Miami Dolphins

Here’s how Ryan Tannehill (favorably) stacks up against QBs of his era

Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill is gunning for his first playoff appearance.
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill is gunning for his first playoff appearance.

Ryan Tannehill has a Twitter account, but he rarely uses it.

It’s a good thing, because if the Dolphins quarterback had checked his mentions during much of Sunday’s game against the Rams, he might have considered a career change.

The criticism, locally and beyond, was a tidal wave. And for good reason: Tannehill and the Dolphins’ offense were awful. One astounding stat: They had just 27 passing yards on their first 25 drop-backs.

One national writer used the occasion to make a sweeping judgment on Tannehill’s career, basically saying that he would never amount to much of anything beyond a caretaker.

As we now know, that narrative lasted all of another hour. Tannehill put on his Superman cape and saved the day with two touchdown drives in the game’s final seven minutes.

“I think this team has confidence no matter what happens — as long as there’s time on the clock, we’re going to find a way to win,” Tannehill said.

And he will keep surprising people if he has to, beginning Sunday against the atrocious San Francisco 49ers. The Dolphins aim for their first six-game winning streak since 2005, and during this run, it seems as though everyone has gotten credit but Tannehill.

Jay Ajayi has run like crazy. The offensive line (when healthy) has dominated. Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh might be the best defensive-line tandem in football. The defensive backs have stepped up. Kenyan Drake saved the day on special teams.

And after all that, pundits finally get around to praising Tannehill, even though he has completed 67.8 percent of his passes for 1,017 yards, six touchdowns and one interception in that stretch. That equates to a passer rating of 99.3.

For some people, nothing Tannehill does other than winning the Super Bowl MVP will ever be enough. But for the more rational thinkers, there’s no question that Tannehill has been part of the solution and not the problem during this stretch.

The best way to judge Tannehill is to think of how many teams would gladly trade their starting quarterback for him.

The San Francisco 49ers would be on that list. On Sunday, they will start Colin Kaepernick, whose career has cratered since reaching the Super Bowl in 2012.

In fact, the Niners have a collection of busts in their quarterbacks room — all from the 2011 draft class. Kaepernick, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder all went in the first 36 picks that year. There’s a chance all three will be out of the league in 2017.

So next time your office mate or drinking buddy wants to rip Tannehill, remind them that there were nearly 50 quarterbacks selected between 2011 and 2014, and Tannehill is empirically better than all but five or six of them — at worst.

Tannehill might never be Cam Newton, Russell Wilson or Andrew Luck. But few will be.

Instead, his career résumé — 35-39, 62.4 completion percentage, 17,749 yards, 99 touchdowns, 62 interceptions, 7.0 yards per attempt and 85.9 rating — matches up favorably with the likes of Andy Dalton, Derek Carr and Teddy Bridgewater.

(As an aside, there were a great many failures during those years, including Gabbert, Ponder, Johnny Manziel, Brandon Weeden, Geno Smith and Mike Glennon. Not coincidentally, the teams that drafted those players are a combined 16-36 heading into Sunday.)

And unlike Kaepernick, Tannehill is trending the right direction. After early stardom, Kaepernick couldn’t even beat out Gabbert to start the season.

Plus Tannehill’s best trait — his refusal to get injured even though defensive linemen have used him like a bowling pin — doesn’t show up on the stat sheet.

He has never missed a start and, most amazingly, has never had a documented concussion.

“I think there’s been some — whether it be a touchdown pass or a third-down conversion that kept us going or kept us scoring points — that if he doesn’t do some of those things where he stands in there and takes a shot, we don’t get those plays,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said. “I think guys respect the fact that he’s sacrificing for them — a little bit of his body — to make those throws.”

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

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