Depending on if you are a believer in Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill or not (for the record I am), you could argue that the Dolphins haven’t had a franchise quarterback since Dan Marino left football for good in 1999. Since that fateful day, the Dolphins employed stop gaps and old veterans hoping for an answer, but the position seemed curse. Then they drafted Ryan Tannehill with the eighth overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, and found their answer for their quarterback conundrum (again only if you believe in him).
To make things a little easier, let’s just say Ryan Tannehill is Miami’s next franchise guy. In between Marino and Tannehill, the Dolphins have had a staggering 16 starting quarterbacks. Naturally, I put them in a list and managed to whittle this number down to the top five quarterbacks since Dan Marino’s retirement.
5. Gus Frerotte
Gus Frerotte started just one season at quarterback for the Miami Dolphins, playing in 15 games for the team in 2005 during the infamous one-and-done season of then head coach Nick Saban. Frerotte actually performed at a high level for the duration of the season, finishing with a 9-6 record (the team finished 9-7). Frerotte was nothing more than a game manager, but an effective one at that, finishing the year with a 52.0% completion rating, 18 touchdowns and just 13 interceptions. The journeyman walked away from football in 2008 having played for seven different teams in his 15 year career. He makes this list mainly for the fact that the he led the Dolphins to a winning record, even if the team didn’t reach the playoffs. His time in Miami often gets overlooked thanks to Saban jumping ship after just one season in the NFL.
4. Matt Moore
Moore will forever be known as a glorified backup in Miami, but Moore actually had decent success during his time as a starter for the Dolphins in 2011. After starter Chad Henne went down with an injury, Moore rallied the 0-7 Dolphins to a 6-10 finish, winning six out of the team’s last nine games. Moore, who lacks some of the tangibles, found success making smart throws and limiting his turnovers. He finished the year with a 60.5% completion percentage, 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions. The next year, the Dolphins drafted Tannehill, and Moore returned to his role as backup. He is widely seen as one of the league’s best backup quarterbacks today. His ability to step in and have success as a leader puts him at number four on this list.
3. Chad Pennington
The second most accurate passer of all time engineered one of the greatest single season turnarounds in NFL history. In 2007, the Miami Dolphins suffered an embarrassing 1-15 season. Under the guidance and mistake-free play of Chad Pennington (and a little help from the Wildcat offensive package), the Dolphins finished the 2008 season with an 11-5 record and an AFC East title. Their first playoff season since 2001. Pennington posted a ridiculous 67.4% completion rate, and had 19 touchdowns to just 7 interceptions. The team made few mistakes all year. It would prove to be Pennington’s last full season, as he suffered a career-ending shoulder injury the following year.
2. Jay Fiedler
Fiedler was the go-to guy for the Dolphins at the turn of the millennium. Faced with the impossible task of filling Dan Marino’s shoes at quarterback, Fiedler led the Dolphins to two straight playoff appearances in 2000 and 2001 behind a vicious Dolphins rushing attack. Fiedler was an outstanding game manager who was constantly aware of the situation and what needed to be done. In five years as the starting quarterback for the Dolphins, Fiedler compiled 936 completions for 11,040 yards, 66 touchdowns and 63 interceptions. In his games as a starter in South Beach, he finished with a 36-23 record.
1. Ryan Tannehill
Whether you are happy about it or not, Ryan Tannehill is the next franchise quarterback for the Miami Dolphins. The organization showed their support for their young signal caller, extending his contract this offseason. Tannehill gotten better with each passing season, and is entering his second year under offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s scheme. He has emerged as the leader of this football team, and while he still has areas to improve in, Tannehill has proven that he can be successful in this league. The Dolphins will enter the 2015 season with enough talent to dethrone the New England Patriots. The question with Tannehill has shifted from “will he be the next franchise quarterback in Miami?” to “how long until he takes the team to the next level and reaches the playoffs?”
It may have taken 16 years and 16 different quarterbacks, but Dolphins fans can breathe easy knowing that their next franchise signal caller is here.
And his name is not Marino.