Jarvis Landry was talking the other day at OTA’s about Ryan Tannehill, the Miami Dolphins quarterback who has been rehabbing an ACL injury since last season without surgery.
The quotes were casual, the tone relaxed, the scare apparently over.
“It hasn’t slowed him down,” Landry said when asked specificially about the large brace on Tannehill’s left knee. “His recovery process has been tremendous…We’ve been throwing together and now he’s just trying to find the rhythm, along with the timing, now that we’ve got the defensive line out there and the DB’s. He’s still competing like ‘17’ .”
That little bit of shorthand sounds good in this context. A player has to establish himself with teammates before they simply say his jersey number and everybody immediately understands what that designation entails. The trust. The track record. The recognizable picture of rising strength.
Tannehill is not a perfect quarterback, but after five seasons of watching him work it really is time to accept his leadership in full.
Landry, a top receiver and an outspoken pro, has done that. It’s one more demonstration of how fortunate the Dolphins are to have the quarterback position settled, and how uncommon that is around the league.
Look at Chicago. I liked the Bears’ choice of Mitch Trubisky at the No. 2 overall spot in April’s draft. He’s a big kid with lots of potential. There is no guarantee, however, that Trubisky will begin his rookie season as a starter, the way Tannehill did in Miami, or that Trubisky will match Tannehill’s progress five years out.
The Bears have tried to protect against disaster, signing veterans Mike Glennon and Mark Sanchez, but Sanchez injured a knee during OTA’s this week and is out until training camp. You never know what’s coming, even in light drills. You never know when a rookie quarterback will be pushed harder than he can stand.
The Los Angeles Rams went all in with Jared Goff last year, taking the California quarterback first overall in the 2016 NFL draft. He played a lot in college and should have been ready, but Goff’s first start didn’t come until 10 games into a losing season, and his first win as a starter hasn’t come yet. New Rams coach Sean McVay won’t even say without hesitation that Goff is his No. 1 quarterback this summer.
The examples go on and on, but for now let’s focus on Tannehill and Trubisky. Both were lightly used as starting quarterbacks in college. Both were risky picks, high and hopeful, by their teams.
Would Chicago be happy with seven wins in Trubisky’s rookie season, and a doubling of his touchdown passes in Year Two? Seems like a yes, and that’s what Tannehill did in Miami.
Would the Bears get fed up with Trubisky and his 13 college starts if they failed to make the playoffs for a handful of years? It was that way with Tannehill, who started 19 games at quarterback for Texas A&M, but the Dolphins changed coaches without changing quarterbacks, and Tannehill wound up being one of the main reasons that Adam Gase, a highly coveted candidate, chose Miami over other offers.
Nothing is ever certain, especially with Tannehill suffering the first big injury of his career last December, but Miami seems to have a good answer at quarterback. The Bears and Rams are still seeking a comfortable foothold at the position. Same goes for the Broncos with Trevor Siemian, the Jaguars with Blake Bortles, the Browns with Brock Osweiler and company, and the Bills with Tyrod Taylor, who took a $10 million paycut to stay with the team under new coach Sean McDermott.
If any of those guys could play like “17” right now, could be counted upon by teammates like “17” is in Miami, they would take it and run.
Of course, Tannehill will have to show he can move like before once June moves on to the exhibition games of August and the real thing in September. For now, Miami has no doubts about who will and who should play quarterback.
That’s a real luxury, and it is Gase’s to enjoy in a way that half the league’s coaches cannot.