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Tannehill escapes the numbers, if not the pass rush

Tannehill escapes the numbers, if not the pass rush

In each of his four seasons in the NFL, Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been responsible for at least 96% of his team’s pass attempts. In fact, over the last three years, only 13 pass attempts for the Dolphins have come from someone other than Tannehill. He’s been the entrenched starter since week 1 of his rookie year.

There have been 88 quarterbacks since 1970 who have taken at least 90% of the same team’s pass attempts in every year in any four-year window. That includes eight such streaks that cover the last four years (Tannehill, Eli Manning, Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Russell Wilson).

Among non-proprietary measures, my preferred measure of quarterback play is Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt, which is yards per attempt with adjustments for touchdowns, interceptions, and sacks. The fine folks at Pro-Football-Reference.com have created a passing index for this (among other) stat, known as ANY/A+, where 100 represents league average, and 85 and 115 represent one standard deviation below/above average. Tannehill’s ANY/A+ was 92 his rookie year, 87 in 2013, 96 in 2014, and 95 last year.

Statistics like ANY/A never tell the full story, but let’s present them just to set the discussion. The table below shows each of the 88 quarterbacks identified above, along with their ANY/A+ in each year during such stretch, the passer’s average ANY/A+, and the number of playoff games started by that quarterback during that four-year window. As you can see, Tannehill stands out: he has the second worst ANY/A+ of any quarterback during that span, and is one of just three quarterbacks that failed to start a single playoff game.

QuarterbackYearsTmYr 1Yr 2Yr 3Yr 4AvgPlayoff Starts
Mark Sanchez2009--2012NYJ8096898186.56
Ryan Tannehill2012--2015MIA9287969592.50
Joe Flacco2010--2013BAL107981058097.58
Joe Flacco2011--2014BAL981058010897.758
Eli Manning2005--2008NYG1029591104987
Andy Dalton2011--2014CIN97971049598.254
Richard Todd1980--1983NYJ861091139099.54
Drew Bledsoe1994--1997NWE9886108111100.756
Eli Manning2006--2009NYG95911041141016
Eli Manning2012--2015NYG10981108108101.50
Joe Flacco2008--2011BAL9610510798101.59
Matthew Stafford2012--2015DET9910699103101.751
Brett Favre2003--2006GNB1071198897102.753
Eli Manning2007--2010NYG91104114104103.255
Joe Ferguson1979--1982BUF11510311679103.253
Richard Todd1979--1982NYJ10686109113103.54
Eli Manning2010--2013NYG10412110981103.754
Joe Flacco2009--2012BAL10510798105103.7510
Aaron Brooks2001--2004NOR96107111103104.250
Eli Manning2011--2014NYG12110981108104.754
Matthew Stafford2011--2014DET1159910699104.752
Matt Ryan2012--2015ATL114961081021052
Brett Favre2002--2005GNB10710711988105.254
Brett Favre2004--2007GNB1198897121106.253
Doug Williams1979--1982TAM94107123102106.54
Philip Rivers2012--2015SDG94124105104106.752
Matt Ryan2010--2013ATL105113114961074
Matt Ryan2011--2014ATL11311496108107.753
Joe Theismann1979--1982WAS11399106113107.754
Brett Favre1997--2000GNB1201101001021084
Philip Rivers2011--2014SDG11094124105108.252
Ron Jaworski1980--1983PHI13010399101108.254
Brett Favre1999--2002GNB100102125107108.53
Ron Jaworski1977--1980PHI92100113130108.756
Brett Favre1998--2001GNB110100102125109.253
Jim Everett1989--1992RAM12611097105109.53
Brett Favre2000--2003GNB102125107107110.255
Eli Manning2008--2011NYG104114104121110.755
Ron Jaworski1979--1982PHI11313010399111.256
Tom Brady2002--2005NWE105107118116111.58
Ron Jaworski1978--1981PHI100113130103111.57
Joe Theismann1980--1983WAS99106113129111.757
Eli Manning2009--2012NYG1141041211091124
Tom Brady2003--2006NWE107118116108112.2511
Philip Rivers2010--2013SDG12211094124112.52
Brian Sipe1978--1981CLE12210512796112.51
Brett Favre1996--1999GNB121120110100112.757
Peyton Manning1998--2001IND961201271091132
Brett Favre1993--1996GNB9011113012111310
Jim Everett1988--1991RAM12012611097113.254
Tom Brady2012--2015NWE120102113120113.759
Joe Theismann1981--1984WAS1061131291081148
Philip Rivers2009--2012SDG13112211094114.251
Brett Favre2001--2004GNB125107107119114.56
Dan Marino1989--1992MIA112113117117114.754
Dan Marino1988--1991MIA1181121131171152
Russell Wilson2012--2015SEA114115109124115.510
Tony Romo2011--2014DAL120106108128115.52
Drew Brees2012--2015NOR116121109117115.752
Drew Brees2007--2010NOR107122131103115.754
Roger Staubach1974--1977DAL105114120124115.757
Trent Green2001--2004KAN97127122120116.51
Jim Hart1975--1978STL116126112112116.51
Tom Brady2011--2014NWE132120102113116.7510
Peyton Manning2007--2010IND122115122108116.756
Peyton Manning1999--2002IND120127109113117.253
Drew Brees2010--2013NOR1031321161211185
Jim Hart1974--1977STL1181161261121182
Peyton Manning2000--2003IND127109113125118.55
Rich Gannon1999--2002OAK1101211191261197
Philip Rivers2006--2009SDG116102128131119.257
Drew Brees2011--2014NOR132116121109119.54
Brett Favre1995--1998GNB130121120110120.2510
Tom Brady2010--2013NWE128132120102120.58
Drew Brees2009--2012NOR131103132116120.56
Brett Favre1994--1997GNB111130121120120.511
Philip Rivers2007--2010SDG102128131122120.756
Tom Brady2004--2007NWE11811610814212111
Trent Green2002--2005KAN127122120116121.251
Drew Brees2006--2009NOR127107122131121.755
Roger Staubach1975--1978DAL114120124129121.7510
Drew Brees2008--2011NOR1221311031321226
Peyton Manning2006--2009IND131122115122122.59
Philip Rivers2008--2011SDG128131122110122.753
Tom Brady2009--2012NWE1201281321201257
Peyton Manning2001--2004IND1091131251531256
Roger Staubach1976--1979DAL120124129133126.58
Dan Fouts1979--1982SDG119124134136128.257

Given how mediocre his numbers have been, and his team’s general lack of success, it’s obvious that the data is missing something. At this point, it’s clear that Tannehill must be on the verge of a break-out season. After all, how else could Miami justify not just giving Tannehill a fifth season, but treating him as the team’s quarterback of the future? The Dolphins have won two Super Bowls and boast arguably the greatest coach and greatest quarterback in league history as franchise icons. The team has won at least 6 games in 44 different seasons since the merger, tied with the Steelers for the most among all NFL teams. Obviously the Dolphins see something in Tannehill that the numbers do not, which brings us back to the question: where does Ryan Tannehill rank in the pantheon of great quarterbacks?

  • sacramento gold miners

    Good point about the Miami franchise, a long period of struggle doesn’t erase the overall successful history. Wish they hadn’t changed the logo and uniforms, though.

    Getting back to Tannehill, the Dolphins have made a huge investment in him, and his career numbers do suggest the possibility of a breakout season. I do like the TD/INT ratio so far. After a great game in a win over New England last season, Tannehill played poorly when Miami was trying to make a playoff push, which was disappointing. In Tannehill’s defense, the Dolphins have been an unstable franchise during his career, but the new head coach has the offensive pedigree to help Tannehill emerge.

  • I believe you’ve mispunctuated the lede.

    Where Does Ryan Tannehill Rank? In the Pantheon of Great QBs.

  • The Dolphins’ offensive line has been anywhere from bad to horrible during his career. And it’s not like he’s holding the ball forever. I forget where the stats came from, but he’s time from snap to release is pretty good comparatively. So that hasn’t helped him. Having said that, he exacerbates the problem sometimes by not stepping up in the pocket and having not-great pocket presence.

    He’s also had Joe Philbin as his coach for most of his career. That guy owes nearly all of his salary as Dolphins HC to Aaron Rodgers because he was terrible. Excuses out of the way, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tannehill have a really good year under Gase, who seems to have a solid record with QBs. Just having a healthy line should give him a bit of a bump. I also wouldn’t be too surprised to see him play the same as he has his whole career. He may just not have the ability to read defense quickly and make the right throws. His INTs aren’t bad but he also tends to dink and dunk. What this year will hopefully reveal is whether that was Phlibin/Lazor’s crappy offensive scheme or Tannehill.

    • Richie

      Yes, his pocket awareness is a problem. Lots of times the Dolphins face a big down on offense, Tannehill drops back to pass and ends up being sacked when he doesn’t see the linebacker come from the blind side.

    • sacramento gold miners

      I was one of the fans who had doubts about Joe Philbin from the beginning, he just didn’t seem to be cut out to be head coaching material. Came across weak, and under his watch, seemed to lose the locker room. I can’t imagine the bullying incident which happened between the two offensive lineman would have occurred under a stronger head coach.

  • WR

    Tannehill’s biggest problem has been his terrible sack numbers. Since he came into the league Tannehill has the most sacks of any QB with 184. Russell Wilson is 2nd with 164, and only 5 guys have at least 150. Tannehill also has 1390 sack yards, Newton 2nd with 1164 and Wilson next with 982. If you take away Newton and Wilson because they’re running QBs, next on the list are Matt Ryan with 916 and Phil Rivers at 914.

    I’m not sure if those totals are a product of Tannehill himself or the line and offense around him, but they must improve significantly for Tannehill to have a breakout season.

  • Richie

    Dammit. I thought you were going to give me the answer.

  • Adam

    The Ravens have been waiting eight years for Joe Flacco to break out, yet have given him two massive contracts nonetheless. I expect a similar story will unfold for the Dolphins and Tannehill, but without the SB win.

  • Adam

    To answer your question: somewhere between 120th and 150th.

  • Brian

    This is a trick question, right? Doesn’t one have to be a great QB in order to be ranked in the pantheon of great QBs?