Miami Dolphins Ryan Tannehill after Buffalo Bills game
You can argue Ryan Tannehill was the better and more polished quarterback on Sunday. It’s hard to say otherwise because he made few mistakes and threw more accurately and had more touchdowns and a higher quarterback rating than Buffalo’s Josh Allen. So the Dolphins should be fine with who they had under center, or rather, in shotgun this game.
But one game does not tell the whole story about the difference between Tannehill and Allen, the new Bills quarterback you’ll be seeing on the opposing sideline the next few years.
One game actually should make you wary about the future because that was certainly something Allen put on display in a losing cause. If you’re a football fan, it was fun and exciting to watch.
If you’re a Dolphins fan it was unnerving and worrisome because Allen is merely a rookie.
And because Tannehill showed in his seventh season he’s polished his game to a certain solid level, but Allen showed in only his seventh NFL start his ceiling is way higher and way more promising than anything the Dolphins have.
“A little Ben Roethlisberger,” Dolphins safety Reshad Jones said of Allen. “He’s got a similar game. A big guy. He can run. Probably one of the strongest arms in the NFL. I think that guy’s going to be good.”
Around the victorious Dolphins locker room -- where this 21-17 victory over the Bills helped keep the season and playoff hopes alive -- players were heard discussing ... Allen.
His running ability.
And, here’s the part you should worry about, his future.
“I mean, Josh Allen, I feel like he’s going to be a good little quarterback in this division for a long time,” running back Kenyan Drake said. “He’s not sneaky athletic. He’s just athletic. He makes plays with his feet. I feel like the next time we play him in a couple weeks, they’ll make adjustments for us; we’ll make adjustments for them.”
I have no idea if Allen is going to be good or not someday. I don’t know that he’ll be the spitting image of Roethlisberger, Jim Kelly or, if the Dolphins are lucky, E.J. Manuel.
We don’t know.
But we do know the Bills have high hopes this raw, unrefined and unfinished player has a future worth investing in the next few years. And that’s exactly what will happen in Buffalo.
In Miami, meanwhile, the Dolphins will be doing what with Sunday’s better quarterback?
Will they be improving the talent around him as the Bills will be around Allen to raise the team to contender heights? Will they be betting on improvement to perhaps elite levels based on experience and refinement and further coaching?
The Dolphins are going to be trying to find their Josh Allen.
Or they’re going to be staying on the Ryan Tannehill road which in seven seasons has led to, well, nowhere.
And now is the part in this column where I present to you the flaw in the idea Tannehill outplayed Allen on Sunday -- an idea I presented when this started.
If you look to what happened in this game when it was on the line, the margin between the two quarterbacks begins to blur. Yes, Tannehill finished with the better numbers and the better outcome, which is ultimately what matters most.
But NFL quarterbacks are also judged on what happens in crunch time. On what happens in the second half in general and the fourth quarter in particular.
And in the second half of this game, Allen completed 13 of 22 passes for 179 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
In the second half, Tannehill completed 6 of 9 passes for 41 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Tannehill, playing behind a makeshift offensive line as he often does, took three sacks and ran three times for minus-5 yards. Allen, behind another devastatingly poor offensive line, took two sacks but he escaped the pass rush and ran for 135 yards on nine attempts.
“That means obviously your front is getting after him, there’s pressure, your guys are winning,” defensive end Cameron Wake said. “So getting back there was easy but that wasn’t necessarily the issue, it’s once you get back there you have to go from pass rusher to linebacker and you have to corral somebody who’s trying not necessarily to throw the ball but run and get yardage.
“There’s more of them blocking than there are of us rushing so there’s going to be a lane somewhere. The guy’s going to find it and he got out there a couple of times. Pick your poison, you want him throwing it, or you want him running it? You can look at it either way. But it was exciting to say the least, I’ll say that.”
It would be easy to say running quarterbacks cannot last in the NFL. Except that Cam Newton has lasted quite well, thanks.
Well, Newton’s a natural freak, right? He’s 6-foot-4, 245 pounds and fast.
Allen is 6-4 and 237 pounds and faster.
Not optimal to have him in the AFC East.
“We knew he could run,” Bobby McCain said. “We didn’t know it was going to be that excessive. He can really run, man. He’s got something over there.”
It would be cool if the Dolphins had that over here. And they might have.
The same way the Bills jumped up from No. 12 overall in the first round to No. 7 last April by giving up two second-round picks, the Dolphins could have jumped up from No. 11.
Yes, it would have meant giving up multiple picks including the second-rounder that turned out to be Mike Gesicki. It would have meant not having Minkah Fitzpatrick on the team.
But it would have meant having Ryan Tannehill and Josh Allen on the Dolphins this year.
Sunday’s better quarterback. And tomorrow’s better quarterback prospect.