Newly branded starter Tannehill has support

DAVIE, Fla. — Wide receiver Davone Bess saw it on the NFL Network. Tackle Jake Long watched it go by on ESPN’s scrawl. Tight end Anthony Fasano read it on Twitter.

The news was that Miami Dolphins rookie Ryan Tannehill would be their starting quarterback for the Sept. 9 opener at Houston.

“It caught me off guard,” wide receiver Clyde Gates said Tuesday about seeing that Dolphins coach Joe Philbin had informed the media of the decision after Monday’s practice but had not told the team as a unit. “I’m not surprised (at the decision). I was surprised (by the way Gates learned the news). I said, ‘Oh. That’s how I have to find out.’ But it’s all good.”

Philbin initially only told the team’s quarterbacks on Monday about his decision.

That included Matt Moore, who was beaten out by Tannehill in what had become a two-man derby after David Garrard suffered a knee injury two weeks ago that will keep him out at least several more weeks.

“I didn’t want to make a big deal about it,” Philbin said about not telling the entire team. “I had talked to the quarterbacks when we had told David Garrard that he was going to be the starting quarterback (when the first depth chart came out prior to Garrard being injured). We certainly didn’t make any announcement to the team in that regard. There’s a lot of jobs that are open for competition right now. . . . I really didn’t think about (telling the entire team about Tannehill winning the job). I didn’t do it before, so I wasn’t going to do it now.”

Those other open jobs aren’t at quarterback, and choosing the starter has been the biggest decision made so far in Philbin’s first year as coach.

Maybe it wasn’t the conventional way for Dolphins players to hear the news. Nevertheless, there was general relief Tuesday in that, at least, a choice finally had been made.

“It is nice to kind of lock it up with somebody and get a little bit more comfortable going into the regular season,” Fasano said of the decision being known before the Dolphins play their third preseason game — the most important one for NFL teams — Friday at home against Atlanta.

Tannehill sure was glad to find out. After being taken with the No. 8 pick in April’s NFL draft, his goal was to start right away.

Now, it’s reality.

“I wanted to be (the starter),” Tannehill said. “As a competitor, that’s just human nature … to want to be the guy. I was going out there every day trying to prove I could be the guy to win games for this football team.”

Tannehill had a big leg up right away having played at Texas A&M under coach Mike Sherman, now Miami’s offensive coordinator. He knew most of the playbook when he showed up.

Tannehill displayed that in Miami’s first two preseason games. He completed 25 of 44 passes for 267 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions.

“From Day 1, he came in, he wasn’t shy, wasn’t a timid, quiet rookie,” Long said. “He came in and took command of the huddle right away. He knows the offense inside and out, and he’s done a great job with leading this offense. I’ve really been impressed with what he’s doing.”

How impressive is Tannehill getting the nod in his first NFL game? The Dolphins have had a pair of Hall of Fame quarterbacks in Bob Griese and Dan Marino, and neither was immediately the starter as a rookie.

“I don’t think that says any indicator,” Tannehill said. “I’m just going to go out one day at a time. Every situation is different. I’m blessed to have this opportunity. I just want to make the most of it.”

It’s not surprising Tannehill would downplay any question with Marino in it. The Dolphins have been searching for stability at quarterback since the legendary one retired after the 1999 season. And Tannehill, the first quarterback Miami has taken in the first round since Marino in 1983, is a guy who certainly has a chance to be another Dolphins star behind center.

That wasn’t going to be the case with Moore. Yes, he led the Dolphins to a 6-6 mark after taking over a team last season that started out 0-4 and eventually fell to 0-7. But Moore was just keeping the position warm this season for whenever Tannehill was ready.

Moore might have held onto the job longer had he played better in the first two preseason games, both Miami losses. He completed a mere 12 of 27 passes for 136 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. His passer rating of 44.7 was barely half of Tannehill’s 82.3.

“I was disappointed,” Moore said about losing the battle. “You know, obviously, if you play this game, you want to play. As a leader of this team, you want to be back there with the guys. But I understand the decision. I support the decision and I’m behind coach Philbin and Ryan 100 percent. And I’ll be ready if they need me.”

Moore might want to stay ready, because things can change fast at quarterback in the NFL. Consider the case of Garrard. After being in line to become the main guy entering the season, he now could find himself cut before it even starts.

For now, the Dolphins have put their faith in Tannehill.

“We knew what it was going into it,” Bess said. “There was a possibility that he was going to be the guy. Now that we know that he’s going to be the guy, we’ve got to do our jobs and make sure he handles his business.”

Bess’ job will be catching balls from Tannehill when the season opens Sept. 9. That’s what the media told him.

Chris Tomasson can be reached at christomasson@hotmail.com or on Twitter @christomasson