Armando Salguero

The reasons Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill might be better in 2017 after his major injuries last season

Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase answers questions about quarterback Ryan Tannehill injury and backup quarterback Matt Moore during a late 2016 season presser.
Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase answers questions about quarterback Ryan Tannehill injury and backup quarterback Matt Moore during a late 2016 season presser. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

In the moments after Ryan Tannehill injured his left knee last December, he shared some heart-wrenching moments with teammates and coaches in the postgame locker room.

And for most of the past few months while Tannehill has recovered from that injury, we all thought the tears and emotion that poured out of the moment had everything to do with Tannehill’s physical pain and the realization that the team had lost its leader.

It was more than that for Tannehill.

Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase speaks with reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine.

For him, it was the realization that at the very moment and in the very outing in which everything had finally clicked in his head, he was knocked out for the remainder of the year.

That’s right, the game had just slowed down for Tannehill right then -- after five seasons, two coaches, and three offensive coordinators.

And now there was nothing the quarterback could do to prove how far and fast he could take off once the clouds of uncertainty had lifted.

All this from people close to Tannehill. They spoke to me the last few days on condition of anonymity because the Dolphins’s quarterback is quite a private guy and doesn’t always open up about such things with members of the media.

That moment of clarity, hard to reach and all too fleeting in 2016, has the Dolphins thinking Tannehill could be better in 2017 than he was last season when he finished with 19 TD passes and 12 interceptions in 13 games.

Let that marinate for a moment.

Coming off a partially torn ACL and MCL and about to spend his first season wearing a brace on that left knee, the Dolphins think Tannehill is about to get better.

And there are other reasons ..

Gase said that the injury, as poorly timed as it was, might have had some positive effects on Tannehill.

“When he got hurt, I think that was an even bigger development for him,” Gase said. “Just seeing him in meetings. I told him in the season, 'You're actually going to grow for the better because of this.' He took a different mentality in our meetings. You saw him teaching, coaching a little more, and guys accepting it.

“That was probably a good thing for him, even though for all of us to watch him in a cast and on crutches it was tough. At the end of the day, it was probably good for him.”

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill speaks with reporters Friday, Jan. 6, 2017, for the first time since getting injured.

Obviously none of this is about the body. It’s not about the knee or how to play with that brace.

This is all about the mind. And familiarity. And experience. And confidence.

Tannehill’s arm didnt grow any stronger while he was injured. He didn’t get any faster.

But ...

Tannehill became more comfortable telling his offensive teammates what to do. In that game, I’m told, he started to see things better, recognize coverages better and react quicker.

Again, the game slowed down for him.

And as the quarterback heads into his second year with Gase as coach, the two men expect to be more in tune with one another. They’re not going to be learning each other.

They already know each other.

“After that first year, you really feel more comfortable, especially as a player, to be able to go through things that you want to see more and what you want to do and the point of emphasis that you want to do during practice,” Gase said Thursday. “Then when you head into games, you know exactly what you want called.

“I think Ryan is really comfortable with what he wants now and he’s not going to be afraid to communicate it with me. I think even towards the end of last year he was really good at making sure I knew what he felt about what we were doing, and if I called something he didn’t like, he wasn’t afraid to let me know, which is good and bad.

“Quarterbacks that I’ve been around that are aggressive will let you know when they don’t like something, and that’s where I want him to be and I want him to feel like this is his and he can say whatever he wants when he needs to say it and I’m going to be able to react to it.”

In Tannehill and Gase’s second year together, the reaction times should be faster.

And if things carry over from that Arizona game last December, the game should be slower.

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter @ArmandoSalguero

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