Adam Gase has been Ryan Tannehill’s most dogged defender since Day 1.
The best example: Back on Sept. 21, 2016, when his Dolphins’ offense looked lost after an 0-2 start.
Does Tannehill need to up his game for the Dolphins to make anything of this season?, a reporter asked Gase then.
Gase’s answer: “He has really been, probably, one of our most consistent guys that we have. I don’t know how much more he can really step up considering that he’s doing everything right now that we need him to do. It’s just that we need every guy to pull their weight.”
Turns out, this wasn’t just coach-speak, an attempt to buoy the confidence of his embattled quarterback.
Gase was telling the truth.
That’s the conclusion reached by game film analyst Cian Fahey in his new e-book Pre-Snap Reads: Quarterback Catalogue 2017, set for release on April 30. Fahey, who watches American football from afar in his native Ireland, lays waste to a good many tropes about quarterback play in general — and Tannehill’s play in particular — in his latest release.
Fahey’s approach begins with the premise that the metrics we use to evaluate quarterbacks — wins and losses, championships, passer rating, touchdowns, interceptions, completion percentage — are all inherently flawed. While the quarterback is indeed the most important person on the field, he still plays a relatively small part in the efficiency of his offense, and the fortunes of his team.
All a quarterback can control is how well he executes his part of a play. And after countless hours of film study, Fahey, a 26-year-old who has covered the NFL for a better part of a decade, has determined Tannehill does his job better than most — and far better than most believe.
“Tannehill is the quintessential example of a quarterback who needs this type of analysis to be truly appreciated,” Fahey writes. “Adam Gase vehemently defended his quarterback during the season, knowing that he knew how the plays were supposed to look and what was happening on the field didn't look that way. Gase was referring to the offense around Tannehill. Whether it was receivers running the wrong routes, blockers missing assignments or receivers punching accurate passes to defenders, the Dolphins thrived at creating chaos for their own quarterback.”
Using subjective charting, Fahey attempts to flatten quarterback statistics and rankings, controlling for opponents, scheme, surrounding talent, randomness and luck.
He didn’t set out to write a book that vindicated Tannehill and his defenders. The data simply took him there.
Among the myths surrounding Tannehill he busted:
1. Tannehill is an average quarterback (62.7 career completion percentage, 86.5 passer rating and 37-40 record).
Reality: Tannehill was one of the league’s four most accurate passers in 2016, and of his 12 interceptions, half were the fault of his teammates — the highest rate in the league.
He had threw ninth-fewest interceptable passes (balls that should have been picked, whether the were or weren’t) among the 33 quarterbacks who played enough to be considered. And 79.6 percent of his 353 qualifying passes were on the money, trailing just Sam Bradford, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers.
2. OK, but he can’t throw the deep ball, right?
Reality: He was the league’s most accurate passer in passes thrown 16-20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage (an absurd 78.3 percent) and ranked third in passes thrown 21 yards or farther (55.6 percent). On passes thrown more than five yards, Tannehill was eighth in all of football, with a 67.1 accurate percentage.
3. Sure, but that’s because the Dolphins receivers bailed him out.
Reality: Tannehill had 30 “lost receptions” (which includes drops, bad footwork, a misread flight of the ball or lost control against contact) for 364 lost yards in 2016. He averaged a lost reception every 13 attempts, the 11th-highest rate in football.
Tannehill's receivers created just nine receptions for him in 2016 (eighth-fewest in football). His receivers created a reception once every 43.22 of Tannehill's qualifying attempts, which ranked 21st last year.
Tannehill's receivers did help him in one important way, however: 49.5 percent of his 2,995 passing yards came after the catch, the league’s ninth-highest rate.
4. Fine, but what about those sacks? He’s taken 213 in his career, a reflection of terrible pocket awareness.
Reality: Tannehill was sacked 27 times in 2016, but just one of those 27 could have realistically been avoided, leading the league. Of those 26 sacks, 18 were the result of a blocker getting beaten, five were a result of blown coverage and three were because of excellent downfield coverage.
Not surprising, Fahey’s scouting report for Tannehill’s 2016 was positive.
“Timing and placement is easier for him when he pushes the ball to the intermediate and deep routes,” he writes. “One of the best arms in the NFL. ... Throws well from the pocket but becomes more confident and aggressive outside of the pocket. ... Exceptional deep passer. ... Pressure doesn't impact his mechanics.”
He concludes: ”As it turns out, Gase isn't a quarterback whisperer, he's just a good head coach. Gase didn't coach up Tannehill or create play designs that made him more productive than his performances warranted. Instead, he settled a supporting case that had previously acted as an anchor around the neck of its signal caller.”
Pre-Snap Reads is available for pre-order for $19.99 at PreSnapReads.com.
BY ADAM H. BEASLEY