It's time once again to bring up my absolute favorite topic when it comes to football: context. It may seem like I harp on this all too often, but for me, it really can't be stressed enough. So often context gets misinterpreted and misused to make things seem more interesting than they are.
What prompted me to write this column was when a story was made out of former Dolphins linebacker and current Saints linebacker Dannell Ellerbe's comments regarding his new team. Ellerbe stated that the Saints were a franchise that knew how to win, which is true. The Saints have been a top team in the NFL for quite some time, although last season they took a severe step back.
But where the issue comes in is that - despite not making any comments directly saying so - the story became how the Miami Dolphins did not know how to win, rather than him stating how excited he was to be playing for a new team.
Ellerbe was just as excited when he signed in Miami, and no comments were made about how the Baltimore Ravens - his team before Miami - had issues that prompted his decision. In fact, Ellerbe himself later came out and said how his words had been taken out of context.
Context. That's what it's all about Dolphins fans. It's what makes the difference between a former player taking a shot at his former team, or merely being thankful that he has the opportunity to play elsewhere. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone is conspiring against the Dolphins, and it often takes some coaxing before people realize that.
Quotes aren't the only things taken out of context though. Even play on the field gets misinterpreted based on personal biases (can you see where this is going yet folks?).
Since I've already talked about this many times before, I won't spend too much time focusing on it, but it's another perfect example of exactly what I'm talking about here: Ryan Tannehill and his deep ball throwing.
Everybody looks at Tannehill's deep ball struggles and cites that he can't throw it, and as a result is unworthy of his title as the franchise quarterback. They also tack on the fact that the Dolphins haven't made it to the playoffs since 2008 when Chad Pennington was the starter. But what context are we looking at this in?
It's recently been reported that the young QB going into his fourth year in the NFL has been getting praised effusively by his teammates regarding how much he's improved this offseason. His deep ball has looked much better and he's taken on more of a leadership role. But is this the proper story?
The Dolphins front office went out of their way to bring in weapons that were more fitting to the skillset that Tannehill brings to the table, ones with greater potential for yards after the catch, better route-running...a higher catch radius. It seems all too coincidental that suddenly Tannehill's deep ball improves just as wide receiver Mike Wallace makes his exit.
Wallace is notorious for his ability to get behind defenses and blow away safeties with his blazing speed, and there were certainly times where he was open deep and Tannehill failed to get him the ball. I normally write these things out in favor of Tannehill, and in a way it still is here, but for the sake of proper context, I have to come out in defense of Mike Wallace for a brief moment.
Tannehill struggles with his accuracy when throwing the deep ball, that much is undeniable. So my theory as to why Tannehill's deep ball suddenly looks better is because the receivers he's throwing to now do not require him to be perfect. DeVante Parker, Greg Jennings, even Kenny Stills - these receivers do not have the pure, raw speed that Wallace consistently boasted, Stills is fast in his own right but he isn't as fast either.
So what is happening by bringing in these receivers is what the Dolphins should have been doing all along: they brought in players who have the ability to show off Tannehill's strengths, and hide his weaknesses. Until I see it for myself, I will not be convinced that Tannehill's deep ball has truly improved. Context. I believe Tannehill's weakness is being masked by players who fight for the football more effectively than Wallace ever did, negating the need for pinpoint accuracy.
Is that an issue? Absolutely not! This is the key to victory in my opinion: emphasize strengths, and hide weaknesses. The whole concept is so laughably simple that it baffles the mind as to why it took this long for it to happen. The square peg did not fit in the round hole. The round peg fits in the round hole.
Context. It's required in all aspects of football, and in life. This is why I always aim to examine all aspects of a situation rather than merely taking the easy way out. It's not always X player's fault, and it isn't always Y player's fault. Sometimes things are said that get taken out of context, and it creates a situation that never should have existed in the first place.
So my message to you all is simply this: the context is always far more important than the actual content, and we should strive to always remember that whenever we examine our favorite team. In the end you'll be smarter for it, and will be more prepared when context comes into play in real life as well.
This column was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @FLSportDebater
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