Ryan Tannehill, of all quarterbacks, secured a place in the AFC championship game on Saturday, and that has spawned a cottage industry bashing of his former coach, Adam Gase. After all, the theory goes, Tannehill finally became the quarterback everyone thought he could be as soon as Gase was no longer his coach.
It's a nice theory. And for anyone who hates Gase or thinks the Jets made a mistake by hiring him, it fits the narrative.
It just doesn't fit the facts.
Adam Gase didn't ruin Ryan Tannehill during their three years together in Miami. Injuries to Tannehill did that, for the most part, considering Tannehill played only 24 of a possible 48 games under Gase from 2016-18. Also, it's not like Joe Philbin brought out the best of Tannehill during their four years together from 2012-15, either.
And while we're on the subject: Has Titans head coach Mike Vrabel and his offensive coordinator, Arthur Smith, really transformed Tannehill? Is everyone that overwhelmed by his 7-for-14, 88-yard performance in Baltimore on Saturday or his 8-for-15, 72-yard showing in New England the week before? Yes, those were both very big wins in a very big spot and those do go on a quarterback's record.
But Derrick Henry's 377 rushing yards in those two games and the suffocating performances by the Titans defense were far bigger factors. Henry, not Tannehill, carried the Titans offense on his back.
Don't take anything away from Tannehill, though. The 31-year-old deserves his moment, and he can feel free to laugh all he wants this week, and perhaps again in two weeks at a podium in Miami, the site of Super Bowl LIV. But to say Tannehill's recent resurgence -- if that's what it can be called -- is a reflection on Gase … well, that's simplistic.
Here are the facts: Tannehill was a decent, but mediocre quarterback in his first four years in the NFL, before the Dolphins fired Philbin. And when Gase came in with a new offense in 2016, the Dolphins struggled out of the gate, going 1-4 despite some decent play from Tannehill. Then, as Tannehill got more comfortable, the Dolphins won six straight. Tannehill threw one interception in that span. He led the Dolphins out of a 1-4 hole to an 8-5 record. They were a playoff contender.
Then he partially tore his ACL.
Tannehill's season was over with the highest passer rating of his career (93.5). Gase, by the way, still managed to drag the Dolphins to the playoffs with Matt Moore as his quarterback -- the first playoff berth for the Dolphins in eight years.
Tannehill missed all of 2017 after he re-tore his ACL that summer. When he returned in 2018 he actually got off to a good start, and the Dolphins were 3-0. But in Week 5 he suffered a "capsule injury" to his shoulder. He missed six games and couldn't throw a ball for weeks. He eventually returned with three strong games to start his comeback and had the Dolphins at 7-6 and on the brink of the playoffs.
But he was horrible after that, with one of the worst three-game stretches of his career. The Dolphins went 0-3 and missed the playoffs, Gase was fired, and Tannehill was traded two months later.
His time in Miami was a roller coaster, not a disaster. And is it really that hard to see how much those injuries hurt? When Gase had him in the lineup, a lot of good things happened until that final stretch. Most of the time, Gase simply didn't have him in the lineup. After that first season, he definitely never had him at 100 percent.
And Tannehill didn't have much help around him. Miami's defenses were terrible. He did have help from running back Jay Ajayi and the NFL's ninth ranked rushing attack in 2016, but in 2018 he had an older Frank Gore and Kenyan Drake and a rushing attack that ranked 30th. That final season in Miami, his leading receiver that year was Danny Amendola, who had 59 catches for 575 yards.
In Tennessee, he's riding the No. 3 rushing offense in the league -- a number that seems low considering Henry has topped 180 rushing yards in three straight games and has rushed for at least 149 in six of the last eight -- and a defense that lately has been as tough as any in the NFL.
Yes, in Tennessee, Tannehill has had some big games that many didn't see coming. He was 23-of-29, for 312 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception in his first start -- a 23-20 win over the Chargers in Week 7. He went 21-of-27 for 391 yards, three touchdowns and an interception in Week 14 at Oakland, too.
Overall, though, he's been mostly just efficient. Nine of his 13 games include passer ratings over 100. His rating is a stellar 117.5 overall. But Vrabel and Smith haven't exactly turned him into Drew Brees. In seven of his 13 starts, Tannehill has thrown less than 25 times. In seven of 13 starts he's thrown for fewer than 200 yards. That's not exactly a sign of a quick-strike, down-field passing game or a suddenly electric quarterback.
And they've further cemented that strategy in the playoffs. Tannehill is now 15-of-29 for 160 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. That's two games, not one. He deserves all the credit in the world for going into New England and Baltimore and beating two of the best teams in the AFC. But let's not pretend like Tannehill carried the Titans to victory in those games by himself.
Tannehill is a game-manager.
And that's fine. He might manage his way all the way to the Super Bowl. But that doesn't mean that Tannehill's success is a poor reflection on Gase. Maybe Tannehill's career will really take off from here. Maybe Gase won't be the coach the Jets think he is. Who knows what the future will hold?
But suddenly blaming Gase for holding Tannehill back is an argument that lacks any context. It's an easy one to make, but the two aren't nearly as linked as so many seem to think.