Don’t ask me. I don’t know if we’ve grown more patient as a football community, become smarter in watching quarterbacks or more people just like Tua Tagovailoa’s solid-citizen story more than Ryan Tannehill’s solid-citizen story.
But there’s a lesson many have learned as the Miami Dolphins’ quarterback who doesn’t have many weapons meets the former Dolphins quarterback who also didn’t have enough help in Sunday’s pivotal game in Tennessee.
The lesson: It’s not just about the quarterbacks. Oh, that’s where it starts for NFL teams. It’s often where it ends if you want a Super Bowl, too. But unless you have one of the four or five special quarterbacks, you better have enough help around him.
The loud and proper undercurrent to Tua’s second season is he doesn’t have enough help. He has a developed defense. That’s important. When opponents average 11.7 points during the Dolphins’ seven-game win streak, it means the offense isn’t asked to do much.
That’s a good thing when you look at the offense, too. The line remains a mess. In Monday’s win against New Orleans, former NFL center and ESPN analyst Damien Woody tweeted, “The Dolphins offensive line makes me want to puke.” Most stomachs were empty by this point in the season.
The receivers? Jaylen Waddle is at the doorstep of setting the NFL’s rookie record for catches. Mike Gesicki is a target. Mack Hollins is all heart. But that’s not much by NFL standards.
The running backs, too, are lacking. There’s a reason there was a celebration when Duke Johnson came off the practice squad to run for 107 yards against the New York Jets’ 31st-ranked run defense. It was like a Bigfoot sighting, a rare glimpse of a running game.
So Tua is doing about all you can expect with what’s around him. He’s also not one of those quarterbacks who is like the tide and lifts all players. But …
“He can be good enough if everyone around him is good enough.”
I wrote that line for years about Tannehill with the Dolphins. I wrote it after his second year, his third year, his fourth year. I wrote it when he helped the team to the playoffs in 2016 behind a power running game and good defense.
I wrote about it even after the 2018 season, after he’d been hurt two years, when it was time for him to go somewhere else. He went to Tennessee, was put on a team with talent and has thrived.
Somewhere under this fun pile of Miami Dolphins wins, under these great layers of history their seven-game streak is acquiring, under all the playoff ideas being floated, there’s another layer of coincidence that this revived season must go through Tannehill.
He’s a good quarterback, too. Not great. Good. That’s unlike the cast of backups or rookies the Dolphins have faced in six of this streak’s wins (Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson was the seventh).
Tannehill left the Dolphins and has helped Tennessee to three straight playoff appearances, including an AFC Championship Game in 2019. They’re currently the AFC’s second seed.
Until mid-season this year, Tannehill had running back Derrick Henry to carry much of the offense. Until last week when three starters were out with COVID, he had a healthy offensive line. Maybe those three are back on Sunday.
There are some holes in the Titans, as there are on most teams. Tannehill isn’t a hole. He’s like Tua. He does a decent job. Their numbers are similar. Tua’s throwing for 212.6 yards a game to Tannehill’s 221.8. Tua throws for 7.1 yards an attempt to Tannehill’s 6.9.
Both quarterbacks have thrown 15 touchdowns, but Tagovailoa has done so in four fewer games. Limiting bad plays is the more significant edge for Tua. Tannehill has thrown 14 interceptions and has been sacked 45 times. Tua has thrown nine interceptions and has been sacked 15 times.
So Tua in his second year can be a brighter idea than Tannehill. He’s also afforded more patience than the undercurrent of anger that Tannehill regularly faced. Maybe we’ve learned.
On Sunday, the Dolphins present and past meet like something out of a Dickens’ Christmas story. Each of them can be good again this game if everyone around them is good enough.
Source: Berkshire mont