With training camp less than a week away, as fans we have read all of the predictions, the team necessities to succeed this season and which camp battles to pay attention to. While the success of this year’s team rests on a positive sum of all the parts, the biggest X factor will undoubtedly be the play of Ryan Tannenhill.
I personally have a lot of faith and confidence in Tannehill. I know the elephant in the room is what form will he return to coming off his ACL reconstruction surgery. And when I say return to form, I am referring to his last 8 games before his first ACL injury suffered versus the Arizona Cardinals in late 2016.
Before that injury, things really started to click for Tannehill, the Dolphins and Adam Gase’s offense. A huge part of this was the emergence of Jay Ajayi and his ability to act as a workhorse for the offense. Miami and Gase leaned on him extensively; reminiscent of the carries Ricky Williams used to get. So, with the below stats, we must take that into consideration. I say that because while I think the offense will be more dynamic as a whole featuring the versatile Kenyan Drake, I would remiss if didn’t reference the difference in the two. Drake is dynamic, a home run hitter whom can change the game in a split second, but his ability to carry a team on his back and will us to win, like Ajayi, has not materialized as of yet.
That being said, if the last 8 games of Tannenhill’s 2016 campaign is any indication, Miami would be thrilled to have him return to that form. Starting with the Pittsburgh game (Ajayi’s first big splash) Tannehill and Miami went 7-1, with some playoff caliber wins. He threw 13 touchdowns to only 5 interceptions while averaging a 102.65 Quarterback rating. Three of the Eight games he topped the 120 QBR mark with a 130.6 vs. both San Diego and San Francisco and a 124.0 in his last game vs. Arizona before his season ending injury. Wins and losses are always the most important stat, however I think even the harshest Tannenhill critics can agree that he was beginning to play some real efficient football. Can he return to this form or better this season?
Ryan Tannehill is not the first Quarterback to suffer a season ending ACL injury. Carson Palmer injured his ACL in the 2005 Wild Card Game and returned the next season. He performed extremely well, playing in all 16 games, earned a Pro Bowl nomination and threw for over 4,000.00 yards.
In week of 11 of 2006 Donovan McNabb ended his season with an ACL injury. He returned the next year to start 14 games and have a mediocre season. He was not spectacular, nor was he before his injury and his supporting case was less than stellar compared to past seasons.
During the 2007 AFC Championship, Phillip Rivers suffered a season ending ACL injury. He only returned the next year to lead the NFL in TD passes, Passer Rating as well as Yard Per Attempt.
In 2008, Tom Brady ended his campaign during the first week of the season. Statistically he never returned to his previous form. But his pre-injury form was his 2007 super season that saw him throw for 50 Touchdowns to only 8 interceptions while clocking a 117.2 QBR. Post injury however, Brady has been one of the best if not the best QB in the league, a consistent winner and a nine-time AFC East Champion.
After an outstanding 2012 rookie year season which saw him win the NFL rookie of the year award, Robert Griffin III injured his ACL in week one. He never returned anywhere near his pre-ACL form. His success was partially due to a unique college style offense that the league eventually figured out. He never regained his mobility to the extent that made him so dangerous and has continually struggled to find a consistent role in the NFL. He is hoping to find a home in Baltimore this year. He appeared in only 13 games the season after his injury.
In week 10 of the 2014 Season, the ACL injury bug hit Carson Palmer again. The more I write this, I am hoping Tannehill consulted with Carson during his recovery. The following season, Carson Palmer played all 16 games, reached the NFC Championship Game, made the Pro-Bowl, Second Team All Pro and second in MVP voting.
While we will never know if Tannenhill spoke with Carson Palmer, we do know a little bit about his recovery. He was embedded with the team. Working out and rehabbing with Raekwon McMillan and Isaiah Ford, the three forged a bond and a competition. Ryan was constantly around the team, in coach’s meetings, position meetings, game plan installation meetings, home games, road games, practice…anywhere he could ingest Gase’s game plan and offensive system. He has taken more mental repetitions than we could comprehend, and I don’t think we can underestimate the value of these repetitions. I am of the belief that he not only knows what do to in certain situations, but most importantly why. It will be like having a coach om the field.
During OTA’s the consensus is that he will be bringing back much needed leadership to the team and the command of Gase’s offense is superb. The team has seemed to respond to his return in a very positive way and it seemed to miss his control of the huddle. His accuracy was widely noticed, and we can only hope that it will translate to the field on Sundays. I am confident it will and if history is any indication, there is a very good chance of it.