Armando Salguero

Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill gets his best chance to prove former coach Bill Lazor wrong

Miami Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill says the Patriots loss was because they were, “bad on third down and second down and first down”.

Miami Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill says the Patriots loss was because they were, "bad on third down and second down and first down".
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Miami Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill says the Patriots loss was because they were, "bad on third down and second down and first down".

If you implicitly believe the statistics, then you have to think Ryan Tannehill is playing at an elite quarterback level so far this season.

Those statistics state without agenda that...

Tannehill is the NFL’s seventh-rated quarterback with a 106.1 quarterback rating.

Tannehill has the seventh best completion percentage at 69.1 percent.

He is sixth in yards per attempt with 8.37 yards.

Tannehill’s seven touchdowns passes don’t necessarily suggest he’s playing great because he’s ranked 15th in that category. But he’s tied with Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson, among others, there and that speaks for itself.

So, yeah, the stats love Ryan Tannehill right now.

And those numbers that Tannehill will carry into Sunday’s game at Cincinnati against the Bengals suggest the Miami Dolphins quarterback is playing at an elite level.

Which is what Adam Gase has been saying would happen since he arrived as Dolphins head coach and quarterback guru in 2016.

And, which is what Bill Lazor repeatedly said would never happen while he was the Dolphins offensive coordinator from 2014-15.

I bring up Lazor here because he’ll be in Cincinnati, too, this weekend. He’ll be on the other sideline serving as the Bengals offensive coordinator.

Don’t expect Tannehill and Lazor to enjoy a warm moment before the game. Or afterward.

The two had a curious relationship during Lazor’s time in Miami. That relationship went something like this:

Lazor didn’t believe in Tannehill, didn’t trust Tannehill, didn’t think Tannehill was ever going to be a great quarterback. And he told everyone within the organization this Monday through Saturday as he concocted a game plan, often without Tannehill’s input.

Then on Sunday Lazor would take all that mistrust and still ask Tannehill to throw the football 40 times a game to save the team.

Tannehill, meanwhile, would say all the right things about Lazor. He defended the coach when it came out Lazor had an abrasive relationship with most of his offensive players. Tannehill never bitterly complained about not being allowed to call audibles and not being trusted.

But when Lazor was fired by interim coach Dan Campbell midway through the 2015 season, Tannehill was thrilled.

“Working with the coaches Monday and [Tuesday], just being a part of the game-plan process and having my thoughts heard and kind of putting our heads together to create some of the things we want to do, it’s been fun so far,” Tannehill said days after the Lazor firing.

Tannehill, you must understand, has never been anything if not classy. He’s never had a public misstep. Never felt the need to publicly throw anyone under the proverbial bus.

So for Tannehill to celebrate the obvious changes of how things were done after Lazor was fired was as close to a Lazor indictment as the quarterback was going to get.

Tannehill has since made very clear how much better things are for him with Gase running the Dolphins because Gase has empowered the quarterback and has authored a bond with the quarterback.

It’s like they’re friends.

Earlier this week, Gase was seen at practice approaching Tannehill and seemingly whispering something into his ear. And Tannehill playfully pushed his coach away as the two men laughed. This after a 38-7 loss days earlier.

So it’s all good for Tannehill now.

Except ...

We still cannot be totally convinced Lazor was wrong.

Or that Gase is right.

Obviously, if Tannehill continues to deliver as he has the first four games of this season — with three wins for the Dolphins and statistics that rival other elite quarterbacks — then the matter will be settled.

Gase’s opinion on the quarterback will be proven correct.

But if Tannehill plays as he did last week a couple of more times this season or the Dolphins flounder? Then it will seem Lazor’s view has some merit.

Examine this for a minute:

Last week Tannehill played his worst game under Gase and one of his worst games since his rookie season in 2012. And one of the criticisms Lazor years ago leveled in private against Tannehill manifested in front of an entire stadium and television audience.

Lazor often complained about Tannehill’s instincts. He criticized Tannehill’s inability to save a play if it broke down. He said Tannehill would not come off receivers he was taught to look for and find other receivers even if they were open.

Tannehill had that issue last week. Both Gase and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said during the week that Jakeem Grant and Danny Amendola were open a lot against New England.

“The whole game,” Gase said.

Kenyan Drake was also wide open on one key third-down play but Tannehill didn’t see him or throw to him.

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Bang the easy throw to Kenyan Drake, Ryan!

A post shared by Armando Salguero (@thearmandosalguero) on

Tannehill was following the progression of his reads (football terminology). But he admits he cannot get locked in to painting by numbers.

“Sometimes it’s just a play call of where my read starts on a certain play,” Tannehill said, “but when you have guys open, you have to find a way to find them.”

Correct. Because kids paint by numbers in pre-K.

Da Vinci didn’t paint by numbers. Master quarterbacks don’t paint by numbers with their passing game, either.

Tannehill on Sunday has an opportunity to show he’s become a master QB. He has this chance against the Bengals -- with Bill Lazor on the Cincinnati sideline.

It’s a chance for Tannehill to show his former coach how wrong he was.

Or wasn’t.

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