HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – For most rookies, coming into Reliant Stadium can be a daunting task.
But that may not be as much the case for Miami’s first-round draft-pick Ryan Tannehill, who will make his NFL debut Sunday when the Dolphins venture into Reliant Stadium to take on the Texans for the season-opener. The Texans home is more than a little familiar to the former Texas A&M standout.
In fact, the last time Tannehill played in a meaningful football game, it was in Reliant Stadium where he threw for 329 yards and a touchdown to lead the Aggies to a 33-22 win over Northwestern in last season’s Meineke Car Care Bowl on New Year’s Eve.
“It was a great place to play,” Tannehill recalled this week.
He might find it a lot less friendly this time around with most of the capacity crowd rooting against him and the Dolphins. But if there was a next-best place to start your career outside of the home crowd it has to be in your own backyard where you starred in college.
“It’s exciting,” said Tannehill, who grew up in Big Springs and starred four years at A&M first as a quality receiver and then the last 1 1/2 years as a strong-armed quarterback. “Anytime you get to come back home to your home state its good.
“It’s always exciting to go back and see a few family members and things like that. To have my first start being in Texas is pretty exciting.”
For the Dolphins and Tannehill both this is an exciting time as the franchise that is still defined by Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino hopes to finally turn the page and take a step in a new direction. Tannehill, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, is the cornerstone of that new beginning.
The Dolphins have a new coach in Joe Phibin, but it is all very familiar to Tannehill who has the unusual luck of having his former coach at A&M and ex-Texans offensive coordinator, Mike Sherman, as his offensive coordinator with the Dolphins. So with the exception of some faster and more talented players surrounding him, Tannehill has inherited a pro-style offense and a playbook that are very familiar to him.
“Anytime you can take learning a completely new playbook out of the equation, it definitely eases things up for me a little bit,” Tannehill said. “I can focus on going out the and learning the details, be on the same page with my receivers, getting more comfortable with the defenses that I’m seeing and those types of things as opposed to just learning a playbook in general.”
There was an initial thought that the Dolphins would go with either Matt Moore or David Gerrard — both NFL veterans — to give Tannehill time to ease into the role of franchise quarterback. But after seeing how mature and ready he was to run the offense Miami decided to begin its future immediately.
Tannehill performed fairly well in the preseason, completing 41 of 78 passes for 414 yards and one touchdown and one interception.
“No. 1, I like his decision making,” Phibin said. “No. 2, I think he has enough velocity with his arm that he can make the throws we need to make in this offense, whether it’s the 15-yard out breaking route, whether it’s the seam balls down the middle of the film, whether it’s throwing the ball on the move, which we think he does extremely well.
“We think he has a talented arm. The third thing is this guy’s a football player. In college, he helped his football team at two positions. He knows the game.”
Texans coach Gary Kubiak, who kept an eye on Tannehill when he was quarterbacking his alma mater, also been impressed with what he saw from Tannehill in a relatively short time at quarterback at A&M. Tannehill initially got on the field at A&A as a receiver despite being recruited by the Aggies as a quarterback. It wasn’t until mid-way through the 2010 season did Sherman finally insert Tannehill in at quarterback and the positive results came immediately with wins over the likes of Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska.
Tannehill continued to show enormous progress from there even though it didn’t necessarily reflect in the Aggies record last season.
It wasn’t long before Kubiak realized the Aggies had the best quarterback on its roster since … maybe him so he expected big things from Tannehill at the next level.
“I went into the draft thinking he’s a franchise player,” Kubiak said. “I told (Executive Vice President and General Manager) Rick (Smith) that before the draft. I expected him to get where he’s at right now and I know he’s getting coached extremely well. He’s scares the heck out of you because he can move around and make plays off-schedule and the last time he was in this building he made quite a few. I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”
But now comes the difficult part as Tannehill attempts to carve out his place with a franchise that has been seeking a replacement for Marino, who retired as the game’s prolific passer in 1999. That’s some pressure for a young man starting out, but Tannehill doesn’t see it as any more pressure than any of the NFL quarterbacks have.
“It’s an NFL team, there’s only 32 of them, there’s only 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL, so every situation is going to have its certain pressures,” he said. “So I don’t look at it that way. It’s an opportunity and a blessing to be here and I just try to handle what I can take care of day-to-day. I don’t try to think of the things that have happened in the past or the things that can happen in the future. Just live in the present.”