Dolphins backup quarterback Matt Moore said something that caught the ear after the preseason game the other night.
“You got to play with trust,” he said. “It works a lot better with the trust.”
He was referring to a his 54-yard completion and his faith that receiver Damian Williams would be in the right spot to catch it. But Moore could as easily have used the same words to describe the quarterback position in general as it applies to all three of our state’s NFL teams and to all but one of Florida’s seven Football Bowl Subdivision programs.
It’s good for quarterbacks to trust their receivers.
It’s also nice when teams — and fans — can trust their quarterback.
There used to be a TV game show (so long ago not even I remember it) called Who Do You Trust. Well, a half-century later that’s a reasonable question hovering over the QB position just about everywhere in the state you look on the eve of the season.
The exception, of course, is Tallahassee, where reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston gives defending national champion and preseason No. 1 Florida State optimum stability and excellence at the one essential position. If you’re still making jokes about stolen crab legs, it’s probably to mask your jealousy. Every other college program in America and a sizable number of pro teams would swap their starter for Winston right now, no questions asked.
Look elsewhere in the state, though, and be reminded how fitting it sometimes is that “quarterback” starts with the same phoneme as “question” or “quandary.”
Do you trust your quarterback? How much?
It’s a fair question for Dolphins and Hurricanes fans right now.
A pretty good definition of trust not yet established is that opinions are still fluid and can change by the game. So it is that Dolfans likely trust Ryan Tannehill a little less today than before the last game, when he threw an interception and put up only three points against a bad Dallas defense.
Tannehill described his pick as a “stupid decision, stupid throw.” He also accepted blame for overthrowing Mike Wallace on their one attempted deep hookup. The long ball continues to find Tannehill lacking. Moore seems to throw a better deep pass. That doesn’t make him a better quarterback, but it does make him an enticing option should the starter struggle.
This is not to foment a quarterback controversy where none exists. But what does exist is the feeling Tannehill still must fully prove himself. He occupies that gray area in which both doubts and benefit of doubt are justified. We have seen his progress; now we must see that continue into the playoffs.
Across town the Hurricanes have given the ball to a true freshman, Brad Kaaya. Placing your program in raw, inexperienced hands defines the great unknown. It is terrifying and exciting all at once. Hope and anxiety are dueling emotions.
“Highly recruited” means nothing now. Kaaya is a blank slate. He might become an exclamation point for UM, but every one of those starts out as a question mark.
I’m not forgetting or ignoring Florida International University.
FIU starting QB E.J. Hilliard, homegrown out of Liberty City and Miami Northwestern High, is not the picture-less frame Kaaya is, but he’s still a question as he begins his junior season. We have a decent sketch of Hilliard; he has started 10 games and has thrown 226 passes across two seasons. But now we wait to see him respond when the job is his alone.
To the north in Boca Raton, FIU’s Conference USA running mate, Florida Atlantic, has what seems like relatively strong proof at quarterback in junior Jacquez Johnson, who is coming off a season in which he passed for 12 TDs and ran for 10 in his first season starting. But was that a fluke? Can he prove he can pass as well as he can run?
Look elsewhere in the state for more quarterback issues and doubts:
Lots of issues
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are recycling Josh McCown while they wait to find out if Mike Glennon is up to the quarterback-of-the-future mantel.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have Chad Henne minding the job, but only until the millisecond No. 3 overall draft pick Blake Bortles of UCF proves ready to show if he’s all that.
What the Dolphins think (but aren’t yet quite sure) they have in Tannehill — the long-term solution — the Bucs and Jags hope they have waiting in the wings in Glennon and Bortles.
To the colleges and American Athletic Conference, South Florida and UCF both have wishes in lieu of proof at QB.
The South Florida Bulls are going with sophomore Mike White as the least-bad option among slim pickings. He has a bit of experience, throwing 175 passes and starting five games last year, but a 53.1 completion percentage and three TDs against nine interceptions betray confidence.
The UCF Knights are giving the ball and the onus of replacing Bortles to redshirt freshman Pete DiNovo, whose first pass attempt this Saturday will be his first college pass attempt ever.
Finally: the Florida Gators and the question of whether Jeff Driskel is up to the rigors of the Southeastern Conference. After a promising 2012, Driskel’s season last year was a disappointing one lost to a broken leg. How well he comes back and fares against the nation’s top competition might determine whether coach Will Muschamp keeps his job.
Across the state, college or pro, when it comes to starting quarterbacks only Winston gets a pass.
With everybody else it’s gradations of Who Do You Trust, and how much?