No excuses: Time is now for Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill

DAVIE, Fla. -- Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill has the numbers, as evidenced by his career-high 4,045 passing yards and 27 touchdowns last season.

He has a $96 million contract extension, which provided financial security.

In addition, the Dolphins surrounded Tannehill with a bevy of impressive skill players this offseason, including former Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Cameron, receivers Kenny Stills and Greg Jennings and dynamic first-round pick DeVante Parker. Jarvis Landry, last season's leading receiver, returns, as does 1,000-yard running back Lamar Miller.

All of this means the time is now for Tannehill. His fourth season is a watershed moment. Tannehill, 27, either will take the next step by leading the Dolphins to the playoffs or become another overpriced NFL quarterback who failed to turn potential into reality.

"Ryan has all of the ingredients to be an elite quarterback," Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said this week. "If you look at his performance, he's gotten better every single year. I think with the tools he has around him now, he will continue to get better and I think you'll see that with our wins and losses."

Expectations are high for coach Joe Philbin and the Dolphins, who have gone .500 in each of the past two seasons.

"Our mindset from the spring to [Wednesday] in team meetings has been no excuses," Tannehill said as the team opened training camp. "We're finding a way to get it done, and being confident about it. I think that's a little bit different than in the past. It starts at the top with Philbin and Mr. Ross and the confidence this organization has. We're doing everything that we can to find an edge and win."

Tannehill has survived a lot during his young career. He was a rookie starter in 2012 and managed to win seven games. A bullying scandal ripped apart his starting offensive line in 2013. Last season, there were issues between Tannehill and his receivers that boiled over in the final game of the season, when Mike Wallace was benched in the second half.

All of those things contributed to Tannehill's sub-par 23-25 record as a starter. One of the biggest criticisms of Tannehill is that he has yet to post a winning season or make the playoffs.

There has been plenty of debate regarding where Tannehill stands in the quarterback hierarchy. Mike Sando's survey of NFL general managers ranked Tannehill No. 17 and a "Tier 3" quarterbackInsider. ESPN NFL analyst Ron Jaworski also placed Tannehill No. 17 in his annual quarterback rankings. Tannehill's 92.8 passer rating last season was No. 14 in the league.

These suggest Tannehill is a middle-of-the-pack quarterback -- and I agree with that assessment. The Dolphins need Tannehill to ascend into the top 10-12 this season.

"You've got to start with the quarterback," Ross said. "I can't think of a better person -- a guy with the talent, the brains and the athletic ability combined -- to really lead this team."

Indeed, Tannehill has many things going for him. He's athletic -- a dual threat. He rushed for 311 yards last season and averaged 5.6 yards per carry.

He is tough and durable. He has been sacked 139 times since 2012, which is the most of any quarterback over that span, but he hasn't missed a start.

He also has improved his accuracy and throws well between the seams, where tight ends and slot receivers have been productive with Tannehill under center. Last season, his completion percentage on throws to tight ends was 70.6, which ranked 12th in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

Areas where Tannehill must improve are leadership -- although he has shown signs recently of being a more vocal, take-charge quarterback -- and the deep ball. He has an above-average arm, yet he has completed just 39.2 percent of throws that traveled at least 15 yards -- 25th in the NFL during his career -- and has more interceptions (16) than touchdown passes (12) on these throws, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

Miami went "all in" with Tannehill this offseason. He is under contract until the 2020 season and will be the team's quarterback for the foreseeable future.

The Dolphins believe nothing but good times are ahead. But that can only be quantified in wins and losses.

"We're not here just to win a few games, we're here to win a championship," Tannehill said. "That's what we're here to do. I feel like if you ask each and every man on this team, and they'll tell you the same thing -- we're here to win a championship. We're not wasting our time out here each and every day sweating, losing 10 pounds at practice, to not be playing in January and February."