Three weeks ago, when the Dolphins were busy losing their first seven games of the season, all fans could think about was "Suck for Luck."
Now, fans could start wanting "More of Moore."
Or, maybe, believe in the "Magic of Moore."
Some rallying cry will emerge from what has become a revelation at quarterback for the Miami Dolphins. Over the past three games, all Dolphins wins, QB Matt Moore has completed nearly 71% of his passes and has a 6-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. But more important than the stats, the Dolphins offense as a whole has come alive, scoring 86 points over the past three games. RB Reggie Bush, who was expected to add an explosive element to the offense, has averaged just over 4.0 rushing yards per game with four touchdowns over that same span. Moore has also shown poise in the pocket, able to extend plays and take shots downfield, an element that was missing when QB Chad Henne was leading the offense. With all of the success that the Dolphins offense has had over the past three weeks, you would think there is no reason the Dolphins would target a quarterback early in next year’s draft.
There is a mantra that the quarterback position is the most important position on the entire team. This mantra rings truer each year, as a strong correlation between star quarterback and team success has emerged over the past couple of decades. The days of game-managing quarterbacks winning the Super Bowl have become a distant memory. Quarterbacks like Trent Dilfer or Brad Johnson don’t win Super Bowls anymore. In fact, those two are the only non-star quarterbacks to win the Super Bowl since Mark Rypien was the MVP of Super Bowl XXVI. Teams with star quarterbacks are simply the ones who experience the most success.
Don’t believe me? Look it up. Since Mark Rypien, the Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks are Troy Aikman, Steve Young, Brett Favre, John Elway, Kurt Warner, Trent Dilfer, Tom Brady, Brad Johnson, Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers. Aside from the game managers previously mentioned, the list is a Who’s Who of Hall of Fame, soon-to-be Hall of Fame, and All-Pro quarterbacks.
Let me ask you something: does Matt Moore belong on that list?
The answer may be that he eventually will. It is possible. It is no secret that Tom Brady was a sixth round find for the New England Patriots that spurred the 2000’s team of the decade. But how many times in history has that happened? Look back at the list and you will find that Kurt Warner was the only other quarterback picked after the second round of the NFL draft to win the Super Bowl.
Need more convincing? Look no further than two of the Dolphins’ victims this season. Buffalo Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick signed a contract earlier this season for $59 million over six years after he sparked the Bills offense last season and led them to early season victories over contenders like the Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots. Since signing the contract, the Bills have lost three of four and Fitzpatrick has completed fewer than 60% of his passes. He has also thrown 8 interceptions and only 4 touchdowns.
Kansas City QB Matt Cassel led the New England Patriots to an 11-5 record, narrowly missing the playoffs, in 2008 when QB Tom Brady went down in the first game of the season with a torn ACL. The Kansas City Chiefs gave up a second round pick for him and LB Mike Vrabel that offseason and rewarded Cassel with a $63 million contract over six years. Cassel had a productive year in 2010, but has never finished the season with a 60% completion percentage. Cassel finished the 2009 with 16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions and, before going down for the rest of the season with an injury, had 10 touchdowns and 9 interceptions.
Granted, every quarterback who has laced up the cleats and lined up under center has struggled at times in their career. And sure, it is possible that Fitzpatrick will do what Jim Kelly was unable to- lead the Bills to a Super Bowl victory. Perhaps next season will be the first of a Chiefs three-peat, led by All-Pro seasons from Matt Cassel. But experience tells us this is unlikely. Fitzpatrick and Cassel simply don’t have the natural talent that most early round quarterbacks possess, and the talent limitation will inhibit their team’s chances at success.
Can Matt Moore be different? Sure, it is possible. Moore has shown flashes of excellence, but he lacks elite arm strength and tends to throw the ball too high. He also makes one or two mental mistakes per game that sometimes cost the Dolphins dearly. In the victory over the Bills, one of Moore’s four incompletions was an errant throw at the goal line that hit a Bills defender right in the chest, but the ball was dropped. On another play, Moore spent a long time in the pocket avoiding sacks, looking downfield, trying to make a play, and he ended up getting sacked for a 13 yard loss when he should have just thrown the ball away. Moore’s aggressive play has helped the Dolphins at times, but the downside cannot be forgotten.
This year’s draft offers four potential franchise quarterbacks who have the talent to go in the top ten picks of the 2012 draft. Those quarterbacks give the Dolphins the best chance at long-term success moving forward. Moore has been a serviceable quarterback for the time being and deserves to have a spot on some team’s roster. He just hasn't shown the requisite skills to be a franchise quarterback.
Even if the "Suck for Luck" train has left the station, the Dolphins and their fans need to keep their eye on the future. That future requires a franchise quarterback who can lead the Dolphins back to being one of the elite teams of the NFL.
As it stands right now, Matt Moore is not that quarterback.