What a difference a month makes.
A month ago, the Miami Dolphins were 1-4, and easily the worst team in the NFL. In fact, I had written the struggling Dolphins off as the worst NFL team in the last decade. They looked that bad. Leading that charge was the lackluster play of Ryan Tannehill. He was inconsistent, he had NO pocket presence, and he was more times than not on his back after a play.
The 1-4 Dolphins looked lost, lacked an identity, and had a QB that more than half the fan base had written off as a bust (I must admit I had many of these same thoughts). It was time to go back to the drawing board. We were going to have to reach for a QB in the first round in the 2017 NFL Draft, one that Adam Gase could groom into a winner.
Not. So. Fast.
Let's move it forward a month. What a month it's been. The Dolphins have now one four straight games, with impressive wins over AFC East rivals like the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills, as well as huge conference wins over the reeling Pittsburgh Steelers (who are effectively out of the playoff hunt with yesterday's loss to the Dallas Cowboys), and the now playoff hopeless San Diego Chargers. That's right, the Miami Dolphins have won four straight games since going 11-5 and winning the AFC East in 2008, back with fist-pumping Tony Sparano and then QB Chad Pennington.
The difference? Many people say it's the consistent play of Ryan Tannehill, now dubbed a game manager. He's making smarter decisions, stepping up in the pocket, and riding the sophomore sensation now known as the Jay Train, Jay Ajayi.
I was perfectly fine accepting Ryan Tannehill as a game manager. Plenty of good teams have one. The Denver Broncos have Trevor Siemian. The Kansas City Chiefs have Alex Smith, and I would even stretch to say that the Baltimore Ravens have Joe Flacco (outside of his red hot playoff performances). The fact of the matter is that teams these days can be perfectly successful with a game manager.
And then yesterday's game against the San Diego Chargers happened.
Ryan Tannehill was anything but a game manager. In fact, RT17 completely outplayed Philip Rivers, a future HOF in my book. Tannehill had a QBR of 130.6, with three enormous throws made under extreme duress. (see below)
Tannehill did not sit on the ball when his team had the lead. He did not rely on Jay Ajayi, who apart from a 40 yard scamper, had a relatively quiet game thanks to San Deigo's stout run defense. Tannehill stepped up, showed passion, moved in the pocket, RAN FOR A FIRST DOWN, and threw dart after dart.
In my opinion, it was his best game of his career. And that was even with an offensive line that saw its QB get absolutely mauled on some of his biggest plays.
To me, he was no game manager. He was the QB Miami hoped he would be when they drafted him back in 2012. He was the product of good coaching, of good play calling, and of resiliency.
He was more than a game manager. If he can keep it up, the team will become more than just slightly above average.
If RT17 can play like he did yesterday more and more consistently, we will be watching this team playing in January. Not January 2018.