DAVIE, Fla. -- He might be bent over much of the game, but a center's job is to stand by his quarterback.
Mike Pouncey sure is doing that with Ryan Tannehill.
"I think he's the best rookie quarterback in the NFL right now," Pouncey said of Tannehill, taken by Miami with the No. 8 pick in last April's NFL draft. "Without his success that he's having right now, we wouldn't be the 3-3 Dolphins that we are."
So Tannehill is better than Andrew Luck, the top pick by Indianapolis?
Pouncey says yes.
OK, statistically Tannehill ranks No. 29 among all quarterbacks in passing efficiency while Luck is No. 31. But what about Robert Griffin III, the No. 2 pick by Washington who is third in that category and seemingly has been the NFL's best rookie?
"I think he's better than RG3," Pouncey said of Tannehill. "Their games are different. RGIII can throw, but he can also run. Tannehill's a smart quarterback. I think he's going to be one of those elite guys like Tom Brady when it comes said and done. Just his composure. His leadership in the huddle right now is just phenomenal. I do see Tom, and the way he coordinates and runs his offense is the same as Tannehill does."
Wait a minute. Pouncey already is comparing Tannehill, whose passing rating is 76.5, to Brady, who has a career mark of 96.4, has won three Super Bowls and is bound for the Hall of Fame.
At least Pouncey knows a bit where to draw the line in Miami, where the legendary Dan Marino remains king. Pouncey, who played at the University of Florida, isn't ready to fully proclaim Tannehill another Marino, who retired after the 1999 season.
"I hope we got another Dan Marino here, and I do think we got one of the best quarterbacks in this draft," Pouncey said of Tannehill, who has completed 59.6 percent of his passes for 1,454 yards but needs to better his ratio of having four touchdown passes to six interceptions. "As long as he keeps it up, we'll be a playoff team."
Pressed on a comparison with Marino, Pouncey said: "I'm not here to rate quarterbacks." Of course, that's what he had just done by calling Tannehill the best among rookies.
Tannehill has improved steadily since a rugged three-interception game in his debut, a 30-10 loss Sept. 9 at Houston. He threw for 431 yards Sept. 30 at Arizona and Oct. 14 was 21-of-29 for 185 yards against St. Louis while throwing for two TDs in a game for the first time.
"You can see he's getting very comfortable," said New York Jets coach Rex Ryan, whose team plays host Sunday to Miami. "He's probably getting comfortable adjusting to this league, maybe the coverages or anything he is seeing and the speed of the game. Obviously, he's a really impressive guy."
Tannehill does say there's been improvement. But he's remained modest.
"I feel more confident," he said. "I think that myself, as our offense, we've gotten better every week. Haven't been perfect."
When it comes to the hype department, Tannehill will leave that up to his center.
"We were lucky to get that kid at No. 8," Pouncey said. "He's playing phenomenal for us right now. If he keeps it up, he'll be the franchise quarterback for a long, long time."
It sure took Pouncey a short time to determine Tannehill already is better than Luck and Griffin.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson