Dolphins’ Tannehill doesn’t care what the national media thinks about his team, he cares about the players in the building.
It took nearly 1,000 days of Adam Gase’s Dolphins coaching career, and parts of three seasons, but the coach and his quarterback finally arrived at a modest milestone Sunday: They have been on the field together for 16 regular-season games, a full NFL season, after Sunday’s win against the Raiders.
And here’s what’s so encouraging about the future: When they have been together, the results — on balance — have been very good by any standard. Consider these stats, as calculated by the Dolphins’ public relations staff:
The Dolphins are 11-5 in games both started by Tannehill and coached by Gase, including 10 wins in their past 11 games.
Since 2016 — Gase’s first season — Tannehill is seventh in the league in passer rating at 98.0, behind only Tom Brady (105.6); Drew Brees (104.8); Matt Ryan (104.5); Aaron Rodgers (102.5); Alex Smith (98.5) and Deshaun Watson (98.5).
Since 2016, Tannehill is third in completion percentage at 68 percent, behind Brees at 71.8 and Sam Bradford at 70.7.
Since 2016, Tannehill is fourth in yards per attempt at 7.95, behind Ryan at 8.50, Jimmy Garoppolo at 8.42 and Watson at 8.29.
Overall, in those 16 games, Tannehill is 315 of 463 for 3,682 yards and 26 TDs and 14 interceptions.
Let’s say those first 16 games, none of which came last year, were injected into last season’s league stats. If so, Tannehill would have been second in the league in completion percentage last year, behind only Brees, plus ninth in touchdowns and 12th in yards.
And consider this: Since the start of this decade, Tannehill’s combination of at least 68 percent completion percentage, 3,682 yards passing and 98.0 rating or higher (during his 16 games under Gase) has been done only 15 times by NFL quarterbacks through seven seasons. Brees accounts for five of those 15, Ryan and Peyton Manning two each.
That’s a top third of the league quarterback, folks, and should give any Dolphins fan hope about the future. It’s why one CBS analyst, Brandon Tierney, predicted Tannehill could be another Rich Gannon, who blossomed late in his career and made four Pro Bowls and an MVP award.
Does Gannon agree that Tannehill could become a mini-Gannon? I asked Gannon that as he prepares to call Sunday’s Dolphins-Patriots game with Kevin Harlan.
“I never try to compare anybody to anybody, not myself, not that I’m something special,” Gannon said. “I didn’t play my best football until I was 35. It happens at different points for people. He’s trending in the right direction.”
Is he clearly a top half of the league in quarterbacks? “There are 32 quarterbacks and he’s not in bottom half,” Gannon said.
(We’ll have more from Gannon in a column later this week.)
So why has the Gase/Tannehill relationship been so fruitful?
Gase’s ability to elevate of play of quarterbacks, as he did with Tim Tebow and Jay Cutler in Chicago, is one big factor. But there’s more to it.
Tannehill used the word “great” to describe his relationship with Gase.
“I think we work really well together,” Tannehill said. “When he came in, I immediately hit it off with him. Really excited where we are at. There was a little bit of a period of finding out what each other did well and how we could best push each other and push this offense and work together. I think we kind of figured that out midway through 2016, then we started playing well and then unfortunately I got injured.
“I think it’s just the cohesion of our two minds. We think alike. He’s constantly pushing me to get better, whether it’s something pre-snap, post-snap, during the play, a footwork thing or what to look at. He’s constantly just pushing little areas where I can get better. I love it. I love trying to push myself and being the best quarterback I can be.”
The two men grew even closer when Tannehill missed last season after knee surgery.
“He probably spent more time with me really just helping me out with some of the things he saw on tape,” Gase said. “He was able to take a step back and really listen to the fine points of a lot of things we talk about. I think he absorbed a lot of it and has a better feel for what we’re asking him to do a lot of the times.”
Where has Tannehill most improved since 2016? “The pocket presence,” Gase said Wednesday. “He really accelerated his growth this season, moving around well.”
Tannehill agrees: “I am better in pocket movement, keeping my eyes downfield.”
Tannehill said this is the most fun he has had as a professional athlete.
“Just where I’m at in life now, how much gratitude I have after being away from the game for so long and just being able to do what I love, go out there every day, be around the guys, push the guys, try to make them the best they can be and then go out and compete on Sundays, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
Here’s the latest injury and roster news from Wednesday on four positions impacted by injuries.