NFL Rumors: Is Ryan Tannehill The Next JaMarcus Russell?

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystApril 12, 2012

HOUSTON - DECEMBER 31:  Quarterback Ryan Tannehill #17 of Texas A&M Texas A&M Aggies holds his MVP trophy after Texas A&M defeated Northwesten University 33-22 at Reliant Stadium on December 31, 2011 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

Just one day after the NFL's most twitter-obsessed team owner praised his skills and said an NFL squad should trade up to draft him, a former Super Bowl winning coach offered up a very different take on Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill, comparing the fast-rising signal caller to the player that most consider the biggest bust in the history of the NFL draft.

Brian Billick, who coached the Baltimore Ravens to victory in Super Bowl XXXV and now works as an analyst for the NFL Network, may well have put the pre-draft hex to end all hexes on Tannehill when he compared his pre-draft ascension to that of former Oakland Raiders first overall pick and "sizzurp" aficionado Jamarcus Russell in an interview on ESPN's "Mike and Mike in the Morning".

Billick, an NFL Network analyst, appeared on ESPN's "Mike and Mike" show Thursday and said Tannehill reminds him of Russell because they "both shot up draft boards based on how they looked in shorts."

A Thursday report on Pro Football Talk expanded on Billick's incendiary comments, explaining that while Billick wasn't necessarily comparing Tannehill the player to Russell, who spent more of his NFL career trying to bankrupt Golden Corral than he did attempting to learn the playbook. Billick was just pointing out that all too often teams become enamored with measurables and workouts and lose sight of a player's entire body of work in college.

Billick compared the way Russell shot up draft boards in the spring of 2007 to the way Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill is shooting up draft boards this year. Billick wasn’t suggesting that Tannehill will bust like Russell did, but he was saying that teams can sometimes fall in love with players for reasons other than what happened on the field during their college careers.

One NFL executive who seems to be doing just that is Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, and while Irsay's Colts will already have procured their signal-caller of the future by the time Tannehill comes off the board that didn't stop Irsay from encouraging teams to make a move for Tannehill in a Wednesday tweet.

Tannehill is a hidden gem in this draft,a quiet secret who was always sneaking up to want him,you better talk to Zigi The Biggie!

— Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) April 11, 2012

Given Irsay's penchant for odd tweets it's entirely possible that he's also a fan of Russell's favorite purple refreshment (kidding Jim...I think), but it's just as ridiculous for Irsay to suggest that Tannehill merits the third overall pick as it is for Billick to compare the Aggies star to JaMichelinMan.

Yes, Tannehill is a strong armed quarterback who was incredibly productive in 2011, throwing for over 4,700 yards. However, he's also a relatively inexperienced quarterback with less than 20 career starts that sometimes struggles reading defenses and turns the ball over too much, which offers enough red flags to make sacrificing additional picks to move up and acquire him risky at best and foolish at worst.

That said, there were plenty of red flags with Russell too, including his attitude, decision making, and waistline, and the biggest thing working in Russell's favor at the time may have been the fact that the Oakland Raiders rarely let little things like logic interfere with their draft strategy while Al Davis was still alive.

Unfortunately for the Miami Dolphins, who have the eighth overall pick in April's draft, their desperate need for a franchise quarterback has the team zeroed in on Tannehill. Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald recently reported the team may well be set to pay a hefty price if necessary to procure Tannehill's services.

Here’s the issue now: The club that has stubbornly refused to overpay for any quarterback not named Peyton Manning is barreling headlong into this month’s NFL Draft looking like it might overpay for a rookie quarterback.

The Dolphins are focused on Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill like a Great Dane focuses on a cut of raw prime rib.

That puts the Dolphins in something of an interesting situation. Soon this team that has refused to gamble and, it can be argued, has been right in its refusal, might have to decide whether Tannehill is worth a philosophical change in course.

The Dolphins might have to decide whether they wish to overpay for Tannehill.

If the Dolphins fear that the Cleveland Browns, who select fourth overall and have expressed some interest in Tannehill, will pull the trigger on the quarterback, it's very possible that Miami will attempt to leapfrog Cleveland, and in this writer's opinion, the price that would entail and the questions surrounding Tannehill would make that move a mistake.

If nothing else, the new collective bargaining agreement and rookie wage scale at least insure that it won't be a $68 million mistake (the amount of Russell's rookie contract, which I believe was paid in Ho-Hos), and no matter how badly Tannehill might faceplant in the National Football League there's no way he'll be the "next" JaMarcus Russell.

Russell was two of a kind, and after him they broke the mold.

Well, actually he ate the mold. There was some jelly on it.