Miami Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill Compared to Andrew Luck and Kirk Cousins

Michael Hernandez reviews the 2016 season and puts Ryan Tannehill side-by-side with Andrew Luck and Kirk Cousins.

 After a magical 6-10 to 10-6 turnaround thanks to new Head Coach Adam Gase, the Miami Dolphins made the postseason for the first time since 2008. Not only did he make the offense more efficient by cutting 3 terrible o-lineman and running the ball with Jay Ajayi, he also restored many a fan’s hopes in quarterback Ryan Tannehill (including my own). However, this has led to many Dolphins fans to take to social media and claim that Ryan Tannehill is better than Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins.

I would like to respectfully disagree...

 Have we forgotten all the headaches Ryan Tannehill has brought us through his inconsistent play? I’m not talking about turnovers(Despite the fumbles due to his horrible offensive line, he usually takes good care of the football). I’m talking about going halves without moving the ball, not being able to close out close games with a score or a couple of 1st-downs; having a constant seasonal cycle of a poor game 1 week, a good game the next, and then falling to mediocre play again. Not to mention his slow starts of performance in each of the first 4 games of the past 3 seasons. For 6 seasons, the Dolphins, analysts, and fans have yearned for him to take the next step and have been left wanting.

 Unlike the Dolphins, the Colts and Redskins have not had to deal with much inconsistent play from their quarterbacks. Luck and Cousins are quarterbacks who are vocal, inspire, perform, and have a high football IQ. Tannehill was none of those last season—not until Week 6 of the 2016 regular season, anyway.

I’m not going to get much into team records for the Colts, Redskins, and Dolphins over the years. We all know football is a team sport and there can be many different reasons for a team’s record. I purely want to talk about what each quarterback does on offense.

All 3 quarterbacks are part of the same 2012 draft class, and have finished in and around the Top 10 in passing at some point during their careers, according to

Andrew Luck:

2012 – 7th (4,374 yards, 23 TD, 18 Int)

2013 – 13th (3,822 yards, 23 TD, 9 Int)

2014 – 3rd (4,761 yards, 40 TD, 16 Int)

2016 – 8th (4,240 yards, 31 TD, 13 Int)

Kirk Cousins:

2015 (1st year as a starter) – 10th (4,166 yards, 29 TD, 11 Int)

2016 – 3rd (4,917 yards, 25 TD, 12 Int)

Ryan Tannehill:

2013 – 10th (3,913 yards, 24 TD, 17 Int)

2014 – 11th (4,045 yards, 27 TD, 12 Int)

2015 – 9th (4,208 yards, 24 TD, 12 Int)

Unfortunately for Tannehill, his stats have never translated into making the Dolphins a top passing attack in the NFL. According to ESPN and’s Team Passing rankings, the Colts have ranked 7th, 17th, 1st, 22nd(missed 9 games due to injury), and 5th since Andrew Luck was drafted. Under Kirk Cousins reign since 2015(Cousins’ first full-starting season), the Redskins have ranked 11th and 2nd.

 The Dolphins rankings under Tannehill since 2012— 26th, 20th, 17th, 19th, and 26th (missed 3 games in 2016).

Not to mention Tannehill has never led a Dolphins offense to have a higher Points Per Game average than Luck’s Colts or Cousins’ Redskins in any of those seasons.

2012 – Colts scored 22.3 PPG. Dolphins – 18

2013 – Colts scored 24.4 PPG. Dolphins – 19.8

2014 – Colts scored 28.6 PPG. Dolphins – 24.2

2015 – Colts—20.8 PPG, Redskins—24.2 PPG, Dolphins—19.4

(and Luck missed 9 games due to injury. That’s sad)

2016 – Colts—25.7, Redskins—24.8, Dolphins—22.7

The Offensive Line/ No Running-Game Excuse

We all know Ryan Tannehill has played behind some really bad offensive lines. I mean, the guy has been sacked 213 times in his career. Some of these sacks have been brutal hits from pressure up the middle forcing Tannehill to take a shot right before he releases the ball. Props to him. After all the hits, he never complains, never gets rattled, and always pops back up (something I’ve always liked about him). Some of these sacks have come in crucial game situations on comeback drives contributing to Dolphins losses. However, during the course of a full season, there are times when you can throw the ball.

According to Pro Football Focus, during the Tannehill era, the Dolphins offensive line has ranked 23rd, 21st, 16th, 30th, and 30th. That’s pretty bad and it’s a problem that needs to be fixed. However, after looking at the O-line rankings for Luck and Cousins, I don’t like to use the offensive line as an excuse for Tannehill’s lack of performance.

Andrew Luck has played with a bad offensive line for most of his career. The Colts are still trying to fix that problem. In 2012, PFF ranked his O-line as 31st in the league. That’s 1 up from being dead last. But Luck was still able to make the Colts 7th in passing. In 2013, he had the 25th worst O-line, but made the 17th in passing(the Dolphins highest ranking under Tannehill). Last but not least, in 2016 his O-line was once again ranked 25th, and once again he put the Colts in the Top 10 in passing at #5.

Kirk Cousins also had a poor O-line in his first year as a starter in 2015. PFF ranked the Redskins O-line at #25, but Cousins overcame that and made the Redskins 11th in passing.

    What’s Tanny’s excuse? No running game?

    What running game have Andrew Luck and Kirk Cousins had?

Luck has a 1 million year-old running back in Frank Gore(no offense, Frank. I love you. You’re amazing.) and before that: Trent Richardson who is a bust, Ahmad Bradshaw who has constant foot injuries, and Donald Brown (who?).

Cousins has had Alfred Morris who Washington was pushing aside in 2015 for Matt Jones who had fumbling issues and after a knee injury in 2016, caused him to lose his job to an undrafted free agent RB nicknamed “Fat Rob” Kelley who was originally listed at #5 on the Redskins depth chart.

Since 2012, the Dolphins have had a better run-game than the Colts every year except for 2013, and only in 2015 did the Redskins have a better rushing attack than the Dolphins. But only by 3 spots.

NFL Team Rushing

2012 – Dolphins 17th(112.6 yards per game), Colts 22nd(104.4 YPG)

2013 – Colts 20th(108.9 YPG), Dolphins 26th(90 YPG),

2014 – Dolphins 12th(117 YPG), Colts 22nd(100.8 YPG)

2015 – Redskins 20th(97.9 YPG), Dolphins 23rd(93.5 YPG), Colts 29th(89.9 YPG)

2016 – Dolphins 9th(114 YPG), Redskins 21st(106 YPG), Colts 23rd(101 YPG)

Football IQ

This will be a short conversation.

Andrew Luck shows great command of his offense and can audible. He can read coverages, recognize weaknesses in a defense, and exploit them. Very vocal at the line. He can dominate lesser teams (i.e. Colts Week 13 41-10 win against the Jets, and Week 15’s 34-6 win against the Vikings).

Kirk Cousins shows great command of his offense and can audible. He can read coverages, recognize weaknesses in a defense, and exploit them. Very vocal at the line. He can dominate lesser teams (i.e. Redskins Week 11 42-24 win against the Packers, and 41-21 win against the Bears in Week 16).

 Ryan Tannehill is not known as a vocal player. He is not known as a quarterback who is a master at reading coverages and exploiting a defense. Perhaps he got better at that in 2016 as he was more aggressive than ever with passes downfield. But not until this past year (his 5th season) has Tannehill been allowed to audible and make pre-snap reads. Newcomer head coach Adam Gase granted Tannehill this power, but did anyone see him use it? I didn’t. The only time I saw Tannehill call an audible was during the preseason. Maybe Adam Gase is just a genius play-caller and never needs to be corrected? Hard to believe that.

Tannehill proved he couldn’t handle this responsibility, as Gase was forced to drop this offensive approach in Week 6 for a more run-heavy strategy. The Dolphins closed out the rest of the season with 314 rushing attempts (28.54 average attempts per game), compared to their first 5 games of 91 rushing attempts (18.2 Avg Att/G).

Respect Around the League

Andrew Luck is a 3x Pro Bowl quarterback and in his first 3 seasons, the Colts went 11-5 each year. On January 18, 2015, Luck made it to the AFC Championship game which is better known now as the Deflategate game. The Colts lost, big deal. They still made it there because of him.

 Luck has also appeared on every season of NFL Network’s Top 100 Players since he entered the league. That’s 5 appearances. Including the 2016 list—the year when he missed 9 games. This is a list compiled by fellow players around the league on who they respect/fear.

Kirk Cousins 1st year as a starter in 2015, the Redskins won the NFC East division. Cousins got elected to the Pro Bowl in 2016. He has also appeared twice on NFL Network’s Top 100 players since becoming the Redskins starting quarterback.

Ryan Tannehill has made 0 Pro Bowls and 0 appearances on the Top 100 Players. He is not regarded as one of the best in the league by his peers. Players do not fear him. Heck, even Kansas City Chiefs Alex Smith appears on there.

Oh, the Pro Bowl is overrated, and the Top 100 is just a popularity contest. Wah! –  Dolphins fan

Well, the Pro Bowl voting consists of the coaches, players, and fans. And maybe there is a reason why Ryan Tannehill isn’t popular. Ever think of that?


For the record, I just want to say I do not think Tannehill is terrible, I do not want him benched, I do not want him gone from the Dolphins. I have watched the Dolphins for most of my life without a quarterback, and I know what it feels like to go through those seasons knowing that it’s over before it begins.

Tanny has suffered through some terrible coaching, coordinators, bad play-calling, and bad offensive lines. He has taken baby steps to improve at some part of his game every year. But he is still just an average quarterback with above average physical abilities and should not be compared to the great/elite difference makers in this league until he proves he can carry this team and make the Dolphins a top passing attack.

I believe with the right offensive approach, balanced-attack, and team—Tannehill is a quarterback that can take the Miami Dolphins to the playoffs and beyond. He showed it last year. However, he needs to work on the mental part of his game in order to take the next step.

Goodluck to Ryan Tannehill in 2017 and FINS UP!

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