The common assumption is the Miami Dolphins are going quarterback shopping this offseason because they might want to eventually replace starter Ryan Tannehill, who six seasons after arriving in South Florida is still something of a mystery to everyone.
This is wrong.
Although Tannehill’s health is an issue after he suffered two ACL injuries in consecutive seasons and there’s a lurking question about just how good he can be, that is mostly noise to the Dolphins. They’re fully on the Tannehill bandwagon.
Coach Adam Gase is atop that bandwagon waving a big Ryan flag while professing his Ryan love as loud as his voice will carry. And the team believes new offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains can help Tannehill’s pocket presence. So that’s not it.
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The issue lies with Matt Moore.
It seems after seven seasons with the Dolphins — with all but one of those as the backup — Moore is done in Miami. He and the Dolphins are apparently headed for a divorce because, well, both sides currently feel a need for change.
A person with knowledge of Moore’s thinking says the quarterback, who is an unrestricted free agent this offseason, wants to explore his options to see if he might not be a better fit with another team.
Moore, 34 in August, is said to have been disappointed that he wasn’t given a chance to start when Tannehill was injured in training camp. Moore believed he had earned that right the previous season when Tannehill was injured the first time because he helped the Dolphins win two of their final three regular-season games and qualify for the playoffs.
But in August when Tannehill went down again, Moore took over the reins of the offense for precisely one day. And then it became clear to everyone that the Dolphins were pursuing Jay Cutler to be their new starter.
Moore, again relegated to a backup role, conducted himself like a good teammate when Cutler indeed signed with Miami. But when he was asked about not getting his chance, which he believed he’d earned, the usually affable Moore seemed to tighten up and go into company man speak.
“My role is what it is,” Moore said in late November and repeated on multiple occasions during the season. “When Ryan was here, I was the backup. When they signed Jay, who knows what’s going to happen, I became the backup again and it was defined. My role is what it is and I do my best to execute it, whatever it is. That’s the way I roll with this thing.”
Moore rolled on. But he didn’t love it.
And after a season in which backup quarterbacks took over in Minnesota and Philadelphia and took their teams to the playoffs — with the Eagles headed to the Super Bowl — Moore apparently wants to see if some team will give him a chance to fulfill that role without being surprised by a last-minute addition that will suddenly be slotted ahead of him.
The Dolphins, meanwhile, made their feelings about Moore clear in how they handled the situation last season. Yes, they appreciated Moore’s play in December 2016. Yes, they valued Moore as the backup.
But they didn’t trust Moore to stay healthy 16 games had he been anointed the starter. They thought Cutler was simply a better long-term option.
The team wasn’t wrong, by the way.
When Moore got his chance to play, he did struggle to stay healthy. He started against Baltimore, took a beating and came out of the game with various physical issues. He started again at New England and after seven sacks was nursing multiple ailments including a foot injury.
Moore was inactive the final five weeks of the season. He finished the year with four touchdowns, five interceptions and a quarterback rating of 75.6. The Dolphins lost both games he started.
So the looming quarterback search, already under way, is meant to immediately replace Moore. And it will be interesting to see exactly how the Dolphins undertake the assignment.
The easy answer is they could draft a quarterback and make him the backup. That has previously been the approach by multiple teams such as the Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Rams, Buffalo Bills, Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs and others.
But the Dolphins might feel, to quote a former coach, queasy about going that route, especially if the rookie quarterback they add isn’t deemed ready to play his first season. In that case, the team might not be adding just a young quarterback but a veteran as well.
Might that not reopen the door to Moore? That’s not the plan now. A reunion would be an upset and signal both sides looked and neither found a better option.
But regardless of how it plays out, the Dolphins will find themselves quarterback shopping this offseason.
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero