Ryan Tannehill carries himself with a sort of casual arrogance. It isn’t off-putting, it’s just … there.
It’s part of who he is, and fits the personality profile of many great NFL quarterbacks. Heck, it fits the personality profile of many great quarterbacks from pee wee to high school to college.
Tannehill isn’t a great quarterback.
Not yet, anyway.
But this is the season the Dolphins have to find out if he can be. They have to find out if Tannehilll has the goods to match his confidence.
That’s probably not fair to a second-year quarterback playing for a team that is promising but long mediocre. But it’s real.
“It’s a lot different,” Tannehill said Sunday on Day 1 of training camp. “I didn’t know what to expect (last year) coming in. I used the off-season to focus on leadership and set things up.”
His voice carries not just a quarterback’s influence, but a season’s worth of maturity. He prepped hard for camp.
“It’s the best time to grow, locked into football for 16 hours a day,” Tannehill said. “It’s just a matter of putting the puzzle together.”
The Dolphins think they have made a load of personnel upgrades on both sides of the ball.
Maybe they have.
But none of it – neither on defense nor offense – will matter if Tannehill isn’t a better quarterback than he was as a rookie, and by a lot.
Tannehill, depending on one’s point of view, either was given or earned the starting job last preseason coming out of Texas A&M, where once upon a time he was a wide receiver. He went on to have more interceptions (13) than touchdown passes (12) last season but did accumulate 3,294 passing yards.
Tannehill was no Robert Griffin III or Andrew Luck or Russell Wilson, but he was decent.
He was serviceable.
Now, he has to be good.
Griffin (Washington), Luck (Indianapolis) and Wilson (Seattle) hauled their teams into the playoffs as rookies. Blame some of the pressure Tannehill faces on those classmates at his position.
Because the pertinent Miami question is this: Do the Dolphins have a quarterback who can take them to the post-season tournament?
“I’m not here to compare myself to anyone else,” Tannehill said.
He won’t have to; others will do it for him.
The franchise’s fervent hope is that Tannehill’s on-the-job, trial-by-fire training last season will pay dividends this season.
“The thousand repetitions, roughly, that he had last year are going to be of big benefit to him,” second-year coach Joe Philbin said. “It’s one thing for us to sit in meeting rooms and tell him about coverages and blitzes and disguises; it’s another thing for him to really do it in a game. He has that bank of information.”
Tannehill is smart and has been praised by coaches as a quick learner. He processes thoughts and ideas well.
Now, too, he has a mostly new batch of receivers in speedy wideout Mike Wallace, slot man Brandon Gibson and tight end Dustin Keller.
Are they upgrades?
The answer, to great extent, lies in how effectively Tannehill uses them.
“We have to have more explosive plays in the passing game,” Philbin said.
And that’s up to Tannehill.
He’s set to become just the sixth quarterback in Dolphins history to register at least two consecutive seasons as the primary starter. The others are Bob Griese, David Woodley, Dan Marino, Jay Fiedler and Chad Henne.
Nobody should expect Tannehill to fashion a career comparable to Griese’s or Marino’s, but it shouldn’t be too much to ask that he be superior to the other guys. He was, after all, the eighth overall pick in the 2012 draft.
The truth is that Tannehill likely will define the success or failure – and the job security – of Philbin and General Manager Jeff Ireland.
Don’t think so?
If the Dolphins had drafted quarterback Matt Ryan, not offensive tackle Jake Long, with the No. 1 pick five years ago, Tannehill wouldn’t even be in the picture. That was a Bill Parcells-Ireland production that eventually helped get coach Tony Sparano fired.
Parcells soon enough jumped ship, and led Ireland to link himself and Philbin intrinsically to Tannehill.
The course was set with last year’s decision to make Tannehill a rookie starter.
The worth of it will be measured by where he steers the Dolphins this season.