Miami Dolphins

Dolphins’ Ryan Tannehill hasn’t been as bad as you think

Ryan Tannehill needs to pick up himself, and his offense.
Ryan Tannehill needs to pick up himself, and his offense.

Here’s a lukewarm take:

Ryan Tannehill hasn’t been been terrible this year.

Make no mistake: he hasn’t been great, either.

But is he one of the three worst starting quarterbacks in the league, as Football Outsiders’ advanced statistics suggest?

The team obviously believes not.

And the mountain of criticism dropped on his head after three losses in four weeks by fans and talk radio is more hyperbole than a dispassionate review of the facts.

Here’s a fact that you might not have already known:

The garish pick Tannehill threw in Cincinnati -- the one called by some on the internet the “worst interception of the 2016 season,” the one that ended any chance the Dolphins had of coming back on the Bengals -- wasn’t his fault.

The truth is, a receiver ran the wrong route. Tannehill threw to the spot he thought his teammate would be. Instead, the only one in the screen was Bengals defensive back Chris Lewis-Harris.

But no one but the Dolphins players and coaches knew that late last Thursday night. It simply looked like Tannehill made an inexcusably poor throw.

Instead, it was one of at least two interceptions Tannehill has thrown this season that shouldn’t be blamed on him, Dolphins coaches insist.

And while he shouldn’t get a pass on the other three he’s thrown, some perspective is order:

Tannehill’s passer rating through four games is 87.3, ranked 21st in the league and a tick below his 2015 stat line.

But if those two interceptions were simply incompletions, his rating would be 96.1 -- moving him into the top half of the league.

Just like Hurricane Matt hasn’t followed a straight line through the Caribbean, a football season doesn’t follow a linear trajectory.

And the Dolphins believe the worst is behind them. The offensive line is getting healthy. And sometimes it takes four games or so for a new offense to work. That’s been the case before with Gase.

“[Gase] mentioned speaking with someone from Chicago and [that this year] reminded him of that situation,” Tannehill said. “I sure hope so. We’re a quarter of the way in and things haven’t gone exactly the way we wanted them to. I feel like we have all the pieces to get it going. Now it’s just a matter of doing it.”

They better. The Dolphins are statistically no better this year than they were last.

The rank in the bottom six in yards (329.8 per game), rushing (77.8) and points (17.8). They’re last in both third-down conversions (27.3 percent) and time of possession (24:16).

And when the offense doesn’t work, the quarterback takes almost all of the blame.

Much of it is justified.

Tannehill had two critical misses in the Bengals game. His pass to MarQueis Gray on an early third-and-1 was off target, leading to a punt. And he threw behind Jarvis Landry on what should have been an easy completion.

Plus he’s played a role in the 11 sacks the Dolphins have allowed this year.

Gase, who has been loathe to criticize his quarterback, acknowledged recently that Tannehill needs to improve his pocket presence.

But Gase quickly added:

“I think we need to do a better job of actually blocking guys, too. Everybody wants him to step up. Where?”

As for Gase’s view of Tannehill’s play against the Bengals?

“When things start going bad, you want him to find that one throw where he can spring us loose. But [last Thursday] was one of those nights where he only had two opportunities early that maybe could have sparked us.”

And that is perhaps the fairest criticism of Tannehill. He’s not often the problem. But how often is he the solution?

Tannehill is in line to earn $18 million in 2017. He’s projected to account for roughly an eighth of the team’s salary cap.

You don’t pay a player that to simply be OK.

Does he feel pressure faced with that reality?

“It’s not necessarily pressure,” Tannehill said. “I feel urgency to just play the football that we can play. I believe in the guys around me. I believe in myself and I know that we’re not too far off. We just have to make the plays that are there.”

▪  Although the Dolphins did not practice Thursday, they had to submit an injury report as if they did. They made no changes from Wednesday. Tackle Branden Albert (ankle/illness), tight end Jordan Cameron (concussion), cornerback Xavien Howard (knee) and linebacker Jelani Jenkins (groin) all would have been held out.

Adam H. Beasley: 305-376-3565, @AdamHBeasley