I am pleased Joe Philbin and his coaching staff spent part of Monday deciding whether or not to bench Ryan Tannehill. It is wise that they are not assuming the Miami Dolphins quarterback job should belongs to Tannehill this week simply because it's belonged to Tannehill for 35 previous games.
NFL starting QB jobs have to be earned when a player is not an established elite quarterback. And NFL starting QB jobs can be lost when a player is not an established elite quarterback.
And Tannehill is not established. Not elite. And not earning the luxury of going unscrutinized by his coaches about whether he should start or not.
So this is good. Well done, Joe Philbin.
I'm also fine with whatever Philbin and his coaching staff decide. Bench Tannehill. Start Tannehill. I'm good with whatever decision they make.
Look, they have the expertise. They know the good, bad, and the ugly of Tannehill. They know the grand promise Tannehill has as well. And they're the ones with jobs hanging in the balance.
So they are the folks best equipped to make this call and I will back it -- whatever it is -- as close to 100 percent as I can.
I have an opinion on what I would do if I were in their shoes. I would do this:
Having sent the message to Ryan Tannehill that he must earn his start this week and every week he does not perform well until further notice, I do not bench Tannehill. At least not...quite...yet.
I let him know he needs to prepare like he always has (indeed better) and that he is my starter. But if he doesn't climb out of this hole he's digging with his sub par play, I'm going to yank him before the hole becomes a career grave.
I tell Tannehill, "Play well against the Raiders and we have no issues."
I tell Tannehill, "You don't play well, I am going to yank you, maybe even during the game. It is all in your hands. Play like you got nothing to lose because you are on a pitch count and the next pitch is not promised to you."
Then I tell Matt Moore, you are not starting. But you may be called upon to play if Tannehill continues his current funk. Be prepared. Be engaged. Be excited. Be what you are: A professional.
By the way, as coach I'm a professional, too. So I don't play mind games. I tell everyone Tannehill is the starter. Period. No distractions.
So why do I stick with Tannehill?
Because I still have hope he can salvage himself. Because I still understand he might find that spark he's been lacking and ride that. Because I recognize that once I bench him, I've crossed the proverbial Rubicon and there might not be any going back. And I'm not ready to make that commitment yet.
I guess I want to give Tannehill a full one-quarter of the season to show me he deserves to stay the Miami Dolphins starter. And if he cannot do it by then, I still have three-quarters of the season to roll with Moore and try to salvage the season.
It also makes sense because following the game against Oakland, the Dolphins will enjoy a bye week. It is much easier to make a change as significant as installing a new quarterback during the added time of the bye than it is this week.
I think it's a good idea that Tannehill understands his job is on the line. It should be on the line. If you doubt that please roll you DVRs back to Sunday.
Let's go over two plays with about 10 minutes to play in the fourth quarter and the Dolphins trailing 21-15.
On second-and-1, Bill Lazor decides he's going to pass even though the running game is shredding the Chiefs. It is a bad play call but not catastrophic. Tannehill rolls away from pressure. If he wishes, the former wide receiver can probably pick up the first down by running. He also has a receiver crossing underneath uncovered.
Tannehill does neither. He is locked on to Mike Wallace downfield and throws it (poorly). Out of bounds. Incomplete.
On third-and-one, Lazor again goes against everything he has said he believes and calls a pass. Well, Tannehill is rushed again because the Dolphins offensive line has pass-blocking issues on the interior. And again, Tannehill is focused on a receiver well down field but cannot complete the pass to him.
Meanwhile, running back Daniel Thomas is by himself three yards away and all Tannehill had to do was show awareness and instincts and simply flip the ball to Thomas who would have gotten the first down. Tannehill didn't unlock his eyes from his target. The Dolphins' drive stalled. Momentum gone.
This kind of play is not about stats or quarterback ratings. It is not dependent on great catches or drops. It is what instinctive NFL quarterbacks often do. They improvise, they adapt. But Tannehill has not done it consistently.
So tell him as much. Make him aware. And tell him it must get corrected or his on the bench.
There are some out there who will say such talk might cause Tannehill to go into a shell or play scared. Then so be it. If he plays scared faced with adversity, he's not the right guy anyway.
I believe he won't play scared.
He's a man. Be honest with him. See what happens.
I give him one more start but not necessarily the right to finish. He has to earn that right. If he responds, super. Down the highway we roll. If he wilts, then we move on to Moore, who started 12 games for the Dolphins in 2011 and was 6-6 in those starts while delivering 16 TDs and 8 INTs.
Now we sit back and see what Joe Philbin and his coaching staff will do.