Will Matt Moore start Sunday?
Sometimes a pronounced sigh says as much all of Webster’s words.
Take Matt Moore and his brief Q&A with Dolphins scribes Wednesday.
Moore’s time in Miami has, by and large, spent swallowing pride.
He lost a three-way quarterback competition to Ryan Tannehill in 2012. He was passed over for Jay Cutler when Tannehill got hurt in August. And yet, he has never made waves.
But that does not mean this existence has been easy — particularly when he gets asked about it most every time he talks to reporters.
Take, for instance, this exchange Wednesday. A few hours after Adam Gase declined to name a Week 12 starter, even with Cutler in the concussion protocol, he was asked if he accepts his role as Miami’s perpetual No. 2.
His terse response:
“I fulfill my role the best way I know how,” Moore said, before lightening up a bit. “That was an answer right there.”
But the follow-up question — Do you tire of this back and forth? — prompted a deep sigh, which seemed to come from a place of exasperation.
“Listen, my role is what it is and when Ryan was here, I was the backup,” Moore said. “When they signed Jay, there was ‘who knows what’s going to happen?’ I became the backup again. It was defined. My role is what it is and I do my best to execute it, whatever it is. It’s just the kind of roll with this thing.”
Left unsaid was a question Moore cannot ask, but the rest of us can: What will it take for the Dolphins to give him a shot in more than spot duty?
The Dolphins have arguably the league’s worst offense, and Cutler has been the quarterback for most of the bad. He was dreadful in the first half of Sunday’s loss to the Buccaneers, throwing three first-half interceptions before the Dolphins pulled him at halftime due the concussion.
Moore took Cutler’s place, and had perhaps his best stretch in a Miami uniform. Moore threw for 282 yards in two quarters, and rallied the team all of the way back from a two-touchdown deficit, only to watch the defense allow a game-winning drive on Tampa’s last possession.
Anyone with even a superficial understanding of football saw the offense operated better with Moore than it did with Cutler. And Gase has far more than a passing knowledge of the game.
That’s why, despite leaving the door open to playing Cutler on Sunday even if he misses the entire week of practice, the Dolphins are leaning toward starting Moore even if Cutler is cleared medically, the Miami Herald has learned.
So why are Dolphins coaches reluctant to fully endorse Moore publicly? The most obvious explanation is they believe Cutler is convincingly the best player.
But here’s another answer: Some (if not most) would see that as an admission that their decision to lure Cutler out of retirement with a $10 million contract was a mistake.
Offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen, asked Wednesday why the offense was so much better under Moore than Cutler against the Bucs, gave an answer that perfectly captured this phenomenon:
“I don’t know why. We played better. We just played better. … The first half is about as bad of ball as we’ve played. I think it was all around. It wasn’t just the quarterback. It was some other things, too. Matt didn’t do everything right. He did give us a chance to get back in the thing, and gave us a chance, but we missed some red zone opportunities.”
Left unsaid: Cutler threw an end-zone interception in his first of two red-zone trips Sunday.
Now, if Moore gets the call Sunday and plays as poorly as he did in his other start of the year — Miami’s 40-0 loss at Baltimore — he will only have himself to blame if the Dolphins again bench him. But if he plays well, he might force Gase to make a difficult decision for the season’s final five games.
“If you’re in there to play, my goal is to execute and win games,” Moore said. “Whatever happens after that, happens. It’s out of my control. But preparation, studying, executing, winning, those are the things I’m focused on.”