Like a little brother waiting to emerge from the shadow of his older siblings, Ryan Tannehill has lurked in the background while the nation debates whether Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III will be the best quarterback of the 2012 NFL draft class.
The "Luck vs. Griffin" debate has raged for almost an entire calendar year, and it's showing no signs of exhaustion.
When the Colts and Redskins met in the preseason, the 'Skins sold a commemorative T-shirt (for a preseason game!). And, a Google search of "Andrew Luck Robert Griffin" spews out more than three million results.
Because Luck and Griffin were selected with the first and second overall picks, respectively—and because they both enjoyed such legendary collegiate careers—it's only natural they are forever compared side by side.
However, at the midway mark of the 2012 season, Ryan Tannehill is proving that he too belongs in this discussion.
Despite playing with one of the most pedestrian supporting casts in the NFL, Tannehill has officially accrued a 4-3 record—though last week's win against the Jets should be mostly attributed to Matt Moore. Either way, that puts him on par with Luck and one ahead of Griffin.
More impressively, according to Pro Football Focus, Tannehill is the NFL's most accurate quarterback under pressure. He leads the league in both completion percentage under pressure and accuracy percentage under pressure.
But, let's put the statistics aside for minute.
From a pure talent standpoint, can Tannehill be a better NFL quarterback than Luck and Griffin?
Although RG3 is a once-in-a-generation athlete, everybody is quick to forget that Tannehill is an electrifying athlete as well. Remember, Tannehill didn't just play wide receiver during his first two seasons at Texas A&M; he caught 101 passes for 1,453 yards and nine touchdowns. At that rate, he could've potentially become an NFL wideout.
There are two other factors working against Griffin: durability and longevity.
Griffin runs approximately nine times per game. That makes him very susceptible to injury, especially considering he isn't exactly a tank. At 6'2", 217 pounds, RG3 can hold his own, but he's bound to take some devastating hits—much like he did in Week 5.
On top of that, what will happen once defenses figure out how to prevent him from running? Cam Newton has run into that problem this season, and Michael Vick has also struggled to become a pure pocket passer. Granted, Griffin is a better pure passer than either; we've yet to see how he fares when he's forced to rely solely on his arm.
As for Andrew Luck, well, it's hard to poke holes in his game. He's already abnormally polished and there's no doubt he'll make vast improvements as he matures.
But, might Tannehill have a higher ceiling?
Considering this is only his third season at quarterback, there's really no telling how good he can become. For all intents and purposes, he's still somewhat raw. Tannehill makes notable strides every week, and with a few years of development under a head coach who watched Aaron Rodgers grow before his eyes, he could be an elite quarterback.
Compare this with Luck, who has superstar written all over him. We know he's going to stud, but he's inferior to Tannehill in a few facets, namely arm strength, mobility and composure under pressure. In fact, just two weeks ago ESPN's Ron Jaworski and Merril Hoge ranked Tannehill above Luck in their rookie quarterback rankings.
Realistically, it's unfair to judge Tannehill, Griffin and Luck after just nine weeks, but let the numbers and the film show: it's time to make this a three-party debate.