Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill is one win away from playing in Super Bowl LIV, which will be held at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida -- the same place he called home for the previous seven NFL seasons.
It's a thought that will elicit strong emotions from many Miami Dolphins fans who desperately had hoped Tannehill would lead their favorite team to the Lombardi trophy; he didn't, but he might get Tennessee there, as the Titans play at the Kansas City Chiefs in Sunday's AFC Championship Game at 3:05 p.m. ET (CBS).
The Dolphins are still searching for their franchise quarterback.
There is always some difficulty in watching your ex achieve success immediately after leaving you, but Dolphins fans shouldn't be bitter or angry at Tannehill for his accomplishments with the Titans. Instead, Tannehill should be cheered for putting his best into playing for the Dolphins, despite obstacles with his health and his lack of playoff success.
At the NFL owners meetings last March, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross was resolute in describing why the Dolphins traded Tannehill to Tennessee: "I love Ryan. But you're right, how many years? It was time to move on."
Even in retrospect, Ross is right. It was best for the Dolphins and Tannehill to part ways after seven years and a 42-46 record. Both sides needed a fresh start.
Tannehill needed a team that would force him to refocus and make him compete for his starting role, something he hadn't legitimately done since his rookie season in 2012. It turns out that Tannehill landing with a Titans offense that had an elite running back in Derrick Henry and a strong, bruising offensive line was the perfect fit to unlock the best version of himself. He's more confident, efficient and productive than ever, and leads the NFL in passer rating (117.5) this season.
The Dolphins truly needed to rebuild following the 2018 season rather than wallow in mediocrity (one playoff appearance in 10 seasons). But true progress won't be achieved until Miami has its franchise quarterback.
The Tannehill era in Miami was a story of what could have been, while the Tannehill era in Tennessee is beginning in epic fashion. This shouldn't be a time of regret or what-ifs for the Dolphins, but Tannehill's success does increase the pressure for Miami to land a game-changing signal-caller in the 2020 NFL draft.
The Dolphins haven't drafted a quarterback in the first six rounds of a draft since Tannehill in 2012. One of the organization's biggest flaws over the past decade was the lack of true quarterback competition and development behind Tannehill, and now a new regime is tasked with that responsibility.
Dolphins general manager Chris Grier has said the team doesn't have to draft a quarterback in 2020. It's unclear whether his statement is a smokescreen to protect his leverage on draft day or he truly believes that. But with three first-round picks, including the No. 5 overall selection, the Dolphins are in solid position to take a big swing. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, a prospect out of Alabama who is rehabbing a serious hip injury, and Oregon QB Justin Herbert could be the most likely options for the Dolphins.
As Tannehill leads the Titans on Sunday, Dolphins fans will likely be watching with mixed emotions. But they should cheer for Tannehill's success with hope that their own franchise quarterback will be here soon.