Armando Salguero

The reasons David Fales might win the Miami Dolphins backup QB job

David Fales completed 29 passes in his only appearance last season.
David Fales completed 29 passes in his only appearance last season. adiaz@miamiherald.com

The last pass anyone saw David Fales throw in an NFL game was an interception. It ended a fourth-quarter Miami Dolphins rally in the 2017 finale. It ended the team's losing season on an all too familiar losing note. And it seemingly ended any chance Fales had of figuring in coach Adam Gase's future quarterback plans.

All that is definitely true considering Gase stood in front of reporters on Thursday and said that game, a 22-16 loss, helped him make up his mind about Fales.

"I love the fact that we were able to give him that last game of the season," Gase said with no apology.

But something strange happened to Gase's opinion of Fales after watching that game.

"I was impressed with some of the things that he did in that game," Gase said. "It’s a lot of the stuff that you see in practice but you don’t know unless you get him in a game. The way that his anticipation is, the way his pocket presence is, he’s one of those guys that sometimes he makes plays and you’re not really sure how he did that."

What we saw from Fales that last game -- including the interception -- was on its face unremarkable. His 29 completions in 42 attempts for 265 yards, one touchdown and the pick translated to an ordinary 83.9 quarterback rating.

The interception with 56 seconds to play was a killer. It came as the Dolphins, on the Buffalo 48 yard line, were driving for what could have been the winning score against a team desperate to win to make the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

But the interception that seemingly turned Miami's attention to an offseason in which the Dolphins admitted they wanted quarterback help, actually helped Gase circle back to Fales.

Because that interception wasn't on Fales.

On that play, amid the chaos of a late rally, veteran receiver Kenny Stills found himself before the ball was snapped telling relatively new tight end A.J. Derby what to do on the play. But then when the ball was snapped, Stills failed to carry out his own assignment.

He was supposed to run a seam route inside the safety. He cut out instead.

Fales placed the ball exactly where Stills was supposed to break. On the inside. But the next guy in that area Still was supposed to occupy was a Buffalo safety Jordan Poyer.

Interception.

So this is what I recently asked a person familiar with what is supposed to happen on that play: Isn't it the quarterback's job to not throw that pass in there if his receiver went out instead of in?

And this is where a veteran NFL man looks at the nerd reporter and curses his ignorance in his mind while answering respectfully out of his mouth:

"Not if [the quarterback] throws with any anticipation."

Yeah, um, NFL teams want quarterbacks that throw with anticipation. And they want quarterbacks that deliver the ball where the receiver is supposed to be.

And sometimes when those quarterbacks do exactly what they're supposed to, it still doesn't work for reasons fans typically don't have explained to them.

The Dolphins, meanwhile, know exactly what was supposed to happen that play. So they don't see Fales' work against Buffalo as a failure by another quarterback who will never be Dan Marino.

Take that interception away and even if you call the pass an incomplete instead of the completion it should have been, Fales would see his QB rating rise to 96.1 for that game -- his only extended NFL playing time.

Give Fales the completion, on the other hand, and the Dolphins have a first down at Buffalo's 30 yard line with 50 seconds to complete the comeback. Promising.

That's the reason the Dolphins are not giving up on David Fales.

And, by the way, "are not giving up on Fales" is something of an understatement because Dolphins coaches are going to give him a chance to compete with Brock Osweiler for the backup job behind Ryan Tannehill, according to Gase.

I'm told the team really likes the way Fales processes the game.

I'm told Fales comes to the line of scrimmage and snaps the football with a plan for the play.

I'm told Fales masters the largest volume of calls of possibly any quarterback on the team, which means he can do multiple things at the line of scrimmage.

"The game is a little slower for him," Gase said. "It’s fun to call plays when you’ve got a guy like that where you just know that ball is coming out."

Gase pauses a beat and then, perhaps thinking of that fateful interception, he adds ...

"You just better be in the right spot.”

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero
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