Once upon a time in a land far to the south, almost at the very end of the Florida peninsula, there was a quarterback who famously said of his style of play, “Just pick a guy, and let it fly.”
And let it fly he did, amassing amazing statistics in the NFL, retiring with more touchdowns and yardage than anyone in the league.
All was good in Dolphins Land.
But Dan Marino retired after the 1999 season, and the Miami Dolphins have been looking for his replacement ever since. Some tried, some more valiantly than others, but ultimately all failed to appease the masses of people known throughout the land as Dolphins fans.
Yeah, we got spoiled. And who can blame us?
The latest to try has been Ryan Tannehill. After being shackled in the early years of his career by conservative coaches, current head coach Adam Gase has opened up his offense to Tannehill, allowing him to change plays at the line of scrimmage, and instilling confidence in his sixth-year passer in hopes of finally bringing an explosive, productive offense back to Miami.
Last year the team tried running a no-huddle offense, but after a 1-4 start, Gase backed off of that, and slowed the offense down so that players could all be on the same page with each playcall. Tannehill says it was a matter of spending too much time thinking.
"I just don't think that we knew as an offense all the details of what we needed to do to make (the no-huddle) happen quickly," said Tannehill. “We were able to do it, but we weren't doing it quickly, and when you don't do it quickly, you might as well just huddle and everyone get some time to think about exactly what they have to do. The whole point of no huddle is to keep the pressure on the defense, and if you're allowing defensive linemen to sub in and sub out and not keeping that heat on them, then you might as well just huddle. So I think that's kind of the crossroads we hit last year."
And this year?
"He's gotten better throughout the entire offseason process,” Gase says of Tannehill. “You can see he's more comfortable with what we're doing. He has a really good grasp of every little detail that we're trying to fine tune. When you start being able to put your spin on how you see things, and you have the ability to change plays at the line of scrimmage, when you feel really great with where you are in the offense, you have a lot of confidence to make those adjustments before the ball is actually snapped."
Tannehill says he’s worked very hard, not just this offseason, but throughout his career, and the benefits are beginning to manifest now.
"I think I've always been, tried to be, hard on myself,” he said. “I think as soon as you think you've got it, that's when you run into trouble. You've seen a lot of good players over their careers get to the point where they think they have it and that's when they start to fall off. I'm constantly trying to improve. I'm constantly trying to take little steps. It's not one big step you're going to take. It's not like in a two-week period you're going to make some giant leap.
"It's a series of consequential small steps that happen over the course of an offseason, over the course of training camp and throughout the season. So you're just constantly pushing at yourself, seeing the things you need to improve upon, seeing them on tape, taking the notes, taking the time to realize what you're doing, seeing what you need to do to improve those things and then going out and doing it."
Along with all the offseason work, Gase has helped Tannehill at every turn, showing why he has a reputation as a quarterback guru who specializes in getting the best out of every signal-caller he’s worked with in his career.
"I think he just encourages me and what I see, “said Tannehill. “He's always supportive ... obviously he coaches me and corrects me obviously when things aren't done right, but he's a big supporter of whatever we feel - what you see - then you can't think about it.
“You've got to just let it rip and make it happen. So that's something I've been trying to work on this offseason is 'Hey, don't think about it. Just play what you see and let it rip.'"
This story was written by Eldon Jenson. Follow him on Twitter @EJFootball
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