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Tannehill Named Dolphins Starting Quarterback

Posted Aug 20, 2012

History was made this afternoon when Miami Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin named rookie Ryan Tannehill as his starting quarterback.

Tannehill, the eighth overall pick of April’s NFL Draft, becomes the first rookie quarterback to be tabbed as the starter before the regular season in the storied history of the franchise. That includes Miami’s two Hall-of-Famers, Bob Griese and Dan Marino.

“After a through evaluation of the quarterback position we have come to the decision that Ryan Tannehill is our starting quarterback,” Philbin said to open his press conference. “It was a close competition, but in the end we feel that this is the best decision for our football team at the present time.”

It came down to a battle between Tannehill and veteran incumbent starter Matt Moore, who led Miami to a 6-3 finish down the stretch last season. Tannehill, who made 19 starts for Texas A&M and current offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, completed 25-of-44 passes for 267 yards and one touchdown in two preseason games, getting his first start last Friday at the Carolina Panthers.

Philbin had made it clear from the beginning that this was going to be an open competition and stuck to his guns, even when veteran David Garrard appeared to be leading the way before injuring his knee prior to the preseason opener. Once that happened it went from a three-man race to a two-man race that was close right up to the finish, which was before this morning’s practice when Philbin broke the news.

“As I’ve said many times in this room they’re very, very professional, both of them,” said Philbin, who is in his first year as a head coach. “It was tight and I have tremendous regard for Matt as a football player and as a member of the Miami Dolphins. He’s a true professional and you feel for guys because they compete and come to work everyday and they want to start. (Ryan’s) excited obviously and this is the best decision that we could make at the present time.”

Having that chance to start the second preseason game and experience going against Carolina’s first-team defense definitely paid dividends for Tannehill. He ran a lot of no-huddle and was able to make corrections at the line of scrimmage, showing his decisiveness and poise.

Three days later, after getting a chance to reflect on the experience and look at film of his performance, Tannehill expressed confidence that he grew a lot as a quarterback and clearly it strengthened his position.

“I think it helped a lot and I think we learned a lot as an offense,” said Tannehill, who finished 11-of-23 for 100 yards in the 23-17 loss. “We can’t start a game like that. We’ve got to come out and move the ball early, especially when the opposing offense is moving the ball and putting points on the board. We have to counter that and come out and respond, so I learned a lot and we’ve just got to get first downs, move the ball and get points on the board.”

Now the Dolphins can finish their preparation for Friday night’s third preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons at Sun Life Stadium. This is the first time Philbin is game planning in earnest for a preseason opponent and confirmed on Sunday that this week was being treated like a regular-season game week.

Between Tannehill’s performance throughout training camp and in the first two preseason games on the field and the way he looked on film to the coaching staff, Philbin felt he had enough information to feel comfortable with his decision. There was a visible upside to what Tannehill brings to the offense.

“We think he’s very poised, we think he’s a mature individual and we don’t think it’s too big for him,” Philbin said. “We think he has a good grasp of the concepts that we’re utilizing on offense, both in the run game and the pass game. There are some good pictures of films in the two games that he’s played where we’ve been off to the side and he’s redirecting guys and getting people in the right spots. We think he has a chance to be an accurate passer in this league, he has good mobility, he throws the ball well on the move, so I think he has a chance to be a very good player.”

Some of Tannehill’s teammates on the first unit echoed Philbin’s analysis of the rookie and his potential after seeing how he handled himself in a hostile environment against the Panthers. He did not turn the ball over and he engineered a 15-play, 71-yard scoring drive.

“He sounded like an NFL quarterback,” second-year center Mike Pouncey said. “He did a real good job managing the offense and he obviously got us in the right plays when we needed to do and I think we’ll progress with him.”

Fifth-year wide receiver Davone Bess described Tannehill’s arm as “strong and super accurate.” That’s been a consistent theme among all of the wide receivers, tight ends and running backs when asked about how the rookie throws the ball.

Fellow rookie Jeff Fuller was Tannehill’s favorite wide receiver in college with the Aggies and the two are the most familiar with the offensive system Sherman has installed. Besides Sherman, nobody knows Tannehill better than Fuller and he too has seen growth since the start of training camp, especially in his outing against Carolina.

“I think he looked great. He looked really comfortable out there and I know he was excited about the first start and I was excited for him,” Fuller said. “He came out and I think he executed his game plan well.”

Obviously, Sherman’s opinion was factored in heavily to the final destination and when he addressed the media Sunday he gave a pretty telling evaluation of Tannehill.

“He’s making good decisions and that’s the most important thing a quarterback has to have,” Sherman said. “He has the talent to make the throws and he’s making good decisions. … I think he’s very much acclimated himself to the speed of the game at this point, and I don’t think that’s an issue.”

So Tannehill, who wears the number 17, will be the 17th different starting quarterback for the Dolphins since Marino retired following the 1999 season.