The Miami Dolphins named rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill their Week 1 starter on Monday. It's a move that won't pay immediate dividends. But it was absolutely the right call for the long-term success of this franchise.
It was clear to see this offseason, in training camp and in the preseason that the Dolphins are a rebuilding team in transition. Miami is not making the playoffs in 2012 regardless of who's the quarterback. It was best to start Tannehill now to develop the rookie for future seasons.
This is a grace-period year for rookie head coach Joe Philbin. He has nothing to lose. If Miami goes 5-11, fans will shrug amid the already low expectations. If Miami goes 8-8, it will be an overachievement.
Matt Moore wasn't beating out Tannehill (or David Garrard) in practices or in games. Starting Moore would have simply been a decision based on what he did in a different system under a different coaching staff. Moore never played in a West Coast offense before this season and, in many ways, has looked like a fish out of water.
Tannehill has rapidly made improvements since spring workouts. He played under Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman at Texas A&M and knows the system very well. Naming Tannehill the starter now provides about three weeks to get him ready for the Houston Texans as opposed to sharing first-team reps and playing time with Moore the rest of the summer.
The only downside to the decision is the message it sends to the Dolphins' locker room. By naming a rookie quarterback the starter over a veteran who went 6-3 in his final nine starts last season, the coach staff is essentially saying this team isn't good enough to make a postseason run and is building for the future. Miami's aging veterans may not want to hear it, but that's the reality.
Starting Tannehill right away means the Dolphins are eyeing 2013 and beyond after the rookie takes his lumps. Surely, there will be some growing pains and rookie mistakes from Tannehill, who had just 19 collegiate starts. But it's good to get them over with now in a rebuilding year.
The Dolphins were very wise to start the Tannehill era. The future is now.