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Andy Cohen: Philbin Made Right Move At Right Time

Posted Aug 20, 2012

Let the speculation stop. Change is officially in the air.

For the first time in the long history of this franchise, a rookie will be the starting quarterback on opening day. It makes sense for so many reasons.

Foremost is that Ryan Tannehill is the most talented quarterback on the Dolphins roster. Why wait when that is so crystal clear? You’ve got to give Joe Philbin credit for having the guts and confidence to make this move and to make it now.

Philbin saw what three seasons on the bench did for the maturation of Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. But this is a far different situation. There is no Brett Favre to start. The Dolphins don’t have that kind of luxury. And in today’s NFL, rookie quarterbacks come so much more prepared to play right away.

Look around the league. There is a rookie starter in Indy. And in Washington. And in Cleveland. And now there is one in South Florida. So much to look forward to. So much potential.

Call it Ryan’s Hope, Dolphins style.

But be realistic about Ryan Tannehill. He will make mistakes. There will be setbacks. Temper your expectations just a little. It’s never an easy ride for a rookie quarterback.

But when you look at this roster, when you evaluate the decision Philbin had to make, when you think about giving the Dolphins the best chance to win right away - that means Sept. 9th in Houston - it just made so much sense to do it now.

See, while Philbin certainly has the future in mind, it is the present he is most concerned about. So this decision was based on this season, this offense and what this team can accomplish beginning with a tough game against the Texans. Through Philbin’s eyes, this year’s team is better off with Ryan Tannehill behind center. That was the deciding factor.

The Dolphins are clearly a team in transition. Not only is there a new head coach, but a new staff and a new-look offense. The fact that Tannehill played in this offense in college, the fact that  his collegiate head coach was current offensive coordinator Mike Sherman means that he is much more prepared to take on this challenge.

What we saw this preseason only substantiated that. Tannehill clearly has the best grasp of what the Dolphins are doing, clearly understands the nuances of this offense. You can surely improve by watching the game from the sideline. But to strap on your helmet, to experience the speed and challenges of the NFL first hand, is something that can’t come from tape study or sideline observations.

You’ve got to jump in. And the Dolphins are doing exactly that with Ryan Tannehill.

What we’ve seen so far in Ryan Tannehill is undeniable ability. We’ve seen a strong arm. We’ve seen smart decisions. We’ve seen a confidence and a control and a competitiveness that is impossible to overlook. Is he polished? Far from it. Does he have the ability to make up for a lack of polish with his athletic ability, with his sharp mind, with his unyielding confidence? Most definitely.

A knee injury to Dave Garrard made it a two-player race between Tannehill and Matt Moore. I like a lot of things about Matt Moore. We saw what he was capable of doing in the final stretch of games last season. Why he was chosen the team’s Most Valuable Player.

But when you place Moore and Tannehill side by side, when you evaluate both the tangibles and intangibles, it is clear to me that the rookie has a far greater upside.

It is good that Philbin chose to make the announcement on Monday. This way Tannehill gets all the first team snaps in practice. This way Tannehill will start Friday against Atlanta and will get  a real chance to build a comfort zone with the first team offense. You didn’t want to wait any longer than this. You want to give Tannehill everything he could possibly need to succeed right away and this will do that.

We’ve waited a long time for this, haven’t we? We’ve seen so many quarterbacks come and go over the last decade. We’ve seen second round draft choices traded away and second round picks taken. But this was the first time since 1983 that the Dolphins used their first-round pick on a quarterback.

From the beginning, it had a different feel to it. This isn’t a player who is too short or too slow or too anything. This is a player in Ryan Tannehill with the right size, the right arm strength and the right pedigree. This is a player who has a chance, a real chance, to be special. And Joe Philbin has seen enough quarterbacks to know what special looks like.

“This is the best decision we can make at this given time,” Philbin said.

Got a feeling it’s a decision he won’t regret.

Yes, it is Ryan Tannehill who will lead the Miami Dolphins into the 2012 season.

For so many reasons, the future is now.

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