Armando Salguero

How the organization views 2018: Make or break for Ryan Tannehill’s career with Dolphins

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has missed more games than he’s played since Adam Gase became coach.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has missed more games than he’s played since Adam Gase became coach. AP

Everyone knows how committed the Miami Dolphins are to quarterback Ryan Tannehill. That’s not new. But framed against that knowledge, the most stunning things I’ve heard coming from the organization the past few days during the NFL annual meeting are about how deep that commitment to Tannehill is ... and isn’t.

The commitment comes partially out of necessity. The truth is that even as the Dolphins are doing due diligence on all the top quarterbacks that will be available in the draft, the team privately does not believe it will have a chance to make a choice on any of them.

At least not in the first round.

I’ve been told by multiple people within the organization they hope they get the chance to draft a quarterback in the first round, but believe Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield will all be gone when Miami picks at No. 11 overall.

So barring a lightning strike that delivers a Drew Brees or a Tom Brady later in the draft, there really will be no significant quarterback competition in Miami’s training camp.

The Dolphins will belong to Ryan Tannehill in 2018.

And then here come the stunning parts:

Depending on whom one speaks to within the organization, the confidence level in Tannehill runs the gamut from believing he’s an elite, Super Bowl-type quarterback who can put the team on his shoulders to something just short of that.

For the record, I think the former characterization of Tannehill as an elite quarterback who can carry his team to a title is utterly absurd.

Adam Gase, Miami Dolphins coach, talks to the media about injured quarterback Ryan Tannehill's surgery on Aug. 28, 2017.

He’s not that. He has never been that in college or in his first six NFL seasons. He has given no consistent signs he will be that in the future. And yet ...

“I really believe in Ryan like probably nobody else, well, hopefully they do have the same belief,” owner Stephen Ross said. “I think he can be outstanding, and I think you haven’t seen the best of Ryan Tannehill yet.”

Some within the Dolphins organization have a somewhat less lofty view of Tannehill, but even they think he’s capable of leading the team to great heights and compete successfully against the New England Patriots if he gets some help from a supporting cast.

You can check coach Adam Gase into that group.

I know this because I respectfully challenged Gase to explain how a quarterback with a career 37-40 record and 86.5 quarterback rating could be the source of such high hopes for 2018.

“I think Ryan coming back and the amount of guys we brought in on offense, I think that’s going to help us a lot,” Gase said. “And it’s not all on him. But for us to have success he has to play well. That’s the way this league is.

‘The good thing is after our first four games the first year we were together, he was playing pretty well. He was playing at a high level. We’re excited, we had high hopes coming into last season and it didn’t work out. We’ve got an opportunity to start over again and get going.”

And that brings us to the coming season.

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

Amid talk the Dolphins have taken steps in the wrong direction this offseason because they cut or traded former Pro Bowl players Ndamukong Suh, Jarvis Landry and Mike Pouncey, the Dolphins think they’re a better team now.

The reason for that is ... You guessed it, Ryan Tannehill is back, baby!

After missing 20 of the 33 games Gase has coached the Dolphins because of knee injuries, Tannehill is expected to be “ready to go” for offseason training in the next couple of months, the coach said.

“Right now we look at everything in a positive light because we get our starting quarterback back,” Gase said.

“I’m always going to think that way especially when you got a guy you have a lot of confidence in. You lose him and now he’s back. We’ve been a long time without him. I know a lot of guys in that locker room that feel the same way.”

So, awesome! The Dolphins believe they’re cooking with gas.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill walks off the practice field on Monday, Aug. 7, 2017, as QB Matt Moore works with the first team. New quarterback recruit Jay Cutler landed at Miami International Airport that morning.

But here’s the thing that’s hard to explain within the context of the previous paragraphs and quotes you just read:

In the same conversations people within the Dolphins organization talk about Tannehill in glowing terms and sound convinced he’s capable of leading them to a championship, those same people talk of giving the quarterback one year to finally prove himself.

So 2018 is a make or break for Ryan Tannehill.

Tannehill, I’m told, has to play well in 2018 to keep those exuberantly vouching for him today on his side tomorrow.

And what if he doesn’t, I’ve asked?

“Then we’ll have to find somebody else,” I was told.

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

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