Quarterback Competition Unites Locker Room

Posted Aug 21, 2012

There are still plenty of position battles on the Miami Dolphins yet to be decided, but with rookie Ryan Tannehill being named the starting quarterback yesterday that mystery has been solved and the players are looking ahead.

Tannehill and the man he narrowly beat out for the job, veteran Matt Moore, spoke briefly to the media after today’s practice but it was their teammates that spoke the loudest.

“I don’t see (Ryan) as a rookie to tell you the truth. It’s tough to really look at him as a rookie,” said tight end Anthony Fasano, who has played with six different quarterbacks in his seven seasons in the league. “He’s done a great job kind of breaking out of that mold and coming in with the confidence of knowing the offense mentally helps. He’s done a great job of adjusting to the speed and different personnel. We all knew that a decision was going to be made and now I think we have the best backup quarterback in the league with Matt. That’s a good problem to have.”

From the moment he joined the team for minicamps and OTAs in May, Tannehill fit right into the quarterback room with Moore, veteran David Garrard and second-year quarterback Pat Devlin. Even after he signed his contract last month and was officially added to the competition, Tannehill leaned on the veterans for guidance and they were forthcoming with him.

Philbin pointed to the closeness of that group and their professionalism as one of the key reasons why he knew there wouldn’t be any negative fallout regardless of who he picked to be the starter. Tannehill credited that trust and atmosphere for helping him win the job.

“I can’t say what it was,” said Tannehill when asked what he thought put him over the top in the battle. “You have to ask the coaches about that. I know I’m in a room with great guys, and they made this process easy for me. They accepted me into the room, and helped me out along the way. I have to thank them for that. I’m excited to have the opportunity, to go out and play. It was a tight battle obviously. I’m just going to do everything I can to win games.”

Moore had finished last season with a 6-3 record and an 87.1 passer rating, earning team MVP honors in the process. He knew coming into training camp with a new coaching staff that he would have to prove himself all over again, and at the same time he served as a mentor to Tannehill along with Garrard.

One day after being told by Philbin that the keys to the offense were being handed to the rookie, Moore went out and did what he’s always done since coming into the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2007, first with the Dallas Cowboys and then with the Carolina Panthers – he practiced like a professional. His locker sits two away from Tannehill’s and he stood in front of it after practice and faced the media in kind.

“I was disappointed. Obviously, if you play this game you want to play,” Moore said. “As a leader of this team, you want to be back there with the guys. But I understand the decision. I support the decision. I’m behind Coach Philbin and Ryan 100 percent and will be ready if they need me.”

Wide receiver Legedu Naanee experienced what it’s like opening the season with a rookie at the quarterback position last season in Carolina with Cam Newton. Due to the NFL lockout there was no offseason so everything was speeded up once training camp began, putting more pressure on Newton to deliver and learn on the fly.

Not only did Tannehill have the benefit of an offseason but he also knew the offense being run by offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. It’s basically the same offense he ran in college last year, so Naanee joins his teammates in thinking Tannehill is ahead of the game.

“I think it’s two different situations because he already ran the offense so he had a lot of confidence as far as what is being demanded of him,” Naanee said. “He knew what was expected of him, what needed to get done and how it needed to get it done, all the things he showed throughout camp, being able to get us in the right play, the right protections, re-identifying the Mike when there’s blitzers and just pushing the pace of the offense. That’s a big thing with the no-huddle. We have all the confidence in the world in Ryan. He comes to work, he prepares and he can make all the throws. We’ve got to be there for him when he throws it to us.”

This is a position Tannehill hoped to be in from the moment he got the phone call from Miami telling him he had been chosen with the eighth overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft. He envisioned it and went out and did what he could to convince the coaching staff and his teammates that he could handle the job.

“That’s just human nature to want to be the guy,” Tannehill said. “I was going out there every day to prove I could be the guy and win games with this football team. Right now that’s the case, so I just have to continue to get better and win games.”
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