It has to be hard for Dolphins fans on Sunday morning to wake up and realize that their former first round draft pick, quarterback Ryan Tannehill, just let his new team, the Titans, to their second-straight stunning road upset Saturday night to advance to the AFC Championship Game.
Yes, Tannehill, whom the Dolphins gave away to the Titans, including agreeing to continue to pay most of his 2020 salary for his new team this season, it’s not the only reason why Tennessee is rolling.
No, clearly running back Derrick Henry is as big a key, as anything with his power running and wearing down defenses. Also clearly, Tennessee’s second-year coach, Mike Vrabel, has instilled a physical, opportunistic defense that’s playing great football especially in stuffing Tom Brady and Lamar Jackson the last two weeks.
Yet, Fins fans cannot help with watching Tannehill make key throw after key throw, not just in the regular season but now with these games meaning everything, and wonder how in the world did Adam Gase not develop him further? And why, after firing Gase, did GM Chris Grier give up on him, so quickly?
First, here are the facts: Tannehill’s overall stats are not spectacular in either win in these AFC Playoffs. In fact, even though he threw two touchdowns in Saturday’s night 28-12 win in Baltimore, he became only the second quarterback in the last 45+ years of the NFL Playoffs to have at least a touchdown pass but throw for less than 100 yards and his team still win back-to-back playoff games.
Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw of the Steelers was the other one to do it the mid -1970s.
Still, you cannot deny that when Vrabel chose to put former number 1 pick Marcus Mariota on the bench for inconsistent play and turnovers back in week 6, that it didn’t turn the Titans season around.
That’s when Tannehill came out the next week at home against the Chargers and threw for 312 yards and two touchdowns in a win. He led them on a run of winning six of seven starts total. And, in every one of those games, Tannehill threw for either at least 300 yards or for at least two touchdowns or a combo of both. His play has been consistent, and at times, very good for Tenneessee.
Further, when you total up his 11 games started, Tannehill now has an 8 – 3 record (including these two playoff wins), and he has only one game, a 30 – 20 loss at Carolina in early November, where he had two interceptions.
One game in 11 starts.
And, since that November Carolina game, Tannehill has thrown only 3 picks total, while throwing 19 TDs. Oh, and Tennessee is now 7 – 2 over those next nine games.
Sure, Miami fans can point to him tearing his ACL at the end of their 2016 season and then, electing not to have surgery, but rather rehab for almost 8 months, only to re-injure the ACL the following August of 2017 in training camp.
That cost him the entire 2017 season, as well, due to surgery.
And, Miami fans can point to his shoulder injury in October 2018 which sidelined him for five games in the middle of that year, sent the Fins into a plunge and they never recovered.
Yes, Dolphins fans can also blame former coach Adam Gase, who obviously had a knack for running off talented players left and right (Jay Ajayi? Jarvis Landry?) over his last couple of years in South Florida. And, it helped get him fired.
And, an argument can be made that under this past year circumstances with first-year coach Brian Flores and as poor as Miami’s offensive line and skill players overall were in 2019, that Tannehill might have only been a similar to the four or five wins Ryan Fitzpatrick quarterbacked in Miami, anyway.
Nevertheless, he is obviously showing leadership and success and making critical throws like one last in the first half:
— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) January 12, 2020
That 45 yard second quarter laser to Khalif Raymond pushed the lead to 14-0 Saturday night, put the Ravens on their heels further, and set the stage for Tennessee to suffocate them.
Tennessee’s season essentially has been saved with Tannehill’s veteran leadership and the ability to balance their offense of Henry ramming the ball at opponents with those big time throws.
Yes, you don’t accidentally win 9 of 12 starts, including three straight must-win games on the road: week 17 in Houston, last week in Foxboro and Saturday night in Baltimore.
Tannehill, who’s also being paid 80% of his $9 million salary by the Dolphins, just did that for Tennessee.
Oh, and this will be the first of probably several times this week that it will be written or mentioned, he’s now 60 minutes away from an AFC Championship Game win. That would put he and his Tennessee teammates in the Super Bowl at….. Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.
Have another sip of that orange juice on Sunday morning (or whatever you’re drinking) Dolphins fans on that thought, too.
Dolphins “limbo game” with QB Josh Rosen remains
The Dolphins continue to do their diligence on the possible drafting of a franchise type quarterback that they may be able to get their hands on in the upcoming in April. However, there remains a looming question with what to do with the former first-round pick QB that they acquired last April.
Josh Rosen remains, for now, part of the Dolphins plans, yet, even his biggest supporters have to concede ,that Rosen is likely “the odd man out” should Miami take one of the top quarterbacks in this year’s draft.
That’s because GM Chris Grier and coach Brian Flores are obviously committed to veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick. We know this because Fitzpatrick not only rallied the team for several wins down the stretch of the season, but that Miami has also gone and hired Fitzpatrick’s former offensive coordinator and head coach at two of his other stops, Chan Gailey for this season.
That’s not something that the Dolphins brass did lightly, and it foreshadows that Fitzpatrick will likely be the quarterback that they begin the regular season with, just as they did in 2019.
So, where exactly does that leave Rosen, who played very little last year, but has a salary cap friendly contract?
It likely means that he’s only “an insurance policy” that could be dropped at any point for very little salary cap ramifications.
We wrote near the end of last season that it did not make any sense that Miami wasn’t at least giving Rosen game action and some live reps in games last December, if only to see once and for all, if they could develop him into a quarterback for the future?
Obviously, the Dolphins spoke loudly with their actions, and by not even playing Rosen in any of the last seven games, they were indicating he’s expendable.
Dolphins beat writer for the Miami Herald Armando Salguero wrote Wednesday morning about Rosen situation, but shed very little light on what his actual future is. This is primarily because whether it’s Salguero, other media or anyone else not named Flores/Grier, they don’t know for sure what Rosen’s immediate, much less longer range, 2020 future is.
Sure, they could hang on to Rosen through the offseason and have him try to compete for playing time.
But, that seems to be a futile exercise if the Fins have already made up their mind that Fitzpatrick will start the year. And then, you’re drafting a rookie quarterback drafting a rookie quarterback, again to potentially be the future of the franchise.
Then again, Fitzpatrick is 37 years old and could break down physically along the way, well before the start of next season. So, keeping Rosen as that insurance policy along with the rookie Miami likely drafts, isn’t the worst idea.
However, for now, the 23 year old former UCLA star is in limbo.
And, for all we know, he could be cut to begin free agency coming up.
Certainly not giving Rosen a start in any of the last 11 games on an awful team is a clear indication that Grier and Flores didn’t believe in him. This after acquiring him and watching him all offseason, preseason and in the games that he did play.
We now await their next move with Rosen, and certainly, he does, too.
Stafford trade rumor reminder Dolphins better be ready to trade up
On Thursday morning a report surfaced that the Lions, who are currently slated to pick third in April’s NFL Draft, were actively looking to trade former Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Stafford. And, while that report has now been debunked, for teams like the Dolphins sitting in the fifth Spot, this is reminder of their reality of what could happen if someone jumps in front of them, in particular for a QB.
First, the report surfaced late Wednesday night from a local Detroit TV station that their sports reporter/anchor had learned that the Lions were looking for a trade partner for the 11-year veteran Stafford:
Sources: Lions in trade talks to deal Matthew Stafford https://t.co/1lH2yRxGZx
— Local 4 WDIV Detroit (@Local4News) February 13, 2020
That report was quickly squashed by lions GM Bob Quinn and numerous NFL media reporters and salary cap experts pointed out that Stafford’s cap hit would be a massive $32 million dollars, if he is traded or released this season.
So it’s not likely, no matter how bad the situation is with the Lions, the Stafford is going anywhere.
But, that doesn’t mean that the Redskins, who are picking second and the Giants were picking 4th after the Lions and obviously both before the Dolphins at five, aren’t going to also be in the market to listen to trade offers for their picks.
This is, because Washington seems to be committed, for now with a new head coach and Ron Rivera, to last year’s first round quarterback pick, Dwayne Haskins
And likewise, the Giants have obviously made a commitment to their number one pick up last year, Daniel Jones. This after 2 time Super Bowl winning veteran quarterback Eli Manning announced his retirement, recently.
So, both NFC East teams appear to be targets, if a team (including the Dolphins) would look to try to increase their draft position.
This is in particular if that team were interested in the second best quarterback available in the draft, which is likely Alabama Tua Tagovailoa.
As was reported earlier this week, Tagovailoa is on schedule to heal from a fractured hip suffered last November in Alabama’s game with Mississippi State. While Tua won workout at the NFL combine later this month, it’s believed that he would likely work out for teams Alabama facility later in March or April.
One final factor in favor of the Dolphins and GM Chris Grier: they have some trade capital, including extra first-round pick this year and next year, with which the potentially move up if they so desire.
It’s all part of the evaluation process and then, the drama of what the teams at the top of the first round will look to do later this Spring.
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