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What Happens to Miami If Ryan Tannehill Is Done for the Year?

You had Jay Cutler at hello, Dolphins fans

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Ryan Tannehill’s season might be over before it even began, and soon we might say the same about Jay Cutler’s retirement. Let’s connect the dots and figure out how a knee injury in Miami could rouse a quarterback last seen burning bridges in Chicago.

The tale began last December, in a Week 14 tilt between the Dolphins and Cardinals, when Tannehill suffered a partially torn ACL on a low hit from defensive end Calais Campbell. The Miami quarterback didn’t play another snap in the 2016 season, missing games for the first time in his five-year career and sitting out the Dolphins’ loss to Pittsburgh in the postseason’s wild-card round.

The story continued into the offseason, when Tannehill elected not to repair the ligament with surgery, but rather to balance rehabilitation and stem cell treatments as a fix. “It’s really strong and ready to go,” Tannehill said of the ACL in May, adding, “I feel like I can make any cut. I trust it. That’s the biggest thing, do you trust it? Are you able to move without thinking about whether something’s going to happen? Once it got to that point I felt great about it.”

The twist came on Thursday, when he suffered a non-contact knee injury at practice and ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Jeff Darlington reported he might require season-ending surgery. Initial reports noted that the injury didn’t seem serious, but Schefter and Darlington’s story suggests differently. “He’s done, I think,” one source told ESPN, while another opined that Tannehill’s knee was “a ticking time bomb that was going to go off at any time.”

The news is terrible for the Dolphins, who last season rode an easy schedule and late-season hot streak, winning nine of 10 games in one stretch, to their first playoff appearance since the 2008 season. It’s also terrible for Tannehill, who never materialized as a breakout player last year despite flashing the promise of one and now might miss a full season in his prime, in addition to whatever psychological ramifications might affect his future play if he no longer feels comfortable making sharp movements without exacerbating knee pain. The Dolphins could fairly easily cut their quarterback without incurring much of a cap penalty after this season, too.

On a much lighter note, also on Thursday came the following speculation:

Yes, that’s news about Jay Cutler, who officially retired in May to join Fox Sports in a Tony Romo–lite move. But now, Cutler is rumored to be interested in a return to playing football if two conditions are met: (1) He’d receive a starting job; in Miami, that could check out. (2) He’d play for his former Bears offensive coordinator, Adam Gase; in Miami, where Gase is now the head coach, that also checks out.

On some level, that connection would make sense if Tannehill indeed is out for the season. (ESPN reports that he could also choose to rest for six to eight weeks and try to avoid surgery again.) In his one season playing for Gase, Cutler enjoyed his best-ever season by passer rating and the advanced metric adjusted net yards per attempt.

On pretty much any other level, though, it makes no sense at all. While Miami still hopes to repeat as a playoff team, it’s not as if Cutler is a proven playoff QB — he featured in just one postseason in 10 years as a starter, or the same number of postseasons that St. Lucie Mets left fielder Tim Tebow made in just one year as an NFL starter. Cutler also spent his final playing seasons alienating fans, clashing with coaches, and regularly exuding the attitude of someone who didn’t particularly care to lead a football team.

Plus, Miami has Matt Moore, and the veteran backup tallied a 68.3 percent completion rate and 8.2 yards per attempt while throwing touchdowns on 7.3 percent of his throws in relief of Tannehill last season, combining both the regular season and playoffs. The closest qualifying QBs to those numbers from last season are Dak Prescott (completion percentage), Tom Brady (yards per attempt), and Matt Ryan (touchdown rate).

Sure, that’s a sample of four and a half games, and Moore has never played at that level before. But it beats Cutler returning to the field.

On second thought, maybe not. It’d be way more fun if Jay took his talents to South Beach.