For the first time since Hall-of-Famer Dan Marino was drafted 27th overall in 1983, the Miami Dolphins have selected a quarterback in the first round, taking Ryan Tannehill of Texas A&M with the eighth overall pick.
Tannehill played for new offensive coordinator Mike Sherman for the last four year years when Sherman was the head coach of the Aggies. He began his career as a wide receiver before transitioning to quarterback full-time as a junior. The 6-foot-4, 222-pound Tannehill made 19 starts and completed 327-of-531 passes for 3,744 yards and 29 touchdowns in his own career.
“I’m so excited to get down to Miami I can’t even put it into words,” Tannehill said by phone from New York City, where he walked on stage at Radio City Music Hall to shake hands with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “It’s a moment I’ve dreamed about all my life, so to finally have the opportunity and go to a great organization like the Miami Dolphins, I can’t wait to get down there and join the team and I was real excited to see the Florida area code pop up on my phone.”
Now Tannehill will get a chance to ease himself into an offense run by Sherman and Head Coach Joe Philbin that should be familiar to him while also learning behind veteran quarterbacks
General Manager Jeff Ireland did more than his share of due diligence on Tannehill along with Philbin and his scouting department and he liked what he found early on, even going back two years.
“I personally watched all of his games in 2010 and thought he had first-round ability just off his junior season,” Ireland said. “This is a kid myself personally and my staff have been following for quite a while. He’s got great size, he’s got a very strong arm, he’s tough, he’s very bright and he’s got very, very good athletic ability for the quarterback position. This kind of finalizes a plan that we put in place several months ago when we started with the free agency process and started preparing for the draft.”
In order to be comfortable with selecting a quarterback in the first round, there has to be a shared conviction between the general manager and the head coach. That existed here in South Florida between Ireland and Philbin and the makeup of Philbin’s staff played a big role.
It’s still not entirely clear how similar Miami’s offense will be to the one Tannehill played in at Texas A&M, but the mere fact that his coordinator will be someone he is very familiar with is a plus. Tannehill knows Sherman’s personality and of course he knows what Sherman expects out of his quarterback.
“I definitely think it’ll help, just playing under him for four years in College Station (Texas) at A&M and learning the game,” Tannehill said. “He’s a great coach and a teacher and also Coach Philbin, he did a great job in Green Bay and I look forward to working with both of them. Coach Sherman’s a great coach and an even better man and he’s been with me throughout this entire process and been supportive. We just kept in touch like any quarterback and coach would if it was any other situation. I’m excited to get back in touch with him as well as meet the rest of the coaching staff.”
This was the first time since 1999 that three quarterbacks were taken in the top 8, with Stanford’s Andrew Luck going first overall to the Indianapolis Colts and Baylor’s Robert Griffin III being selected second overall by the Washington Redskins. Since the NFL has become so much a passing league, the value of the quarterback position has significantly increased.
Tannehill had to prove that he was fully recovered from the foot injury that kept him out of the Senior Bowl and all of the drills at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. He managed to satisfy the Dolphins enough to make him just the fourth quarterback in franchise history taken in the first round. In addition to Marino, Hall-of-Famer Bob Griese in 1969 and Rick Norton back in 1966 are the others, but Tannehill feels ready to shoulder the burden that comes with being picked that high.
“No, I don’t think there’s more pressure than there would be at any other spot,” he said. “I’m excited. I put pressure on myself to be a good player and I want to be a great player one day, so I’m excited about the opportunity. I welcome the pressure from the organization because I believe in the organization and I’m glad that they drafted me.”
Owner Stephen Ross is a student of the history of the game at the NFL level and has shared his understanding of just how important it is to have a franchise quarterback. Add in the fact that Miami plays in the same division as the New England Patriots and their franchise quarterback, Tom Brady, and it becomes more pertinent.
But Ross relied on Ireland, Philbin and his football people to make the right decision with that first-round pick and in the end all parties involved seemed happy.
“That was the player that we wanted and it’s really exciting. I’m thrilled,” Ross said. “I’ve always said that we really needed to be strong at the quarterback position and I think now that’s one of the strengths of our team. It’s how you really start building I believe and I couldn’t be happier. It’s thrilling to know that the quarterback was the one you wanted and he’s young and it’s something to really build around. All along Jeff felt Tannehill was someone he saw talent in.”
Tannehill is well aware of what it means to join the Miami Dolphins as a quarterback and the endless comparisons to Marino that are in store for him. That’s a burden that every quarterback since Marino retired after the 1999 season has faced, but he isn’t worried about it.
“It’s humbling,” Tannehill said. “He’s a legend and was a great quarterback for the Miami Dolphins franchise and I’m excited to hopefully reach out to him and learn from him. I don’t think I’m trying to fill his shoes. I’m my own player and I have a lot to learn and I’m excited to get started.”
Ireland has no doubts Tannehill can handle the pressure, calling him “a pro” who will “handle it with class and handle it with humility.”
Philbin is eager to get Tannehill into camp and onto the practice field and is not placing any expectations on the young man or setting any timeline for when he should be ready. But the fact that Tannehill does have some familiarity with Sherman’s offense is something Philbin feels will help his development at the beginning.
“I think early on it will be a little bit of a benefit so it’s not all Chinese as we like to say,” Philbin said. “When we get the rookies here we tell them it’s going to be a whole different language, terminology and systems are different, but really the game of football isn’t really a whole lot different from what they’ve been playing. So I think maybe the first week it might be a little bit of a benefit but I think that wears off after time.”
Tannehill’s number one asset according to Philbin, Ireland and Sherman is his team-first mentality and Sherman, having coached him for four years, has the best read on his potential.
“The general consensus is that he is a talented quarterback with a tremendous upside. As his former head coach I agree with that evaluation,” Sherman said in a statement. “He has just scratched the surface as a quarterback. His learning curve, however, will be enhanced and accelerated simply because he is coming to an offensive scheme and terminology where he has a lot of familiarity.”
The Dolphins have three picks in the second and third round tomorrow afternoon, with the 10th pick in the second round and back-to-back picks in the third round at No. 72 and No. 73.