Did Ryan Tannehill Live Up to Expectations in 2012?

Erik Frenz@ErikFrenzSenior Writer IJanuary 11, 2013

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 30: Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Miami Dolphins stands in a huddle with his teammates against the New England Patriots in the second half at Gillette Stadium on December 30, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Statistically, Ryan Tannehill's rookie season was not much better or worse than what we expected.

However, the consensus (my opinion included) is that Tannehill exceeded expectations in his rookie season.

Before the season began, we set a standard of statistical performance by finding the league's average stats for quarterbacks taken in the top 10 over the past 10 years.

Those quarterbacks fell largely into two categories: Either they played almost every game (10 of the 15 played in 10 or more games), or they played in only a handful of games (three of the 15 played in five or fewer games). Tannehill fell into the first category, which is how we set the standard for his performance.

Some other notes of note from the previous post:

  • Six of the 15 quarterbacks on the list surpassed 2,500 passing yards in their rookie year; only three have surpassed 3,000 yards, and they all have done so in the past four years.
  • Six of the QBs listed have earned a passer rating greater than 75, and four of them have accomplished that feat in the past four years.
  • Five QBs on the list have thrown for 13 or more touchdowns, and four of them have done that in the past four years.

In every way, Tannehill performed almost exactly as expected from a statistical standpoint. His passer rating, yards per attempt and completion percentage were all marginally higher than the standard for quarterbacks starting 10 or more games.

All that being said, his performance exceeded what we expected from him.

Not only did I say he wasn't ready to start, I said he would probably only get on the field "by either injury or a terrible record." As it turned out, he won the starting quarterback job as a rookie (albeit after David Garrard injured his knee after Garrard initially won it).

Tannehill's rookie season goes beyond the numbers. He showed qualities the Dolphins have lacked at quarterback for quite some time: Poise, growth and leadership.

The skill set is there; it's what made him a top 10 draft pick at quarterback, and it's what we saw more and more of as the season wore on.

The Dolphins finally began utilizing him to his strengths down the stretch, and he had some of his best performances of the season as a result. Granted, those performances came against the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills, but it's no mistake that Tannehill went four straight games from Weeks 13 thru 16 without throwing an interception.

It was because of play calls like this one, with Tannehill rolling to his right and putting his athleticism to work.

That allows him to extend the play, makes the read easier and gives the receivers time to get open.

He found Hartline this time for a 17-yard gain on 1st-and-10.

It wasn't just the coaching staff, though. Tannehill also learned how to better use his own skills to his advantage. He learned to trust his legs more and scrambled when he couldn't find receivers open downfield. After rushing 21 times for 30 yards in the first 10 games of hte season, he ran 28 times for 181 yards in the final six games.

His legs helped him with pocket passing as well.

Against the Jaguars, the pressure began to close in on him off the edges on 2nd-and-8.

Instead of sending a blind throw into coverage, Tannehill stepped up in the pocket, allowing tight end Anthony Fasano to find the soft spot in coverage. Once he got there, Tannehill found him.

A better throw may have been good for a touchdown, but Tannehill's throw was good enough for a completion and a first down. After evading a sack, that's about as good as anyone could ask for.

So, too, was Tannehill's performance overall as a rookie.


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 otherwise specified, all quotes are obtained firsthand or via team press releases.