Why Ryan Tannehill, Not RGIII or Andrew Luck, Has the Highest Long-Term Upside

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Why Ryan Tannehill, Not RGIII or Andrew Luck, Has the Highest Long-Term Upside
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

With five rookie quarterbacks starting in the NFL this year, upside is a term you will hear a lot.

However the term is mostly used to describe Indianapolis' Andrew Luck and Washington's Robert Griffin III.

But what if I told you that the rookie quarterback with the most upside was neither Luck nor Griffin? What if I told you it was Ryan Tannehill?

Yes, the same Ryan Tannehill that produced mixed emotions (even from me), upon being drafted by the Dolphins.

Why does Tannehill have the most upside? Why would I think that despite the fact that he has the lowest passer rating in the NFL?

Tannehill has the best mix of mechanics, poise and intangibles of the three quarterbacks. So far he's had to go through the most adversity (despite the fact that all three quarterbacks are 1-2), yet has bounced back from it very well. Take a look at this video from Miami's Week 1 loss to the Texans.

This video shows all of Tannehill's passes from that game, both good and bad. You'll notice that the bad passes tend to be the tipped passes, while his good passes were usually caught or should have been caught. Notice how Tannehill bounces back from those bad passes in the second half and plays very well. This is already indicative of the potential he has to be a franchise quarterback. 

The better news is that Tannehill has trended upward. His second start was a lot better than his first. A lot of this has to do with the fact that he faced a worse defense in his second start, however his third start against the Jets also showed some improvement from the first one (though not from the second one as evidenced by his pick-six).

 

 

In fact, here's a look at every pass from Tannehill's second game.

Not only do you see the improvement from just one week ago, but you also see Tannehill use good judgement by running the ball himself when he has to. Once again, his poise in the pocket is easy to notice and is a great sign of things to come.

You want to see constant improvement from a rookie quarterback. While both Luck and Griffin III have shown some signs of improvement, they also have more talent around them on offense than Tannehill does with the Dolphins.

Miami is a team that needs a primary wide receiver and a No. 2 wide receiver, yet all they have are two No. 3 receivers, a No. 4 receiver and Legedu Naanee. The Dolphins are second in the NFL in dropped passes. A lot of these drops weren't the type we saw in the Chad Henne days where the ball didn't have enough touch or was just out of the receiver's reach. Instead these drops came on well-thrown passes.

We can say this without a doubt, this is the worst the Miami Dolphins will be. Barring a huge screw up in next year's off-season, Tannehill will have better weapons to throw to next year.

That's not to say Tannehill hasn't had his share of bad throws. On Sunday against the Jets, Tannehill did overthrow his receivers a few times, with a couple of those overthrows coming in the final drive of regulation (in the end zone no less). But we've already seen that he can improve. While Tannehill's decision-making has been good for the most part, he's also made some bad reads. The pick-six against the Jets is one example.

While Luck and Griffin III have had the edge of having more talent around them, Tannehill does have the advantage of working in the same offensive system (and with the same coach in offensive coordinator Mike Sherman) that he had in college. Tannehill's coaches have also proven to be better at developing quarterbacks than Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, while the jury is still out on Indianapolis' coaching staff.

Sherman knows Tannehill better than any of Indianapolis' coaches know Luck, and more than any of Washington's coaches know Griffin. Because of this Sherman can already play more to Tannehill's strengths and hide his weaknesses. The offense being run in Miami is the same one that was run while Tannehill was at Texas A&M—the West Coast Offense.

A typical West Coast Offense Play

 

But the West Coast Offense is complicated to run. It takes a while to learn it since most of it is based on timing. Compare that to Luck's offense at Indianapolis (where they run a typical pro-style offense that usually uses two tight ends) and RGIII's offense in Washington (a West Coast-variant that for this year seems to be a bit more simplified as Griffin gets his feet wet in the pros).

Both Luck and Griffin III are going to eventually have to adjust. While I can see Luck adjusting well, it might be a bit more challenging for Griffin due to Washington's more simplified "accentuate RGIII's strengths" version of the Mike Shanahan West Coast Offense (a different variation even without the plays used to accentuate Griffin's strengths). Griffin can adjust, but it will be tougher due to the complexities of the West Coast Offense

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With Luck and Griffin III we wonder if they can adjust, but we already know that Tannehill can. He's still undergoing his baptism by fire, but so far while the stats aren't telling the story, we see a young man not only passing the test, but passing it with flying colors.

He only started 20 games at quarterback at Texas A&M, yet managed to play well enough to become a top-10 pick. He's only beginning to scratch the surface of his potential. Remember it was only three years ago that he was a wide receiver (and a pretty good one at that).

Also remember that Luck and RGIII were both four year starters (with Griffin III losing one year due to injury) and were named their teams starting quarterback on draft night. Tannehill had to fight in camp for the starting job, and beat out a quarterback that went 6-3 in his last nine games with the Dolphins.

Tannehill has already shown that he can improve and that he can fight his way to the top. Nothing has been handed to him since coming into the NFL. He was the most scrutinized of the quarterbacks drafted, and went to a team that looked like a complete mess during the off-season and training camp (a mess that all of the world got to see).

The Dolphins have to get this young man some receivers to throw to, and then they will have a quarterback who can make his team contend for the next few years. He's already shown that he can make the players around him better (it's not like those Texas A&M teams he played for were full of playmakers); now he needs players that can return the favor.

 

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