I have spared no amount of free, remote computer server space to convince readers that Ryan Tannehill is going to be a good NFL quarterback, ever since he was drafted with an awfully high selection in April’s draft as one of the very best college quarterbacks. (Okay, two articles: here and here.)
Apparently Bill Barnwell is not one of the five people that reads my blog.
Let me say this, before utterly exposing Bill Barnwell as an unprincipled hack of a football analyst: I get where he’s coming from. That is, who could be blamed for mistaking Tannehill for any of the litany of first-round quarterback busts, what with teams leaping up draft boards to select marginal talents at the position, in the apparent desperate hope that one of them is Joe Montana in disguise? The thing is, NFL teams apparently cannot distinguish readily between JaMarcus Russell and Matt Ryan, Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert. So the public, rightfully, may be tempted to anoint RG3 as the next Cam Newton – and equally, to dismiss Ryan Tannehill as the next Blaine Gabbert.
Tannehill is far superior to Gabbert, though, and he’s even far superior to the rest of the Dolphins QB depth chart. It should be Barnwell’s job to recognize that and tell us.
Barnwell really, really sucks at it.
I first heard Barnwell piss all over Tannheill (proverbially, although he’s so irrational in his criticism, I worry he would actually urinate on the Fins’ signalcaller, given the chance…) in a Grantland posting where he advocated for starting Matt Moore over Tannehill in an effort to win now in Miami. Barnwell, in an apparent effort to pay Matt Moore a compliment, compared his performance as a quarterback to that of Jay Cutler. (Barnwell even employed that fresh, tricky writing technique whereby the columnist selects several players and, without revealing their names, shows you their stat line. The reader is prompted to guess to whom each stat line belongs. Which is cool, insofar as the reader might be surprised to find out who the players are in the end. Bears fans were unsurprised to find out that Jay Cutler plays like Matt Moore.) The conclusion? Matt Moore played as well as or better than the average NFL quarterback two out of the last three years — and the angry Miami masses should stand for nothing less than this standard of play from their quarterback!
Barnwell chooses a convenient target for his criticism in Tannehill. Tannehill is a rookie, so he doesn’t have the (league-average) statline that anyone can throw in Barnwell’s face, the way Barnwell throws around Matt Moore’s. What’s more, the most recognizable feature of the Miami Dolphins is how utterly horrible their receivers are, particularly in that they have no one to stretch the field. Tannehill will be taking sacks and tempted to throw into coverage all year long, with all of the defensive traffic in the middle of the field. So yeah, there’s a low probability of success for any Dolphins QB, until they add a bit more talent around him.
But you know who has had a lot of success despite mediocre receivers over the course of his career? Ryan Tannehill. He threw to an atrocious group of receivers in college. Remember Featherstone from the classic flick “Necessary Roughness,” gracefully loping 15 yards past defenders…only to bobble pass after pass that hits him right in his hands? That was Tannehill’s entire receiving corps at Texas A&M. Tannehill had that bunch striking fear into way more talented teams.
I was curious, so I looked up some stats myself. And I will now take a page out of Barnwell’s playbook to present them to you in the most obnoxious format possible. Here are the completion percentages of the three quarterbacks who started the preseason on the Dolphins’ roster, from college seasons in which they completed at least 152 passes:
Player A 65.0 61.6
Player B 61.6 58.0 52.6 56.6
Player C 59.4 60.6
The also-rans are Garrard (B) and Moore (C). That’s right: Matt Moore’s best college season can’t step to Tannehill’s worst. So look, Tannehill looks better on film and his stats certainly suggests more completions than Moore or Garrard. He gives the Dolphins a much better chance of winning games.
At the time of his column, I thought, “Wow, Bill Barnwell really loves Matt Moore. He is really singing the praises of this league-average quarterback. I have never heard anyone kiss up to another person so much for being average at their profession. Who knew, Bill Barnwell, huuuuuge Matt Moore fan, for this weird reason that I can’t identify with….”
Then I heard Barnwell on the B.S. Report last week. Barnwell had the following things to tell Bill Simmons about Ryan Tannehill:
“I was going to go with Miami, but now that they’re starting Tannehill, I’m totally off that bandwagon. That was the worst thing they could have done.”
“They have Tannehill, who was an average quarterback in the Big 12 last year.”
“Every week you think, Oh, the Dolphins – and we have the worst quarterback in the NFL playing for us.”
On the basis of the record we have before us, Barnwell’s claims don’t make a shred of sense. I can see withholding judgment on rookie quarterbakcs; I don’t understand picking on this guy, right now. In fact, I think it’s wise to start him..
One last point: I don’t buy the proposition that all promising rookie quarterbacks should start immediately to get “reps.” Andrew Luck could have learned more than he ever could have imagined sitting behind Peyton Manning for a year in Indianapolis, and the Colts made a tragic, potentially franchise-altering mistake by not retaining Manning. Luck should be learning from the best in practice this year. No price is too high for that experience.
That is not the Dolphins’ situation. Ryan Tannehill is simply a more talented quarterback than anyone else on the Fins’ roster, and probably deserves to start now as a result.