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:
|Quarterback||Yr N Age||Yr N||Tm||N-2 RANY/A||N-1 RANY/A||Yr N RANY/A||N+1 Tm||N+1 RANY/A|
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?