Greg Cote

Why QB Ryan Tannehill’s Miami Dolphins legacy probably isn’t what you think | Opinion

Maybe it is the memory of Jay Cutler working on career fumes in Miami in 2017.

Maybe it’s the anticipation of the coming season of 36-year-old journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Maybe it is knowing there is absolutely no assurance the Dolphins tanking this year will mean Tua Tagovailoa in 2020.

Or maybe it is that, after seven seasons here, a long time, he just quietly disappeared.

Farewell, Ryan Tannehill.

At least in the short term, the Miami Dolphins are going to miss you. I think many Dolfans will, too, more than they realize.

In quick order Miami said goodbye to Tannehill, sack man Cameron Wake and running back Frank Gore all in a row during the past few days. Players come and go. Be honest, most don’t matter a lot. Some, such as Dwyane Wade retiring from the Heat after this season, matter hugely. Tannehill, Wake and Gore, collectively, mattered enough that their departure deserves reflection here.

Tannehill’s is the most complicated Dolphins legacy of the three.

It is a stretch to say he succeeded as a first-round draft pick, but harsh to say he failed. Navigating the gray is the challenge. I believe his tenure here was often maligned — unfairly criticized. It was the right time for the QB and the team to part, each needing the oxygen of a fresh start, but Tannehill departs third in team annals in passing yards (20,434) and touchdown passes (123).

I wouldn’t bet he will get up onto the Dolphins’ stadium Honor Roll, but neither would it shock me. He deserves consideration. He also deserves warm applause when first he returns to Miami as a Tennessee Titan. (It would not surprise me to see Tannehill push Marcus Mariota for the starting job. If not, the Titans might have the best backup QB in the NFL).

Tannehill didn’t win enough here, no. His 42-46 career won-lost record (and one playoff appearance that he missed because of injury) perfectly mirrored the stuck-in-the-middle mediocrity of the Dolphins of his era. Contributing factors included shaky blocking, mismanagement and constant coordinator changes, but the QB bears most of the just-win-baby burden. Understood.

It still is fair to note that Tannehill was average at worst, and far from bad. His passer rating was at or above the league average in three of his six seasons (he missed one year injured, of course). Tannehill also earns points for being a great teammate, facing criticism head-on and repping the franchise well off the field.

I know that statistics can be bent to suit many needs, but consider too that Tannehill’s 87.0 overall career passer rating ranks 28th all time and is better than 25 Hall of Fame quarterbacks, including Troy Aikman, Terry Bradshaw, John Elway, Brett Favre, Dan Fouts, Jim Kelly, Warren Moon, Joe Namath, Ken Stabler, Roger Staubach and Johnny Unitas.

Wait. Almost forgot two other guys in Canton with lower career passer ratings than Tannehill:

Bob Griese and Dan Marino. Yes, Miami’s two Canton arms each also had lower career completion percentages and higher career interception rates than Tannehill.

That isn’t to say Tannehill is as good as the above company (!), maybe just a caution to be careful what you wish for if you have been spitting good riddance to No. 17 and assuming that Who’s Next will be appreciably better.

Eleven QBs were drafted in Tannehill’S 2012 class, where he went No. 8 overall, and only two (Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson) have unarguably had better careers. to this point.

Cam Wake’s Fins legacy is more clear than Tannehill’s. No gray here. His 10 seasons with Miami unequivocally cast him as an all-time Dolphins great who should go onto team Honor Roll fast and enjoy an ovation upon his return as Tannehill’s Titans teammate.

Wake might be the third-greatest Dolphins defensive player ever after Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas; alas, all three played on an awful lot of average-to-bad Miami teams. Still, Wake’s 98 career sacks are second only to Taylor, and tied for third among active players. He might be around 120 NFL sacks by now had he not spent two seasons playing in Canada before being discovered by Miami.

At 37, Wake seems a long shot for the Hall of Fame barring a late-career flourish, but I would not discount the possibility. (As a point of reference, Wake averages 0.78 sacks per games started in his career. All-time sacks leader Bruce Smith averaged 0.75. Taylor averaged 0.71).

Gore played only one season for the Fins, but it was memorable — the NFL’s oldest running back averaging 4.6 yards per carry. He was the highest-profile former Miami Hurricane to play for the Fins probably since Bernie Kosar was backup QB here from 1994 to 1996. Gore shuffles off to Buffalo No. 4 in career rushing yards, trailing only Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders. He will sail into Canton on the first ballot, a Miami native from The U after later-career cameo with the Dolphins.

Dolfans hate the rival Bills but will surely show Gore some love when Buffalo visits next season. Nothing but cheers await Wake, too.

The reaction to Tannehill — how we remember him — won’t be as unanimous, but I have a feeling that what he’ll hear will sound something like appreciations and thanks, after all.

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