This would be a very good Sunday for Ryan Tannehill to be very good.
It isn’t that the bandwagon is emptying; well, except for the expected knee-jerk few predisposed to judge a rookie quarterback too harshly too soon. It is more that the bandwagon increasingly seems filled with anxious passengers not real positive they know exactly where this ride is headed.
Let’s quickly explore the reasons, and then the reality.
The reasons are Trend and Comparison:
1. Trend: We hope for an unwaveringly upward trajectory, but a three-game losing streak in step with a Tannehill downturn messes with that. The past two games the eighth overall pick has one TD pass, five interceptions and a 44.3 rating to drag his season mark to 70.8, just above the Mendoza line. There is a sense of stalled progress, even regression, as defenses with a growing library of film to study appear to have Tannehill figured out.
(And I guarantee: Plenty the past few days have noted Chad Henne’s 354-yard, four-TD game in Jacksonville and wondered if Miami gave up on Henne too soon.)
2. Comparison: Andrew Luck (a rookie-record 2,965 passing yards through 10 games) and Robert Griffin III (fifth in NFL with a 101.0 rating), the draft’s 1-2 picks, have pundits breathlessly chiseling their busts for Canton. The far less celebrated rookie Russell Wilson, whom the Dolphins face Sunday against Seattle, also has superior statistics.
Now, the reality:
1. Dolfans should put on blinders so they don’t constantly see Luck and Griffin. That is unfair and pointless. Both are supposed to be better. This is no surprise. Also, Tannehill is inexperienced even by rookie standards, as a converted receiver. If he is indeed a “project,” this is the right team, and enduring his learning lumps this season is smart because it fast-tracks the future.
2. This kid needs more than time and patience. He needs help. Wilson gets to hand off to a premier back in Marshawn Lynch. Reggie Bush? He has gained 70 yards in only one game all year. Tannehill’s best receiver, Brian Hartline, is having a nice little season but is no reason to not spend the next No. 1 pick on a bona fide premier pass-catcher. Tannehill also has a star left tackle, Jake Long, who isn’t playing like a star.
Sunday would be a very good time for Tannehill to be very good because Miami needs him to be, because it would reverse his recent slump, and because a fellow rookie is pitching for the other team.
Mostly, the nervous passengers on the bandwagon need a reason to calm down and try to enjoy the ride.
Scatter-shooting the league:
• Our weekly updated playoff outlook, entering Week 12 (excludes Thanksgiving results):
Via makenflplayoffs.com: AFC top six — Texans 99.8%, Ravens 98.4, Broncos 97.6; Patriots 92.4, Colts 63.2 and Steelers 57.5 (Dolphins now 11th at 11.5). NFC — Falcons 97.2, 49ers 87.5; Packers 74.5; Bears 67.8, Giants 62.8 and Seahawks 45.1.
• Updated Super Bowl odds entering Week 12, via Bovada: Texans 5-1; Broncos and Patriots 11-2; 49ers 13-2; Packers 15-2; and Falcons 9-1.
• Pats’ Bill Belichick on Thursday sought his 200th career win in his 307th game. Only men faster to 200: Don Shula (286), George Halas (287), Curly Lambeau (300).
• Bengal A.J. Green’s nine games in a row with a TD catch is longest streak since Randy Moss had 10 in 2004. Record: 13 by Jerry Rice, 1987.
• Bucs rookie RB Doug Martin leads NFL with 1,319 scrimmage yards. Only rooks to lead league: Marcus Allen in 1982 and Eric Dickerson in ’83.
• Seem like a lot of close games? The 85 games decided by eight points or less so far are most since 1988. The 15 overtime games are most since 2003.