Tannehill belongs with Luck & RG3
Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill was not the No. 1 overall pick like Andrew Luck.
Tannehill did not win the Heisman Trophy or enter the NFL with the hype of Robert Griffin III.
Tannehill does not have the endorsement deals, commercials or name recognition of Luck or RG3. But six games into the season, it's time to put Tannehill in the same conversation with his rookie counterparts.
Tannehill won his third game of the season and second in a row Sunday. He led Miami to a gritty, 17-14 victory over the St. Louis Rams to get the Dolphins (3-3) back to .500 heading into their bye week.
It wasn't a pretty game, but it was another winning performance from the No. 8 overall pick in the draft. Tannehill stood tall, took some shots and kept fighting against a physical St. Louis defense -- the same group that battered Kevin Kolb with nine sacks a week ago. Tannehill was sacked twice and hit three additional times. But he answered with 185 passing yards and two key touchdowns. Tannehill's passer rating was 112.0.
But here's the rub: Tannehill now has more wins (three) as a rookie starter than Luck (two). RG3 won his third Sunday afternoon. Ultimately, victories are the best way to judge a quarterback, and Tannehill is quietly at the top of the first-round class with virtually no fanfare.
I asked Tannehill on Sunday night if he felt slighted at not being mentioned in the same sentence as Luck and RG3 so far this year.
"With wins, our team will get more recognition. That's all I care about," Tannehill responded. "We want to go out and get wins and string them together. Personal recognition doesn't even matter."
Tannehill's arm and poise are making Miami a dangerous team. The Dolphins won their second straight against an opponent who entered with a winning record, and they're doing it with a rookie quarterback who is getting better each week.
Perhaps what was most impressive Sunday is Tannehill, for the first time this season, led Miami to a win without a running game. Dolphins tailback Reggie Bush (12 carries, 17 yards) had by far his worst performance of the season, and Miami's defense uncharacteristically gave up 462 yards.
This was a game Tannehill had to win with his arm, because nothing else was clicking around him. He didn't panic. Tannehill completed 21 of 29 passes (72.4 percent), including a beautiful, 29-yard touchdown throw to receiver Marlon Moore. Tannehill's second touchdown pass to tight end Anthony Fasano gave Miami a 17-6 lead it never relinquished.
"He definitely plays as if he's a seven-year veteran in my mind -- maybe a 10-year vet," Moore said of Tannehill. "He's so calm and poised. He controls the offense and that's what he's here to do."
Scouts pegged Tannehill as talented but not NFL-ready. He had just 19 career starts in college. Few thought Tannehill could come in right away and adjust to the speed of the NFL game.
But Tannehill is proving a lot of doubters wrong and vindicating Miami's front office and coaching staff. For example, Luck was considered the most NFL-ready quarterback in this year's draft but has one more interception and one fewer victory than Tannehill.
"His growth from game to game has been incredible," Fasano said of Tannehill. "He has a very bright future."
This is just the beginning for Tannehill. As Tannehill gets better, so will the Dolphins. That's a scary thought considering Miami has been in every game but one this season.
The Dolphins enter the bye week at .500 and as one of the NFL's early surprises. Much of the credit can go to their young, under-the-radar quarterback. Tannehill is developing much faster than expected and opening up possibilities for Miami this year that most people didn't expect.
"I will say this: Our whole team is underrated," Moore said. "We're not in the spotlight or expected to do anything. So as long as we keep winning games, it doesn't matter what the outside says about us."