Ryan Tannehill is four days from starting his second NFL season. And while we still cannot be certain what he will become, we know he must be better than he's been if he's to earn the trust placed on him as the face of the Dolphins franchise.
Tannehill knows Dolphins fans want, indeed, expect him to be very good this year. The team has surrounded him with a fine receivers corps. The defense is playoff caliber. This is his year to be much better.
He knows this. He hears it when people say he'll be the next great quarterback in Dolphins history.
“It’s nice but, it doesn’t matter, I still have to go out and play," Tannehill said Wednesday. "I have to go out and do the things that I want to do, that we want to do as a team. We have high expectations for ourselves as a team. As an offense, we want to be able to put points up. We brought in a lot of weapons this year, and now it’s time to finally go out and play."
The Dolphins need Tannehill to become outstanding if not elite. That might happen this year. But that's not how he starts the year.
No, as we get ready to kick off the 2013 NFL season, the Dolphins have an unproven quarterback (still) that is not considered upper echelon in the NFL. Indeed, Tannehill is still among the lower third of NFL quarterbacks compared to others around the league.
(Peanut gallery: But Mando, he's really good. He has all the tools. Ryan's awesome, man. He's got a great arm. He's a captain. He's on the leadership council. He's the man!)
Thank you, gallery. But none of that means squat. Tannehill is one of 32 NFL starting quarterbacks. That makes him special. But if there were a quarterback draft to start the 2013 season, Tannehill would not be picked early.
He probably wouldn't be picked in the middle of the pack, either.
That tells you where Tannehill begins the year in a quarterback-centric league.
I'm not making this up. Consider the Salguero rankings of the NFL's best quarterbacks 1-32. I understand that most of the readers of this blog are Dolphins fans and thus are biased. But try to put your pom-poms aside for a sec and think about what you would do if you were an NFL general manager.
Tell me what spots you would rate the QBs. Tell me where you disagree with the rankings:
1. Aaron Rogers, Green Bay .... Great arm, smart, mobile, fine athlete, won a Super Bowl.
2. Tom Brady, New England ... Great accurate arm, burning passion to win, won three Super Bowls.
3. Peyton Manning, Denver .... Accurate, manipulates secondaries, makes all the throws, won a SB.
4. Drew Brees, New Orleans ... Height schmeight, fine deep thrower, leader, won a SB.
5. Eli Manning, NYG .... Excellent arm, has innate ability to play big at big moments, won two SBs.
6. Joe Flacco, Baltimore ... Perhaps strongest arm in NFL, blossoming, won Super Bowl in 2012-13.
7. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh ... Behemoth, great improvisation, bazooka arm, won 2 SBs.
8. Matt Ryan, Atlanta ... Smart, uses all his weapons, led team to conference title game.
9. Tony Romo, Dallas ... Great athlete, very good arm, still looking for playoff success cred.
10. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis ... The next superstar. Period.
11. Robert Griffin III, Washington .... Smart, courageous, great accuracy, runs like a deer.
12. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco .... See RG3 only bigger, stronger.
13. Matt Schaub, Houston .... Pocket passer, plays up to surrounding talent.
14. Russell Wilson, Seattle ... More intangibles than just about any of them. Good arm. Winner.
15. Cam Newton, Carolina ... Adonis in a football uniform, gifted arm, runs well, good, getting better.
16. Jay Cutler, Chicago ... Amazing arm, gunslinger who takes risks, high risk and high reward.
17. Michael Vick, Philadelphia ... When healthy still elite running and passing, under-rated passer.
18. Phillip Rivers, San Diego ... Considered elite 2-3 years ago, has fallen off but still scares people.
19. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati ... More passer than thrower, average arm but gets results.
20. Carson Palmer, Arizona ... Once great, declining but still excellent in right system.
21. Matthew Stafford, Detroit ... Inconsistent but excellent when hot. 80 TDs and only 25 years old.
22. Sam Bradford, St. Louis ... Finally has talent around him at WR, OL. Accurate, strong arm.
23. Ryan Tannehill, Miami ... All the tools, good learner, hard worker, but still work in progress at 25.
24. Alex Smith, Kansas City ... Perhaps best game-manager in the NFL. That's good. And bad.
25. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay ... Roller-coaster career, roller-coaster accuracy, inconsistent.
26. Brandon Weeden, Cleveland ... Same as Tannehill only five years older and surrounded by less talent.
27. Christian Ponder, Minnesota ... Smart, knows how to win, but not physically gifted like others.
28. Jake Locker, Tennessee ... Inaccurate, inconsistent, on the hot seat.
Tie 29. E.J. Manuel, Buffalo ... Unknown.
Tie 29. Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville ... Mostly unknown, seems to play scared at times.
Tie 29. Geno Smith, NYJ ... Not ready. Just not ready.
Tie 29. Terrelle Pryor, Oakland ... Brings a spark to the huddle. But great QBs do that and pass great, too.