seasons go, we could be setting out on a marathon.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
But know this: The problem with this offense right now (and by extension this team) does not start with Tannehill, with his raw inexperience or with all he has to learn.
The problem is everybody else. The problem is all around him, as we were reminded in Friday’s punchless 23-6 preseason loss to the visiting Atlanta Falcons on a depressing night that fittingly ended in a tropical storm-of-a-downpour in an emptied stadium.
Tannehill was hardly great in his 2 1/2 quarters of work: 11 for 27 for 112 yards with a tipped-pass interception, but he also suffered at least four dropped balls. (Matt Moore was no better, also sabotaged by drops.)
“We’re really close. A mistake here, a mistake there,” said Tannehill afterward, redefining the positive spin.
Tannehill is the solution, remember — or at least deserves a very elastic benefit of doubt on that.
The problem with Tannehill is his non-supporting cast. This poor kid doesn’t need a playbook, he needs a Help Wanted sign.
To be fair, Jake Long is an excellent left tackle, of course. And Reggie Bush is a decent running back in glimpses and spurts, though closer to just-OK than elite. Davone Bess has his moments.
And that’s about it.
I hate to use jargon or technical terms, but if you’d indulge me I’d say this Miami offense looks downright stinky.
New coach Joe Philbin and new offensive coordinator Mike Sherman are trying to mask the lack of playmakers with tempo and speed, with a fast-paced attack that often dispenses with the traditional huddle and makes routine the pace of a two-minute drill.
But that does not disguise the fact Miami has nobody on offense who concerns, let alone scares, an opposing defensive coordinator. Tannehill might someday, maybe even soon, but not yet. And his getting to whatever his maximum potential proves to be will only be slowed by the lack of help.
“Offensively, let’s face it, we didn’t have a whole lot of rhythm out there,” said Philbin after the game. “We stopped on third down. It wasn’t pretty at all. Of course I’m concerned.”
(Aside to Joe: If the hat contains any rabbits, it might be time to pull them out. I’d hate to see your shiny new head-coaching career take a sudden wrong turn and start to careen out of control down Cam Cameron Boulevard.)
Friday’s loss left Miami 0-3 in the preseason for only the third time since the late-’60s expansion years, and third exhibition games are seen as the ones that put the most stock in the final score. Starters play more, and the game is more of a true dress rehearsal for the regular season. If so, this dress rehearsal found the Dolphins in rags.
This should make Friday night’s result all the more sobering for Dolfans.
So should a comparison of the weapons the opposing Falcons had on offense vs. what Miami could bring in terms of so-called skill-position guys.
The comparison is that there was no comparison.
Miami’s defense should be fine and keep the team in games, but, oh, this offense!
Here are a few questions for Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland, and also for his predecessor in personnel dubiousness, the undearly departed Bill Parcells:
How come Atlanta has a blossoming QB in Matt Ryan — whom the Dolphins could have drafted instead of Long a few years back — while Miami is tardily just now getting around to a long-term solution there?
How come the Falcons have a better runner, in Michael Turner, than anyone here?
How come the Falcons have an accomplished tight end in Tony Gonzalez while the best Miami can offer is ordinary Anthony Fasano, whose three drops Friday included one on the goal line?
How come Atlanta has two very good wide receivers in Roddy White and Julio Jones while Miami is stuck with an undistinguished group — maybe the worst in the league — that Ireland himself described on Hard Knocks as a collection of “fours, fives and sixes”?
How did it get to this point that Atlanta has assembled an offense that helps make Ryan’s job look easy while Miami is saddled with an offense that makes Tannehill’s job so much harder?
The composite answer to all of these questions explains why Atlanta is seen as a strong playoff contender today while the Dolphins are far from one.
Scouts Inc. for ESPN graded every NFL player and came out with an overall Top 200 list this week. The only Dolphin offensive player on the list is Long at No. 20. Not a single Miami skill guy to be found. Nary a bona fide playmaker to be seen.
This is the burden an accumulation of bad management and bad decisions has heaped upon Ryan Tannehill.
“Are you ready for some football?,” the musical rhetorical that echoes this time of year, is received more hopefully by some than by others.
You might be ready for some football, Dolphins fans.
If only your offense seemed ready.