The Miami Dolphins are finding new ways to be embarrassing the past two weeks. Last week it was, they didn’t show up for a big game embarrassing. This week it’s, they did clownish things in blowing a fourth-quarter lead embarrassing.
But here is another embarrassing thing about the Dolphins right now:
They don’t have a viable player to turn to in case quarterback Ryan Tannehill plays poorly.
Sorry, let me correct that.
The Dolphins don’t have a viable quarterback they can turn to in case Tannehill continues to play poorly.
That’s where the Dolphins are now. On a two-game losing skid. Their offense is not good enough, failing to both pass and run the football consistently. And the quarterback is playing terrible.
So what are the Dolphins saying about this potentially dire situation?
They’re talking privately about finding offensive line help as if some good burly player is going to magically come available in October. Coach Adam Gase, meanwhile, is talking about figuring out how to make his offense different. Again, it’s October.
“We just got to get a lot of things cleaned up,” the coach said when asked if Tannehill should be benched. “I mean, he’s getting hit too much. I got to find a way to get the ball out of his hands -- either get the good guys open quicker or figure something out. And in the run game we just have to look at a lot of things.”
See what he did there?
Gase is going to look everywhere except, you know, the most important player on his team. He’s going to search for answers in crevices when there’s a Grand Canyon-sized crater in the middle of his roster glowing in neon, screaming, I’m a problem, it’s me!!!!!
Sunday’s loss was about Ryan Tannehill.
You’ll read other stories saying it was poor pass protection. Gase blamed that fourth-quarter meltdown on “getting behind the sticks,” because by his logic everything was working great until the running game stopped delivering, putting the team in “third-and-forever.
Why was no one saying the obvious? It was Tannehill.
Bad offensive line play didn’t make a poor decision to throw an interception. A terrible running game or Laremy Tunsil in the concussion protocol didn’t fumble the football a couple of series later. It was Tannehill.
And it’s not that Tannehill is bad.
It’s just that Tannehill isn’t that guy who will save the day when things are bad.
He’s has not been the guy to bring the team back from terrible deficits against odds. He’s not been the guy to put the team on his shoulders and lift the Dolphins to victory in improbable moments.
Ryan Tannehill is not that guy.
He’s a solid quarterback. But that’s where it stops.
And teams do not typically achieve postseason greatness with a solid quarterback. Teams don’t often even get to the postseason with a merely solid quarterback unless the defense is all-time stellar.
So knowing that Tannehill is not that guy, why hasn’t this team been looking for, and grooming some other guy for years? How is it Gase and Mike Tannenbaum and Chris Grier and Stephen Ross and everybody has accepted that Tannehill is so good they don’t really need anyone else of note behind him?
Is it because Tannehill is a great person? A great citizen? A wonderful worker?
Yes, Tannehill checks all those boxes.
He doesn’t dodge and proved it after the game when he took blame multiple times for his play.
But that doesn’t change the fact he threw a ridiculously dumb pass amid terrible pressure into a scrum of players. And the ball bounded off tight end Durham Smythe, then bounced off a defensive player, and then fell right into the hands of Cincinnati defensive end Michael Johnson, who ran the gift 22 yards for a touchdown.
“I was trying to throw it low to Durham there,” Tannehill said. “He was our only player on that side of the field to throw the ball away to and not get a grounding call. Looking back at it, I wish I would have taken the sack and lived to fight another day. I was trying to be smart with the football and not take a sack.”
That play turned a 17-10 Miami lead into a tie game.
A little later, an undermanned Dolphins defense that played well -- getting two sacks from rookie linebacker Jerome Baker, an interception from Kiko Alonso and a typical all-over-the-field performance from Reshad Jones -- gave up a field goal. Those three points would change nothing for a great QB.
It changed everything for the Dolphins because now they trailed 20-17. Now they had to start making plays downfield if they hoped to win. Tannehill needed to do something amazing.
And he couldn’t. Tannehill threw four times the possession after the Bengals tied the game at 17. He misfired on three of those. He threw two times after the Dolphins were down, 20-17 and that netted minus-2 yards. Then he fumbled on the next play.
Yes, it was admittedly bad for Miami up front. Tannehill was facing a tough situation.
But he turned something difficult into something catastrophic with a bad decision on his pass to no one and later his fumble.
It’s not that he wasn’t helping, it’s that he was hurting the Dolphins.
“That’s on me,” Tannehill said. “Can’t let that happen. Find a way to take the sack or throw it to a different spot, something. Can’t turn the ball over in that situation and that really gave them the momentum and put us on our heels a little bit. That’s squarely on me. Regardless of what happens up front, I have to be able to take care of the football.”
No argument there.