There are a multitude of things I worry about for 2014 Dolphins. Each of these things with their own complicated answers and consequences. Here are a few question marks I have as we near the 2014 season.
Is Ryan Tannehill the Dolphin’s Long-Term Quarterback?
This seems like a question that I feel like a lot of people are assuming the answer is already in the bag. Most the people I talk to think that Tannehill is going to be really good, but is just maturing into has own as he gets time in the league. Tannehill is alredy 26. For reference, that is the same age as Andy Dalton, a guy everyone thinks can’t play in the league. I could pull the clichéd, “Lets look at the stats of Hall of Fame quarterbacks in their fast three seasons” move here, but I hate that logic. The NFL has completely changed into an all-out quarterback friendly league recently, and stats about quarterbacks from the 80s and 90s are as relevant and useful as a VHS player.
We know is Ryan Tannehill isn’t, and never will be, anywhere close Andrew Luck. A guy like Luck comes once a generation, and if Tannehill was that good everyone would have seen it already. Luck has gone to the playoffs twice in two years with a much worst roster around him. What we don’t know is if Tannehill is a guy you can contend with in the playoffs or not. It remains to be seen whether Tannehill can become a guy like Eli Manning, Phillip Rivers, or Joe Flacco. These are quarterbacks that no one would consider among the best in the league, but have proven that they can win in the playoffs throughout their career. The other direction Tannehill can swing is towards Carson Palmer, Sam Bradford, or Alex Smith. These players have proven themselves to be competent starters in the league, but are never going to be Super Bowl winning quaterbacks.
This is a big year for Tannehill. After about three seasons in the NFL you basically are what you are as a starting quarterback. Very rarely do players come to be an elite level talent late in their careers after being average to mediocre to start their careers. Ryan Tannehill has to show this season whether he can be a team strength or a dreaded “game manager”. Just ask Rams or Bengals’ fans how they feel about having a “game managing” quarterback. Not fun.
Are Mike Wallace and Lamar Miller Actually Good?
Mike Wallace and Lamar Miller have had a huge amount of buzz around them in each of their short tenures with the Dolphins. Both players are exceptionally quick and have carried the burden of huge expectations over the past couple of years. Last year was considered massively disappointing for each of them in the eyes of Dolphin’s fans. These were the two players supposed to help pilot a dynamic offense under the direction a head coach that once lead the Packers to one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history. Things definitely did not turn out that way. The offense was flat, conventional, and repeatedly disappointing throughout the season. Both players have huge question marks entering 2014 as to whether they can produce on the field.
Wallace came to the Dolphins with huge expectations following his 2013 offseason tagline of “league’s most top free agent target.” The former Ole Miss man was exceptionally disappointing in his role as the teams top receiver and heir to Brandon Marshall’s throne. Wallace had just 930 receiving yards and a career low five touchdowns in his first season in South Beach. After such a lackluster first season in Miami, it is hard not to think as Wallace as just the best talent in a sub-par free agent class. Miller on the other hand is entering his third season in the NFL after being drafted by the Dolphins in 2012. Miller has had huge expectations ever since last seasons training camp when he was named the starter for 2013. Miller has been drawing comparisons to fellow Miami Hurricane speedster Clinton Portis ever since his career began. The second year back ran for a disappointing 709 yards and two touchdowns in what was supposed to be his breakout year last season. This season Wallace and Miller are ready to prove last year an aberration.
What if this Dolphins Team Has Below Average Season?
Here we have the question that every Dolphins fan has pushed to the back of their brain over the past six “joyous” free agent months. What happens if the Dolphins happen to the 2014 Dolphins? It seems like this grace period with Joe Philbin and Ryan Tannehill may be starting to come to an end if this season is a disappointment. Tony Sparano only lasted three and a half years as the head coach and he actually made the playoffs in one of his seasons. Is Philbin’s tenure over if the team season ends on Week 17 this year? Are Lamar Miller and Dannell Ellerbe long-term solutions if they can’t produce in yet another underachieving season? The team has seemed to invest a lot in each of these players for the next couple of years and neither has produced as anticipated for. What if the reason the team was lousy last year wasn’t because of the Incognito-Martin scandal, and instead they have just poor players? The truth is I don’t have any answers to these questions. I just want to warn people about the strong possibility that 2014 turns into every other Dolphins season over the past decade.