A franchise quarterback is not built or dismantled in one game. That's why, just like Ryan Tannehill wasn't crowned an elite quarterback following his gutsy fourth-quarter performance against the Seahawks, he isn't a bust after a rough game against the Patriots.
Just a week after it seemed like he was coming into his own, his performance this week is indicative of his erratic play and inconsistent development to this point. Where does he, and the team, go from here?
Not a simple question to answer.
Will the Dolphins surround him with elite weapons? Davone Bess and Brian Hartline are good receivers, but the Dolphins still lack a reliable third option in the passing game, be it a tight end or a wide receiver.
Will he begin to read coverage better? He still stare down his first read for too long at times, and gets lost if they're not open.
Will the play-calling ever fully take advantage of the top talent on the team? Reggie Bush had 15 carries, and just three in the fourth quarter. The Dolphins were justified in the trust of their defense, but not in the mistrust of the running game.
Those are just the answers on the micro level—this week. These are all essential questions that remain unanswered in the much larger discussion of where he, and the team, goes from here.
Stats don't always tell the whole story, but they almost always tell part of the story. Tannehill's story is one of inconsistency and missed opportunities.
Inconsistency, like going 4-for-5 for 50 yards with three rushes for nine yards and a touchdown on the final drive of the first half, and going 2-for-8 for 33 yards in the third quarter and into the fourth.
Missed opportunities, like two bad misfires to Brian Hartline, one of which could have been a touchdown.
The first one, I just overthrew it. It was a bad throw. You've got to hit those; you don't get too many shots like that. He runs by the safety, and I've got to hit him and make the play. The second one was designed to be a hook up, so I looked off the safety and set my feet to throw short. He stuck his hand up and went deep, so I just didn't get enough on it.
He's not the worst quarterback in the league, as his passer rating would suggest, but those qualities won't help him launch his career to stardom as quickly as his rookie compatriots.
Comparing him to the likes of Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III may not be fair, considering those two were the consensus best players in the draft while Tannehill was a consensus bench-warmer, but the teams they play on are not as talented on defense and only marginally more talented on offense than these Dolphins.
He's shown inconsistent signs of progress all season, but it would be easier to feel good about those signs of progress if it was less up and down and instead a more steady build.
It hasn't all been bad; Tannehill is finally putting his athleticism to good use. He showed shades of Reggie Bush on his touchdown run in the second quarter when he leaped over Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard. He had 30 rushing yards through 10 games, but has 52 rushing yards in the past two games.
His legs, needless to say, were not enough to outweigh his arm.
For a full game, it was his second-lowest completion percentage of the season. His numbers across the board were below average by his standards.
That's not good considering his statistical standards have been low this season. It's even worse considering he was 11-for-25 for 130 yards headed into the final drive of the fourth quarter before he picked up 56 yards on two passes that were more wide open than just about any the Patriots have allowed this year (which says a lot considering they wrote the early-season book on how to let guys get open).
This week was a step back for Tannehill, but there's plenty of life left in his NFL career, and these are part of the growing pains with a rookie quarterback. We often forget about that, with the bountiful success for Luck and Griffin, but even successful rookies struggle in their career. Just ask Cam Newton.
It hasn't been a great rookie year for Tannehill, but was that even expected? All that can be expected of a rookie quarterback is improvement. Week-to-week improvement is great, but for a rookie as raw as Tannehill was entering the season, it can't be expected.
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand or via team press releases.