Was Ryan Tannehill just in over his head? What if Dan Carpenter made those kicks against New York and Arizona? Why couldn't Jeff Ireland do a better job of putting weapons around the team's rookie quarterback?
Along with those questions, there are many more that can be asked. In a league and world that demands accountability, where does the blame go? It's just impossible for the Miami Dolphins 2012 season to be described as "it is what it is."
2012 featured perhaps the most brilliant class of rookie quarterbacks ever in the NFL. Early in the season, Tannehill was being praised—along with Washington's Robert Griffin III, Indianapolis' Andrew Luck and Seattle's Russell Wilson—as the future of the Dolphins. However, somewhere down the line, Tannehill's progress plateaued, while the other rookies continued to soar.
It's easy to say that Tannehill was doomed before the season even started; receivers like Brian Hartline and Davone Bess are, simply put, not sought-after receivers. But then again, how is it possible for a quarterback like Russell Wilson to put up such impressive numbers (20 TD passes, quarterback rating of 94.9) with a receiving corps featuring Sidney Rice and Golden Tate?
Miami's two leading receivers, Hartline and Bess, combine for 60 percent of the entire passing offense. Seattle's top-two receivers. Tate and Rice, combine for 44 percent of the passing offense. Let's look at more of the rookies and see how the numbers stack up.
The Colts' two leading receivers, Reggie Wayne and Donnie Avery, account for 51 percent of the passing offense.
Santana Moss and Leonard Hankerson of the Redskins? Just 31 percent.
Brandon Weeden's two leading receivers, Josh Gordon and Greg Little, account for 41 percent.
On a good note, both of Miami's top receivers have the opportunity to surpass 1,000 with three games remaining on the season. On the other hand, this is a startling number.
As can be interpreted from the numbers above, Miami essentially runs the passing offense through three players—Tannehill, Hartline and Bess. Miami's next leading receiver, Anthony Fasano, has just 233 yards—545 yards less than Bess.
The other four rookie quarterbacks? Their teams' third-leading receivers combine for a total of 350 yards behind the second man.
Take a minute and let that sink in.
It's difficult enough for rookie quarterbacks to enter the NFL and provide immediate production. Add a complete lack of weapons to that equation and you have a recipe for disaster. This may be a minor statement of defense for Ryan Tannehill, who has been inconsistent this season. However, given the stats provided, is there any doubt that Miami's lack of production from other players—in a TEAM sport —is absolutely appalling?
On one hand, you can praise Bess and Hartline for being the only two reliable targets for Tannehill. On the other hand...they are the only two reliable targets for Ryan Tannehill.
It really is alarming how big of a burden the team puts on Tannehill's shoulders. It's equally alarming how little help he gets from the offense around him.
Courtesy of ESPN's Scouts, Inc.:
"Comment: Bess continues to be an adequate complimentary perimeter receiver. He is more quick than fast with deceptive strength after the catch. He is a refined route runner who gets separation with burst and instincts in and out of his break points. Bess has reliable hands to make the tough grab in traffic and should continue to be productive but not an impact player."
"Comment: Hartline has good size, strength and athleticism for a perimeter receiver. He doesn't have explosive speed and quickness but is an excellent route runner, showing courage and concentration in traffic. He can be a physical blocker on the edges and has been a consistent performer during his three-year career. He would not be considered a No. 1 receiver."
As you can tell from the folks at ESPN, as well as your own two eyes, Hartline and Bess are not receivers that possess any kind of elite skills. Bess is described as "more quick than fast" and "not an impact player." Hartline "doesn't have explosive speed" and should "not be considered a No. 1 receiver."
On top of that, Hartline averages less than two touchdowns a year, while Bess averages less than three touchdowns a year.
How is Ryan Tannehill, a quarterback who started for less than two seasons in college, expected to succeed with such little talent at his team's skill positions?
In the NFL, it takes some rookies take longer to develop than others. Ryan Tannehill will still enter his sophomore season in the NFL still in the developmental stage of his young career.
If the Miami Dolphins want any kind of long-term success with Tannehill, moves must be made now to surround him with talent. That doesn't mean drafting a receiver in the sixth-round like Miami did during the 2012 draft. That doesn't mean signing Legadu Naanee, a now-unemployed receiver, as a free agent during the 2012 offseason.
As of now, Miami's skill positions lack skill. If that trend continues, there is no way Ryan Tannehill will be able to hold his head above water.
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