For better or worse, it's better to find out sooner than later.
No one would be surprised if the Miami Dolphins don't win a lot of games in 2012, nor will there be shock if newly minted starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill struggles along the way. In letting the quarterback competition play out, and in letting the starter emerge through a body of work and not through a knee-jerk reaction to outside circumstance, the Dolphins made the right choice.
Yes, the Brett Favre-to-Aaron Rodgers theory of benching your first-round quarterback was one many had subscribed to. It was easy to connect the dots there, as Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin was the offensive coordinator of those Packers teams.
But with Favre on the roster, there was never a need to start Rodgers, and putting Rodgers in to replace Favre would have put unnecessary levels of pressure on him. Far more than the pressure Tannehill faces in starting over quarterback Matt Moore.
Yes, the Tim Couch theory of not thrusting your first-round pick into an open flame was one many more were buying into, especially given the consensus that Tannehill would take some time to develop, as well as the consensus that the Dolphins' roster has more holes than Swiss cheese.
But the Browns were an expansion franchise and are still searching for their direction. The Dolphins have already found theirs.
This is a new regime, a new offense, new scheme on the offensive line and on defense. This is a rebuilding year; why not give Tannehill the start?
Now, this doesn't mean the Dolphins are taking a mulligan on their 2012 season, but look at the skill position talent around Tannehill. You could count on one finger the guys whose names invoke fear into the heart of opposing defenses (Reggie Bush).
But more importantly, Tannehill's name invokes respected among several respected veterans, who don't see Tannehill as the unpolished rookie that public perception has portrayed him to be.
"I don't see him as a rookie, to tell you the truth," said Dolphins tight end Anthony Fasano according to MiamiDolphins.com. "It's tough to really look at him as a rookie. He's done a great job kind of breaking out of that mold and coming in with the confidence of knowing the offense mentally helps. He's done a great job of adjusting to the speed and different personnel."
Fasano is not stretching the truth in support of "his guy." Tannehill has looked comfortable running the offense, specifically the no-huddle, which figures to be a big part of the Dolphins' game plan throughout the season. His command of the unit has been surprising as well, especially for a rookie.
The fact that Tannehill played in this offense in college may have had a little (read: a lot) to do with that comfort level.
"We like a lot of the things about him," said Philbin, according to MiamiDolphins.com. "We think he's very poised, we think he's a mature individual, nothing's too big for him. We think he has a good grasp of the concepts that we're utilizing on offense, both in the running game and the passing game, protection. We feel like there's some good pictures of films in the two games we've played, when we've been off to the side, and he's redirecting guys and getting guys in the right spots."
Did the Dolphins make the right choice?
Correct me if I'm wrong, but that does not sound like the behavior of a rookie quarterback. That sounds like what we've come to expect from some of the most respected veteran signal-callers in the NFL.
Of course, he's not there yet. There's a long road ahead before Tannehill enters the discussion with those quarterbacks. The quickest way to find out if he'll get there (for better or worse) is to get him that all-important starting experience.
The Dolphins didn't crown Tannehill from the minute he came in; they made him work for it by naming him the No. 3 quarterback on the roster back in July. Per Brian Biggane of the Palm Beach Post:
As for Tannehill, he’s not in the running right now due to his untimely mistakes, particularly when throwing into traffic. Coach Joe Philbin and his staff have made it clear that turnovers will not be tolerated, so for now at least Tannehill will continue his apprenticeship as the No. 3 guy.
But with David Garrard out of the competition and with Tannehill having outperformed Moore in recent weeks, it's easy to see why things changed so quickly.
The Dolphins did this the right way. Now it's up to Tannehill to prove that the Dolphins made the right choice.