Ryan Tannehill: The Unusual Path Of A 1st Round Quarterback

With the Aggies first season in the Southeastern Conference still ahead of us, many SEC fans might not be too familiar with the story of Texas A&M’s quarterback from 2011, Ryan Tannehill. As football fans approached the NFL Draft, we were of course overwhelmed with the Andrew Luck and RG3 discussion, but Tannehill’s name started to become mentioned rather frequently as Draft Day approached.

Tannehill grew up in Big Spring, Texas and, interestingly, as a passionate Texas Tech fan. Both of his parents attended Texas Tech, and his father played football for the Red Raiders during 1985-87. ¬†Tannehill aspired to follow in his father’s footsteps and play for Texas Tech, but the school didn’t recruit him. After receiving offers from schools such as TCU, Houston, Tulsa, UTEP and Texas A&M, Tannehill chose the Aggies.

After redshriting in 2007, Tannehill competed for the quarterback position under new coach Mike Sherman, but finished third behind Stephen McGee and Jerrod Johnson. As such, Sherman moved Tannehill to wide receiver.

During both the 2008 and 2009 seasons, Tannehill was a very productive receiver with Jerrod Johnson at quarterback. During his fifth game in 2008, Tannehill broke the freshman school record with 210 yards on 12 catches.  Over the season, Tannehill accumulated 844 receiving yards.

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In 2009, Tannehill compiled a team-leading 46 receptions for 609 yards and four touchdowns.

The following year, Tannehill continued at receiver for the first half of the season. Midway through the year, the game against Kansas was a turning point in Tannehill’s career that would eventually lead to realizing his lifelong dreams and to the millions that would accompany them.

During that Kansas game, Tannehill and Johnson split time. With Tannehill throwing for 155 yards and three touchdowns, Sherman named Tannehill the starting quarterback for the first time.

In his first start against his former dream school, Texas Tech, Tannehill led the Aggies to a 45-27 win and set a school record of 449 passing yards. He went on to lead his team to a top 25 finish with wins over No. 11 Oklahoma, Baylor, No. 9 Baylor and Texas.

As the Aggies approached the 2011 season, there was no question who would be the starting quarterback. Tannehill started all 13 games last season including the bowl game. Over the course of the season, Tannehill racked up 3,744 yards, 29 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He also ran for 4 touchdowns.

Despite an unusual start to his career in College Station, Tannehill finished his Aggie career with 5,450 passing yards and 42 touchdown passes.

The NFL Draft

As the football world approach the annual NFL Draft – which has turned into a major primetime sporting event complete with months of endless hype and debate – Ryan Tannehill was considered the third best quarterback in the draft behind “sure things” Andrew Luck and RG3.

With ESPN’s endless coverage of the Draft, analyst Todd McShay became very vocal regarding Tannehill as a legitimate NFL quarterback. He had plenty of on-air debates with Mel Kiper (many entertaining) on whether or not Tannehill warranted a top pick. Every year brings a “controversial pick” – typically a quarterback – which the experts in the media disagree on, and the 2012 nominee was indeed Ryan Tannehill from Texas A&M.

Fueling the conversation was the fact that the Miami Dolphins were sitting there with the 8th pick in the draft. The Dolphins who have had 16 starting quarterbacks since the retirement of Dan Marino. The Dolphins who just hired Mike Sherman to be offensive coordinator after getting fired from Texas A&M.

It indeed turned out that the Dolphins would take Ryan Tannehill 8th overall in the 2012 draft.

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The Dolphin fans (do the Dolphins have real fans?) seem to be mostly negative in their reaction, but then again, the fans usually don’t know what they’re talking about. Didn’t the fans become irate after the Dolphins passed on Brady Quinn a few years ago?

The Future

The reality is that nobody knows how well Tannehill will play the quarterback position in the NFL. When it comes to drafting quarterbacks, predictions are usually futile.

It’s difficult to say this is an extraordinarily high risk for the Dolphins, however, when you compare previous drafted quarterbacks. Is Tannehill riskier than the quarterbacks taken last year: Jake Locker (8th), Blaine Gabbert (10th), Christian Ponder (12th)?

If a quarterback passes the physical grades and can make the necessary throws at the NFL level, then it becomes a subjective judgement. If you’re looking at Tannehill’s “other qualities”, how can you not be impressed?

How about the mental fortitude required to be passed up by your beloved Texas Tech? And to be passed up at quarterback for years at Texas A&M? And to still be ready to jump in and produce when called mid-way through the 2010 season?

How about his overall athleticism to have a college career with single games where he had 210 receiving yards and others with 400 yards passing.

He’s clearly a team player, willing to contribute at whatever position necessary to help his team.

Does Tannehill come with risks and needed areas of improvement? Of course. But, so does every quarterback drafted (maybe not Andrew Luck).

The Dolphins drafted a quality quarterback from Texas A&M. Mike Sherman knows what Tannehill’s ceiling is and clearly, he convinced the team to take Tannehill as the first quarterback taken in the 1st round for the Dolphins since drafting Dan Marino in 1983.

Ryan Tannehill’s patience has paid off. He’ll get his shot at playing quarterback at the highest level. Moreover, he’ll make some nice money in the meantime. It’s estimated that the 6-10 picks will get contracts with guaranteed money in the $12 million plus range.

Congratulations, Ryan. You deserve it.

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COMMENTS

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  • THANK YOU, SDS, for correctly pointing out that he was a QB who was playing WR, not a WR who “converted” to playing QB. So many media writers have been wrong on this. Even when he played WR he was still the 3rd string (and later 2nd string) QB. He took snaps with the QB’s during practice, he went to all the QB meetings…he was not a “converted” WR.