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Comparables To Ryan Tannehill

In 2012, Ryan Tannehill averaged 5.23 ANY/A, which was 0.70 ANY/A below the league average.

In 2013, Tannehill averaged 5.00 ANY/A, which was 0.87 ANY/A below league average.

In 2014, Tannehill averaged 5.83 ANY/A, which was 0.30 ANY/A below league average.

I thought it would be interesting to look for comparables to Tannehill using just those metrics. I ran a query for all quarterbacks since 1970 who were within a 0.5 ANY/A of Tannehill’s Relative ANY/A in three consecutive seasons: that is, quarterbacks who averaged between -1.20 and -0.20 Relative ANY/A in Year N-2, between -1.37 RANY/A and -0.37 RANY/A in Year N-1, and between -0.80 RANY/A and +0.20 RANY/A in Year N, with a minimum of at least 200 pass attempts in all three seasons.

As it turns out, there were just 12 quarterback seasons that met that criteria, with one quarterback meeting those criteria twice over a four-year span. Making the data set even less helpful, just six of those 12 seasons came by players in their 20s, and even one of those came by an over-the-hill Joey Harrington in his final season at age 29:

QuarterbackYr N AgeYr NTmN-2 RANY/AN-1 RANY/AYr N RANY/AN+1 TmN+1 RANY/A
Ryan Tannehill262014MIA-0.7-0.87-0.31MIA
Ryan Fitzpatrick312013TEN-0.61-0.33-0.25HOU1.01
Matt Hasselbeck362011TEN-1.04-0.87-0.04TEN-0.92
Joey Harrington292007ATL-0.87-1.2-0.77
Michael Vick262006ATL-0.76-0.76-0.79
Tim Couch262003CLE-1.07-0.74-0.37
Jim Harbaugh372000SDG-0.76-0.67-0.44
Jeff George261993IND-1.32-1.160.03ATL0.34
Dave Krieg331991SEA-0.5-0.71-0.31KAN0.65
Mike Pagel251985IND-0.79-0.73-0.46CLE
Mike Pagel241984IND-0.8-0.79-0.73IND-0.46
Ken Stabler371982NOR-0.86-1.16-0.27NOR-1.35
Jim Hart371981STL-1.35-0.4-0.46STL

That leaves us with just four quarterbacks who were relatively close to Tannehill in age and production: Mike Pagel, Michael Vick, Tim Couch, and Jeff George. Unfortunately, those four don’t seem to be very useful comparisons for a variety of reasons.

Three of them were former number one picks. Vick is one of the most unique players in NFL history, and Tannehill — while a mobile quarterback — doesn’t remind anyone of Vick. And, even if he did, Vick threw just 13 passes over the ensuing three seasons, making any comparison useless. George is another unique player: he had one of the greatest arms in NFL history but rarely was able to put it together for long stretches. Still, my hunch is Dolphins fans would be pretty happy if Tannehill developed somewhat like George, who was not nearly as bad as some remember.

At age 24, George posted a RANY/A of -1.3, then improved to -1.2 at age 25, and finally was at league average at age 26. George was then at +0.3 RANY/A at age 27 and +1.0 at age 28. At age 29, he played in just three games, but at age 30, he had a RANY/A of +1.2. At age 31, he did not meet the 200 attempts threshold, but at age 32, he had his best season, producing a RANY/A of +1.8 with the Vikings.

Tim Couch offers a less promising career path, but the man once expected to save the Cleveland franchise was done in by injuries as much as anything else. Couch’s final season was his age 26 year.

That leaves just Pagel, a 4th round pick of the Colts in 1982 who wound up starting every game for that team. He posted below-average ANY/A numbers over the first four seasons of his career, which is why he made this list twice. After the ’85 season, Pagel was traded to Cleveland for a 1987 9th round pick, and didn’t start another game until 1988.

So while it may be fun to run queries like this, history won’t be much of a guide when it comes to projecting Tannehill. Right before the 2014 season, I looked at how long it takes great quarterbacks to break out. At the time, I said that the odds of a player like Tannehill — who began his career with 32 starts of below-average play — turning into a star player were very low (absent very extenuating circumstances). One would think that goes double given that he’s since added another 16 starts of below-average play.

But there are a lot of Tannehill fans out there, and Miami seems cautiously optimistic about him. And he may very well be better than his ANY/A, given that he ranked 14th in QBR last year. So I’ll open this up to the crowd: What do you think of Tannehill?

  • DH

    Based on film analysis of Tannehill from a football perspective, I can confidently say that R.T. has not had much help from his surrounding cast. His OL has been atrocious during those first two seasons. Jonathan Martin was ter-ri-ble! Brandon Albert single-handedly helped improve the entire pass protection in 2014. The other problem was that R.T. has no reliable target to throw to. Mike Wallace can run fast but is terrible at catching the football and running routes. Hartline is not athletic enough to get open. I don’t care how hard everyone thinks he works. He can’t make plays. Charles Clay was better as a blocker. The next problem I see is that R.T. is in the shotgun ALL the time. This limits their running game to only one run scheme (inside zone). The coaches should be ashamed at how much they are wasting R.T.’s talents by trying to be something too limiting. This does, however, prove my intuitions that Mike McCarthy is completely responsible for Green Bay’s offensive success with Aaron Rodgers and that Joe Philbin didn’t contribute to the success in Green Bay.

  • Norman Rockwell

    Alex Smith.

    Both athletic, mobile qbs who have a better completon % and INT rate but poor YPA because they don’t or can’t throw beyond 10 yards.

    RT has been a poor QB whose numbers were propped up because of the spread, packaged plays Oregon style offense he played in last year.

    • Wolverine

      I think “poor” is being a bit harsh. I think of “poor” QBs as the Geno Smiths, EJ Manuels, and RG3s (2014 version) of the world. I.E, someone who is actively getting in their teams’ way, as opposed to not doing that much to help them.

      • Norman Rockwell

        Per play Miami’s passing game was in line with those players/teams at #26 in YPA while MIA had the #2 rushing offense per play.
        RT’s mobility certainly helps the running game, but, unless the OL, receivers, or game plan are particularly bad, it’s probably safe to say RT hurt the team vs an average starting NFL qb.

        • Wolverine

          YPA is a great stat, in that that it’s easy to compare across eras and across offensive schemes, but it’s not the end all, be all. Tom Brady was below league average in YPA last year, but few would argue he had a below-average year, statistically speaking (below-average for him, maybe). And yes, Miami’s OL has been pretty bad outside of Mike Pouncey and Branden Albert (and he missed half of 2014). Their receivers were just “ok” as far as talent, but terrible as far as scheme fit.

          • True. Miami, like New England, also fared pretty well at picking up first downs. Dallas led the NFL in 1st downs per dropbacks at .405, followed by Green Bay (.392), Pittsburgh (.377), New Orleans (.374), Denver (.364), Indianapolis (.364), New England (.359) and then yes, Miami (.352). So if Tannehill is picking up first downs at a very high rate, that does counter some of the otherwise less-than-stellar numbers. Again, I’m not necessarily anti-Tannehill, I’m just pointing out that he’s not good when judged by ANY/A.

            I’m less convinced about the stuff about his supporting cast. I think a better QB would do just fine working with those weapons and that offensive line. A great quarterback can do enough pre-snap to compensate for a bad offensive line, and Tannehill clearly isn’t there yet. I also think he is a bit boosted by Lazor’s offense, a factor that Dolphins fans don’t often recognize.

            I’d agree he’s closer to average than poor. I’d view it like this:

            1) There are 10 teams who obviously have better QBs: DEN, GB, NO, IND, NE, SD, PIT, ATL, SEA, DAL. In no particular order, there, but I don’t think anyone is arguing for Tannehill ahead of those guys.

            2) There are 7 teams that you almost have to ignore, because they get grades of incomplete: JAX, OAK, TB, TEN, MIN, PHI, and STL. Obviously the first 5 just spent high draft picks on quarterbacks, and I have no clue how to compare Tannehill to either Foles or Bradford. Now, for 2015, I’d probably take Tannehill over every one of those guys with the possible exception of Bridgewater, but I do think it’s more appropriate to go with a grade of N/A than to say Miami is better off with Tannehill. Those 7 teams are complete wildcards for 2015.

            3) There are 6 teams that are in clearly worse shape at QB: BUF, NYJ, CLE, HOU, CHI, WAS. Now, I guess some might prefer Cutler or RG3 to Tannehill, but for now, those 6 teams look to be in worse shape.

            4) That leaves 8 teams. Personally, I’d say Eli, Flacco, and Cam are better than Tannehill. That leaves Palmer in Arizona, Stafford in Detroit, Dalton in Cincinnati, Kaepernick in San Francisco, and Alex Smith in Kansas City. I’d say it’s appropriate to put Tannehill in that tier, and you can really put him anywhere in that tier.

            So there are 13 QB situations that look better to me. There’s the next mini-tier of 5, and Tannehill is in that tier somewhere. There are 6 teams that are in worse shape. And then 7 teams who seem to have ?? at QB. So yeah, Tannehill is right in that average tier, and it’s personal preference where he ranks in that group of 5, and whether any of those other 7 teams are actually in better shape (Would you take Winston over Tannehill? Mariota? Bridgewater? Bradford? Foles? Who knows.)

            • Richie

              ” I think a better QB would do just fine working with those weapons and that offensive line.”

              Yeah, this is what concerns me.

              I think an interesting comp for Tannehill is Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger seems to succeed despite a poor offensive line. And Roethlisberger also played with Mike Wallace. (though Wallace always had either Antonio Brown or Hines Ward around, so maybe they were the ones that made Wallace look good). Roethlisberger crushes Tannehill in ANY/A. 9 of Ben’s 11 seasons have better ANY/A than Tannehill’s best season.

            • Wolverine

              Yeah, in total agreement there.

              I’m much higher on Bridgewater than other people are. He looked terrible early on, but then looked pretty good that last 6-7 games of the season, despite his offensive line being a sieve, his receivers being pedestrian, and having minimal running game to speak of. I would take Bridgewater over Tannenhill (especially given their relative costs).

              I’m totally out on Bradford, and I think the Eagles were insane to give up a 2nd rounder and Nick foles to take on a his 13 million dollar conract.

              Speaking of Foles, his 2013 may have been a fluke, but his contract is cheap enough that you can give him a chance to prove it wasn’t. Why Chip Kelly didn’t want to take that chance is beyond me.

          • Richie

            When I run numbers, Tannehill seems to come up as median in almost anything I do. He ranks in the 13-18 range for just about every way I have sorted the stats over the past few months.

            Number of games with 100+ passer rating – 13th
            300-yard games – 19th
            Passing yards – 11th
            Completion percentage – 6th!
            Touchdowns – 12th
            Yards/attempt – 33rd (ouch)
            ANY/A – 23rd
            Interception % – 10th
            Sack % – 25th
            20+ yard completions – 16th

            His weaknesses seem to be big plays and avoiding sacks. Both of those are things that could be his fault or could be teammates fault.

          • Norman Rockwell

            Brady was a top 10 QB last year, imo, because of his obscene ability to avoid turnovers and sacks with an average YPA.
            I was surprised to see Tannehill was really good at avoiding TO’s as well. He took a fair amount of sacks though.

            Poor was too strong of a word for him. You guys are right, he was probably inside the top 20 of QBs last season.

  • Wolverine

    As a Lions fan, I’ve accepted the reality that Matt Stafford’s best-case scenario is “slightly above average”, and we have enough of a sample size to think he’ll mostly likely continue to hover around average. I think Tannenhill is kind of in the same boat, and the sooner the Dolphins and their fans accept that, the better.

    However, that doesn’t mean giving him an extension was the wrong move. In today’s NFL, even average quarterbacks are a valuable commodity with the right supporting cast, and should not be taken for granted. In a given season, at least 10-12 teams would kill for an average quarterback (just ask Rex Ryan!) The 2014 Texans and Bills would have easily made the playoffs with consistently average quarterback play. The Lions won 11 games with average quarterback play. Rex Ryan would still be the Jets coach if Mark Sanchez could have attained reliable “averageness”

    Of course Tannenhill hasn’t reached “average” yet, but that’s a low bar to climb, and the rest of Miami’s roster is good enough to compete the next few years if he climbs it.

    • Norman Rockwell

      I’d disagree that average QBs are valuable commodities with their salaries in the NFL. I’d imagine you are getting a pretty big -ROI with those guys. The 2014 Texans and Bills had a pretty nice side advantage by not paying a QB 15 mil+.

      Another problem with average QBs is that teams seemingly don’t actively pursue other options while they have those average QBs.

      • Wolverine

        I’m speaking to what the market is right now, not what it should be ideally. The QB position is so important, that you almost have to overpay for it under most circumstances (the Seahawks lucked out with Russell Wilson). It’s very rare for Aaron Rodgers and Teddy Bridgewater types to fall into late in the 1st round. So unless your franchise completely falls apart into a top 2-4 pick, upgrading in the draft is a long-shot. (I’m not advocating for 2 win teams to keep their average QB, I’m talking more about the teams in playoff contention).

        • Richie

          It’s interesting – how many starting quarterbacks are guys that their teams expected them to be good and they are good and they weren’t taking a leap of faith in acquiring them? This list would include guys taken in the top half of the first round or acquired via trade or free agency. I would NOT put Peyton Manning or Drew Brees on this list, because they had injury concerns.

          So the list would probably be:
          Andrew Luck
          Cam Newton
          Matt Ryan
          Joe Flacco
          Philip Rivers
          Eli Manning
          Ben Roethlisberger
          Matt Stafford

          I think everybody else either exceeded expectations (Wilson, Brady, Rodgers, etc.) or jury is out or they haven’t quite lived up to expectation (Alex Smith, Bridgewater).

          Just another way to look at what we already know: it’s tough to acquire an above-average QB. Most teams either fail (Raiders, Bills, Jets, Browns, etc.) or get lucky,.

  • Dolphins fan. So I think I’ve seen every snap he’s taken in his NFL career. Usually I roll my eyes when people say that because I trust the numbers over people’s imperfect memory. But I do think seeing how the Dolphins’ offensive line and receivers have performed helps inform Tannehill’s production.

    Tannehill doesn’t have great pocket awareness. He’s had trouble stepping up in the pocket and feeling where the pressure is coming from. And he doesn’t read defenses at the level of a Peyton Manning. But, the offensive line has been average at best during his time. So while the high sack totals and yards lost aren’t all on the offensive line, they’re responsible for most of it (I’m too lazy to track down the data, but at some point during the season someone on a Fins board posted the sack data showing time from snap to time to sack and Tannehill was sacked pretty quickly, suggesting it wasn’t just him taking forever to get rid of the ball).

    The receivers’ effect are a bit harder to parse than the offensive line. I’m a fan of Brian Hartline’s ability to get open and catch the ball at a high rate. But he’s not a great deep threat and he doesn’t break a lot of tackles. His inability to break tackles is a big reason he’s no longer there because that’s a big part of the scheme. Mike Wallace, while different than Hartline, was not a good scheme fit either. He could get open deep, but there’s an argument to be made that he isn’t very good at actually catching the ball on deep routes. I’m in the camp that thinks this is also on Tannehill. Kenny Stills will help with this debate. But let’s put half of the deep ball problem on Tannehill for argument’s sake.

    So then let’s say that while Tannehill has limitations that bring down his ANY/A, he hasn’t been getting much help. Hence the almost complete overhaul of the receivers in the offseason with bigger targets who can get more YAC (DeVante Parker, Gregg Jennings, Jordan Cameron) and a deep threat with a probably wider catch radius than Wallace (Kenny Stills). Though we lost Charles Clay, who I really liked. In fact, I’d love to see Tannehill’s production with and without Clay, who was often injured.

    I think there’s reason to think Tannehill will improve. The offensive line should start the season with LT, RT, and C healthy (RT had to move to LT because of injury late in the year). The guard positions were terrible last year (Pouncey played guard some last year because of it). It could be simply addition by subtraction there. But if it could get guard solidified the oline could go from bad to pretty decent (at least in pass protections, they were either pretty good at run blocking or Lamar Miller is even better than I think). That will help with the sacks and thus the ANY/A. As mentioned, the receiving corp has been overhauled to better fit the scheme. So I’d expect at least a slight improvement there. And Tannehill himself could improve. He didn’t have many starts in college. If we was a bit behind the curve developmentally because of that it could put his “jump” longer than average time wise.

    • shah8

      Quick note in that one of his problems is poor situation awareness, beyond the pocket management issues. In the 2013 season finale against the Jets, he once slid before the first down marker, even though he could have easily gotten it. In the little that I’ve seen of RT, finding unexpected opportunities, avoiding unexpected disasters, these are not thing he does well.

  • mrh

    Fron Rotoviz game splits app:

    Tannehill per game
    w/Clay 22/35, 237 yds, 1.4 td ,0.9 int, 6.8 ypa
    w/o Clay 20/33, 205 yds, 1.0 td, 0.8 int, 6.1 ypa

    so yeah, better w/Clay

  • sacramento gold miners

    Dolphins are definitely taking a risk, paying big money with the expectation of elite production. Tannehill doesn’t seem like a very instinctive QB, and while he’s shown flashes of potential, the jury is still out on his career. Miami is hoping for stability at that position, which equates both to stats and wins.

  • Clint

    One misconception is that Tannehill is a great deep ball thrower. He is kinda lousy when it comes to the deep ball. Mostly inaccurate.
    He has ability, but Miami is investing in him because he’s all they have. He’s similar to a more modern Joey Harrington. It’s just never gonna happen.

  • I didn’t even think Joey Harrington was in the league at 29. I had completely forgotten that he actually started double-digit games for six years. I forgot about him playing in Miami, too. Wow.

    I think Tannehill is a fantastic running QB–outside of Vick, he’s as good as anyone I’ve seen. But he doesn’t throw deep well or have a strong enough arm to throw into traffic, so any passing game with him at QB is going to be limited. If he put everything together, he could be Alex Smith as a passer, and combining that with his elite running might well make him a well-above-average QB. Right now, he’s still a notch below that–he’s more like Matt Cassell than Alex Smith–but I think he can get better.

    • Richie

      He’s capable of making nice deep passes:

      http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-fantasy/0ap2000000258258/QB-Tannehill-to-WR-Gibson-46-yd-pass-4th-down-conversion

      I have no idea how successful he is compared to others.

      It seems like most of his impressive plays comes when he rolls out of the pocket like the play above.

      I suppose this would be the ideal deep pass play: 49 yards in the air, hitting the receive in stride: http://video.businessinsider.com/29669a86-4728-460c-b70c-b21dea43c28a.mp4

      • Wolverine

        He’s certainly made nice plays and flashed potential, but every stat I’ve seen about his overall deep attempts suggests he’s poor overall. From the eyeball test, I don’t think arm strength is the issue, it’s more about timing, which is potentially fixable. Playing behind a porous offensive line probably didn’t help.

        • Agreed. His accuracy when throwing deep does not appear to be great, either. Certainly he has made some nicely-placed, throws, but that’s true of pretty much any NFL QB.

          His arm strength is decent. He doesn’t have a cannon for throwing throw major traffic, but it’s more than good enough to throw downfield. He just doesn’t generally seem to have good timing or accuracy when throwing deep.

    • sacramento gold miners

      Joey Harrington was a huge disappointment, he seemingly had everything required for a successful NFL career. There was a train of thought the NFL stage was a bit overwhelming for him, he was counted on to rebuild the Lions, and didn’t exhibit the poise he had at Oregon. Harrington had all the intangibles, and physical skill set, so it’s kind of a mystery why he failed.

      • Wolverine

        I watched every pass Harrington threw in a Lions uniform, and he looked like the real deal after his first 5 starts. Then he had a bad interception streak and responded by turtling into Captain Checkdown. He seemingly could never shake the habit. You would routinely see him post stat lines with 30-35 attempts, but less than 200 yards passing (which makes his 56% cmp pct even worse than it actually looks). In the end, it seemed like his only goal was to avoid turnovers over actually trying to move the ball. He kept the running backs busy catching 5 yard passes on 3rd and 10. He also kept the punter very busy.

        • Richie

          Looks like he ranks 13th in 30, 200 games. But he did it in fewer seasons than the guys ahead of him.http://pfref.com/tiny/qSyou

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