Miami Dolphins: It’s Now or Never for Quarterback Ryan Tannehill

Robert Mayer – USA TODAY Sports

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill will be under a lot of pressure to succeed in 2018 after missing last season with a major injury. Here’s why his efforts this year are critical to his future.

The Miami Dolphins had high hopes when they selected Texas A&M star quarterback Ryan Tannehill with the eighth overall pick in 2012.

Out of the gate, the former Aggie didn’t quite look the part of a franchise quarterback, tossing more picks (13) than touchdowns (12) as a rookie. He threw just seven more touchdowns than picks (24-17) as a sophomore, though he threw for 600 yards more (3,913) than he did in 2012 (3,294).

However, In 2014 and 2015, he turned on the jets. He threw for 4,000 yards or more both times and recorded a fantastic 51-to-24 touchdown-to-interception ratio over that span.

However, his 2016 season ended prematurely due to injury and his 2017 season was lost to the same injury — an ACL tear.

In 2018, Tannehill returns to the fold at full health, aiming to return to his 2014 and 2015 forms. And at this point, he has to if he wants to remain the starting quarterback in Miami.

At age 30, he has to find a way to cope with the loss of wide Jarvis Landry, who posted 3,000-plus receiving yards from 2014 through 16 with Tannehill under center. Tannehill now has wideouts DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, Albert Wilson and Danny Amendola as his top options, and those names don’t exactly scare defenses in the film room.

If Tannehill can’t throw for close to 4,000 yards, this team will have no prayer of playing in January, if they have a shot to do so at all. If New York Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold is all he’s cracked up to be, Miami will be staring a third-place finish in the AFC East dead in the eye.

One could make the argument the writing is on the wall for Tannehill already, and they wouldn’t be wrong. The likelihood that he regains his form from his mid-20s right now at age 30 after a torn ACL is far from a certainty. It would be more wishful thinking than it would be realistic analysis.

With the roster seemingly in flux after Landry’s departure, the Dolphins are poised to pick in the top half of the first round, maybe even within the draft’s top-10 selections come 2019.

What stops them from taking a new quarterback to build around? One with comparable, if not greater, raw talent who is eight or nine years younger?

Tannehill needs to show out in 2018 if he intends to remain the focal point of Miami’s offense. After this season, he’s set to make more than $18 million until 2021, when he hits free agency. If he underperforms, Miami would be wise to cut him, since he’s only guaranteed just over $5 million of that massive lump sum.

This team is clearly not set to compete for a Super Bowl this season. If Tannehill gives it his all and shows out with 4,000-plus yards, it still may not be enough to stop the Dolphins from cutting ties and entering total tank mode. If his play reaches that level, maybe Miami finds someone willing to cough up a draft pick for him, and everybody wins.