New Dolphins head coach Adam Gase is known as a sort of quarterback whisperer. Besides the fact that Gase seems like the sort of guy who will relate to players much better than Joe Philbin, the boldest part of his coaching resumé is his ability to get the best out of quarterbacks. Last season, Gase turned a mopey, interception-prone Jay Cutler into a guy who threw only ten interceptions and boasted a QB rating of 92.
Now he gets the Ryan Tannehill project. This is arguably Gase's biggest challenge since he made Tim Tebow seem like he wasn't throwing with a left foot for a few weeks for Denver in 2011. If Gase is to succeed in taking Tannehill from a middle-of-the-pack NFL quarterback to a championship-caliber one, here are a few things he will have to do.
5. Build confidence through film study.
If Peyton Manning is impressed with Gase's work ethic, you know the Dolphins have a coach who at the very least knows how to prepare. Denver Broncos quarterback coach Greg Knapp told NFL.com in 2014 that Gase and Manning's relationship and trust in each other was important to the team's success.
"Adam Gase does a great job on a daily basis with Peyton," Knapp said. "When the play-caller and the quarterback are in sync as much as they are, you see the result on Sundays."
If Tannehill and Gase, along with a sprinkling of Dan Marino, can get in the film room and build the sort of relationship Gase has been able to have with his past quarterbacks, it will translate to on-the-field success.
4. Let Ryan Tannehill handle Ryan Tannehill's problems.
Too many times, Joe Philbin seemed like a protective father with regard to Tannehill. He's a big boy in his fifth season in the NFL. It's time to let Tannehill deal with everything from his opponents on the field to the media off the field. It's a bad look when the supposed leader of the football team can't handle himself. Tannehill has been trained to speak like a robot since the Dolphins drafted him. He says almost nothing, ever. This season, Gase should encourage Tannehill to be himself, knowing the team will support him if he goes wrong somewhere. It seems this is already in the works.
"[Gase] has made it abundantly clear to me that we're on the same team," Tannehill told the Miami Herald. "He has my back, and just to have that reassurance, that confidence in me, it's huge."
3. Help Tannehill with play calling that capitalizes on his strengths.
The Dolphins aren't likely to draft any Pro Bowl offensive linemen in April, so the team will probably return with much of what it had last year: an offensive line that gave up the eighth-most sacks in the NFL. Injuries played a large role in their struggles, but so did coaching. Tannehill is a better passer when he is out of the pocket. He is a better passer when on the run. Few quarterbacks can say this in the NFL, yet Philbin consistently dropped Tannehill straight back to the same place, encouraging teams to tee-off on him.
Gase can help Tannehill by putting him in better places to succeed, which the coach has done in the past. Dolphins center Mike Pouncey sees big things coming for Tannehill in the Gase system.
"We're all thinking Tannehill is going to play really well in this offense. Obviously, Coach Gase has a great history with quarterbacks."
2. Use the running game to take pressure off Tannehill.
Sounds simple enough, right? If the other team is worried about the run game, Tannehill should be more likely to succeed, especially in the play action. Well, last season, no matter how many times the Dolphins said the words, they never actually ran more.
A simple Google search of "Dolphins want to run more" brings up 30,200,000 results. Seriously, if you try to get to the end of it, it's just microfiche of people in the '60s complaining the Dolphins don't run the ball enough. Lamar Miller just got paid, and he had fewer than 900 yards last year. The Dolphins currently have Jay Ajayi on the roster at running back and little else, so it will be interesting to see how they plan to get this done.
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1. Give Tannehill more freedom and responsibilities.
Tannehill's reputation is that he can't be trusted to think for himself. On his way out the door this offseason, former Dolphins wideout Greg Jennings made sure everyone who would listen knew his true feelings about his former QB.
"I guess what I'm saying is he's far [from elite]," Jennings said. "I'm being honest... It's like he's been handcuffed. I've played with Brett [Favre]; I've played with Aaron [Rodgers]. I've played with great quarterbacks. So you can sense, you can quickly tell if one has it or not."
Seems harsh, but that's the sort of sentiment most people have had about Tannehill throughout his four years here: He's just OK. Tannehill is going into his fifth season, possibly half of his career is gone — it's time to let him succeed or fail.