DAVIE, Fla. -- I rarely flip-flop in the AFC East blog. But due to an unexpected set of circumstances, this is one of those rare instances.
Forget about my prior comments entering training camp. I previously wrote that Tannehill's two-day holdout and late arrival all but end the rookie's chances of jumping two veteran quarterbacks in training camp.
But crazy things happen in the NFL -- especially if you're the Dolphins. Miami had a topsy-turvy 72 hours that included projected starting quarterback David Garrard's unexpected knee surgery and receiver Chad Johnson's release following his arrest for alleged domestic violence.
No one saw this coming a few weeks ago. Now the Dolphins must adjust.
Miami needs to be decisive. It's time to start Tannehill this week against the Carolina Panthers and get him three full preseason games with the first team in preparation for Week 1 of the regular season.
No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck is starting at quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts. No. 2 pick Robert Griffin III is starting for the Washington Redskins. Even Cleveland Browns rookie Brandon Weeden, who was drafted 14 picks behind Tannehill, is expected to start in Week 1.
What are the Dolphins waiting for? It's time for Miami to play its rookie quarterback.
"It's possible, we'll see," Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said after practice Monday. "At this stage in the game we're going to let the practices play out. We're in no rush to name anybody. We [have a] game at Carolina on Friday, and we’ve had two decent days of preparation so far, and we have two more heavy practices coming up, so we’re going to look at how the guys play."
The days of waiting a year or two for a quarterback to develop are outdated. Coaches get fired too fast in the NFL to have their franchise player sitting on the bench for too long. Philbin gets one year as a grace period. After that, the pressure is on to win in Miami.
Philbin and Tannehill should go through this grace period together in 2012. Let's be honest: Miami is in a rebuilding year. This team is learning a new West Coast offense and a new 4-3 defense, and it doesn't have enough dynamic playmakers on either side to consistently win games.
The Dolphins are not a playoff team regardless of whether Garrard, Moore or Tannehill is the quarterback. Therefore, you're better off playing the rookie who can develop into your long-term solution. Philbin and Tannehill can take their lumps together this season and learn on the job. Then, the pair will be well-positioned to take flight for Miami in 2013.
Tannehill could be the best quarterback on the roster right now. He was certainly the most impressive in Miami's preseason debut. Tannehill was 14-for-21 with 167 yards and a touchdown. He showed many of the traits Miami raved about in the draft. Tannehill was poised and in control of the offense, and he made a lot of good throws.
"I try to be calm on the field," Tannehill said. "[I] try to give off the essence of being calm in the pocket, being calm in the huddle. You know, we’re going to go down and score every drive. I just try to give confidence to the other players on the field."
Dolphins veteran quarterback Matt Moore was 7-of-12 for 79 yards and an interception. The incumbent had some good plays and bad plays. After the game, Philbin was asked how big the gap is between Moore and Tannehill.
"I don’t think it’s huge," Philbin said candidly. "I think it's relatively close, probably."
If that is the case, what is there to lose?
We know what Moore's ceiling is. He is 13-12 in his six-year career. Moore is an average starter but a good backup. He's never played in a West Coast offense before, and you can see it in practice. In many ways, Moore is a square peg trying to fit into a round hole with the Dolphins.
Meanwhile, Tannehill has the potential to be Miami's best quarterback since Dan Marino. Why waste a year of that immense potential on the bench? Tannehill played under Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman in college at Texas A&M and knows this West Coast offense well. The progress Tannehill has made from minicamp in the spring to the third week of training camp has been impressive.
Garrard was clearly winning the quarterback competition before his unexpected knee surgery. At that time I thought the former Pro Bowler gave Miami the best chance to win. But Garrard's injury opened the door for the Tannehill era to begin. Miami should embrace this opportunity instead of running from it.
Moore and Garrard both have one year left on their contracts. There is a good chance neither veteran quarterback will be on Miami's roster next season.
But Tannehill will be on the roster in 2013. And it's best for the entire Dolphins organization that he enters next season with a full year of experience under his belt.
"We'll just have to trust the gut. ... We'll see how it unfolds," Philbin said. "At that time, if there are no differences statistically, if it looks even and production is even, then I think we’ll have to go with a gut instinct on who can lead the team and give us the best chance to win."
Stop playing musical chairs with your quarterbacks, Miami. The future is now.
Start Ryan Tannehill.