Ryan Tannehill had the game in his hands last week against Indianapolis, as he will this week against Buffalo and until the end of his career with the Miami Dolphins. And in crunch time, with that game on the line and one play standing between keeping the football and surrendering it to Andrew Luck, Tannehill handed off.
We know this.
And the question has been raised that even if the play-call was to run the football against the Colts on third-and-10 with 3:34 to play, why didn’t Tannehill audible to a pass? Or change the play in the huddle? Or do something other than simply run the play he was told to run?
We ask because nobody ever became a hero handing off the football.
Well, Tannehill didn’t think of doing anything other than hand it off in the moment. And when he went over the game days afterward, “thinking of all the things you could have done differently,” as he put it, changing that fateful play was not on the list of things he thought about changing.
“No,” Tannehill said Wednesday when asked if he thought, in hindsight, changing the play would have been good. “That’s not something that I think about. I think (coach Adam Gase) had a reason he called that. It’s something we talked about throughout the week. Obviously, not at the end of the game, but in third-and-10 situations, they were extremely good on third-and-long situations.
“I understood the call when it came in and I’m not out there just checking to all types of plays. Things we talk about during the week, I’ll check – if we get a certain look on a certain play. But it’s not often that he’s calling one play and I’m just completely waving him off to another play. He has a reason why he’s calling things and wants things run a certain way, so that’s what we do.”
Look, if you expect me to say Tannehill should have been a free-thinker and taken a damn-the-torpedoes attitude, I cannot do it because. Because it would be asking to be somebody he is not.
He’s not Dan Marino or (Mando hero) Sonny Jurgensen or Brett Favre or other free spirits who would often stray from the game plan or orders from coaches.
He’s Ryan Tannehill.
And Tannehill goes through his progressions as he’s been taught.
He makes the decisions he’s been trained to make.
And he generally does exactly what the coach asks.
Does that mean he paints by numbers while playing quarterback? Yes.
He’s not Picasso. He’s not going to do wild things.
It is not who he is.
We know this.
That doesn’t mean Tannehill refuses to call audibles or change plays. He does that. I’m told he has freedom to do that.
But he does it within the framework of the game and the game plan.
“We have a lot of checks,” Tannehill said. “I wouldn’t say completely waving [Gase] off probably ever. I don’t know. Ten, fifteen plays a game we have adjustments, checks that we can make.”
And that’s when Tannehill feels he should make them. Not on third-and-10 backed up at the Indianapolis 6 yard line with 3:34 to play in a tie game.
In that regard, Tannehill is less reliant on instincts and gut and more on learned facts and figures.
And these are the facts and figures Tannehill knew Gase had considered before sending in the play at Indy:
Before the Dolphins game, the Indianapolis Colts defense faced 32 situations where they faced a third-and-10-plus situation. And they stopped the opposing offense in 30 of them. The only two they did not stop was against Washington on Sept 16 and Jacksonville on Nov. 11.
So the Colts had won on 94 percent of those situations coming into the game. And against Miami, the Colts were an additional 4-for-4 stopping the opponent on third-and-10-plus before the fourth quarter call everyone is questioning.
So the odds were obviously against the Dolphins on that play. Gase knew it. Tannehill knew.
The coach called it according to the odds.
And the quarterback, also knowing the odds, never considered going another direction.