The Dolphins' season was put in jeopardy on Thursday -- in August -- when quarterback Ryan Tannehill went down with a non-contact knee injury during practice and hobbled off the field.
A late Thursday evening report from ESPN.com's Adam Schefter and Jeff Darlington stated that the Dolphins now fear Tannehill's season might be over:
It's a strange turn of events given that earlier on Thursday, it seemed like the Dolphins had received some good news.
Sigh of relief for #Dolphins. Member of org says no structural damage for Ryan Tannehill, knee same now as in am.— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) August 3, 2017
While no structural damage for Ryan Tannehill, member of org says it DID buckle and so #Dolphins have to think how to proceed after scare.— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) August 3, 2017
Of course, #Dolphins Ryan Tannehill may still miss some time after this tweak, member of org says. But def not worst case scenario right now— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) August 3, 2017
According to Omar Kelly of the Sun-Sentinel, Tannehill "hyperextended his knee." Kelly confirmed that Tannehill didn't suffer any structural damage.
Still, the report from Schefter and Darlington painted a far darker picture of the situation. "He's done, I think," they quoted one source as saying.
Considering Tannehill's 2016 season ended prematurely with an injury to that same knee and that he did not have surgery on it, the Dolphins had to have known this was a possibility. From Schefter:
Tannehill must decide whether he wants to wait at least six weeks to let it heal and take another shot at playing, or go ahead and have the surgery, which would end his season.
The Dolphins recognize they might have to step in and recommend the surgery that Tannehill has avoided since he initially injured the knee last December against Arizona.
One source said Thursday that, because Tannehill did not repair his partially torn ACL during the offseason, his knee was "a ticking time bomb that was going to go off at any time."
If Tannehill has to miss significant time, the Dolphins might be tempted go out and sign a free agent to replace Tannehill. At the time of Tannehill's injury, a couple of enticing names were thrown out there as possibilities, like Colin Kaepernick, who is somehow still unsigned, and Jay Cutler, who retired to become an NFL analyst for Fox but could've be lured back to play for his former coach, Adam Gase.
In fact, Darlington reported Thursday that Cutler has interest in reuniting with Gase, though a return to the NFL isn't imminent at this point:
Here’s where it gets interesting: I’m told Cutler is interested in delaying TV gig to play for Gase but it’d need to be starting job/money.— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) August 3, 2017
Dolphins could slow play Cutler decision since they are only team, I’m told, Cutler would consider leaving his TV gig for at this point.— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) August 3, 2017
So for now, Dolphins can afford at least *some* patience. External options (Cutler, Kaepernick, etc.) and internal ones (Moore) both exist.— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) August 3, 2017
The Dolphins could still choose to pursue one of those quarterbacks, given the uncertainty of the situation. In the meantime, expect long-time backup Matt Moore to get the first-team reps.
In Tannehill's first season under Gase last year, he set career highs in completion percentage, touchdown percentage, yards per attempt, and passer rating. And the Dolphins made the playoffs for the first time since 2008. However, the Dolphins can cut Tannehill in 2018 with very little financial consequences.