MIAMI GARDENS — It is an extreme longshot, almost so unlikely to happen it’s not worth discussing, but we will.
If the Miami Dolphins are to make the playoffs, despite a 4-6 record after a disheartening home loss to the hapless Bucs, it is more likely that magical, spirited run would be led by Matt Moore than Jay Cutler.
Surely Cutler has tried his best and played through broken ribs. Surely Cutler has wanted his legacy to have a different ending.
But it just doesn’t feel we’re headed in that direction.
We do not know if Cutler, who was evaluated for a concussion near the end of the first half and did not return, will be available to play next Sunday at the New England Patriots.
It is my belief that Moore should start that game, either way, and moving forward, until such time that playoff elimination has occurred. At that moment, there could be consideration to letting David Fales or Brandon Doughty close out the season.
We will not second-guess the decision to sign Jay Cutler to a one-year, $10 millon deal, because we did not first-guess it then. Sure, we knew there were risks. Did we really think Cutler would suddenly develop into a quarterback displaying superior mechanics?
Did we really think Cutler was going to develop into a quarterback who makes great decisions and throws the ball accurately, with any consistency?
It was worth a flier due to the familiarity and the arm strength. On Jay Cutler, these Dolphins got what they got and they can’t get upset.
We’ve seen enough.
So why not take a shot with Moore, to see if that spark he offers can turn into fire? Why not see if Moore can lead the type of unexpected playoff sprint Ryan Tannehill triggered last season, and yes, Moore finished.
“My role is the backup and when it’s time to play it’s time to play,” Moore said after Sunday’s game.
But Moore entered the game with Miami trailing 20-7 and promptly led three scoring drives to tie the game, capped by a 61-yard bomb to Kenny Stills to tie the game at 20 with three minutes left.
Moore brought all the things he’s always brought — energy, emotion, confidence positive karma.
Hard Rock Stadium had life.
Dolphins players have seemed to hedge away from being too complimentary toward Moore because any remark could be parsed as some sort of slight toward Cutler.
That doesn’t have to be the case.
Cutler had a nice recent three-game stretch, completing seven touchdowns over eight quarters.
But even Gase couldn’t confirm after this game that Cutler, when healthy, will be his quarterback for the remainder of the season. I know this because I asked him.
“Would you like to go back to (Cutler) this season when healthy?”
“We’ll kind of see where (Cutler’s) at,” Gase said.
“But healthy, Jay Cutler is your guy?”
“I want to get through tomorrow and see how he’s feeling,” Gase said.
Gase brought Cutler here. The two are close. It hasn’t worked out well as Gase and Cutler would have liked. Frankly, not much has worked out as well as Gase and the Dolphins would have liked this season.
And, to be clear, it’s not all Cutler’s fault.
Cutler threw three first-half interceptions on Sunday and at least one of them was DeVante Parker’s fault, as he failed to haul in a catchable pass. There was also an apparent miscommunication and/or Parker trip in the end zone, leading to another interception.
Cutler was fooled on another interception, intended for Landry. And we all recall how all emotion and life was sucked out of the Dolphins with a Cutler interception just prior to halftime on a Monday Night Football game at Carolina last week.
Cutler just has not seemed to deliver positive mojo. The team seems to react and respond better to Moore than they do to Cutler, and I don’t think it’s just because the team is often trailing when he enters the game.
I think it’s because Moore has strong leadership skills. I think it’s because the players know and trust and respect Moore.
“Who he is as a guy, it pumps you up when he gets in because he’s gonna give you his all,” Dolphins running back Damien Williams said in the locker room.
If Gase were to make a move to Moore, it wouldn’t really be all that controversial, since Cutler was knocked out with a concussion evaluation and he’s been playing with broken ribs, and he entered the game ranked 22nd in the NFL in passer rating.
Gase really doesn’t have to commit to anything. He could wait and see how Moore performs at New England, much the same way it was much easier for Gase to go back to Cutler against Oakland after Moore laid an egg at Baltimore on a Thursday night.
Gase conceded that when Moore played on Sunday, “it was a lot of good.” But in the next breath, he added, “A couple things we would have liked to have happened differently, especially in the red area. He executed as well as he could. A couple of things to clean up.”
Consider that Moore had just gone 17-for-28 for 282 yards with a passer rating of 106.5 yards. Moore led a comeback, again, as he did here against the Jets, earlier this season, and he drove the ball down the field with confidence, something Cutler hasn’t done all season.
It just doesn’t feel that Gase is ready to go forward with Moore. Of course, Gase had a chance to do that before this season, and passed, turning to Cutler, presumably for this season and this season only. That seems a certainty now.
Maybe in the end, it doesn’t really matter. Maybe the Dolphins finish 5-11 or 6-10 or 7-9 whether Cutler or Moore is under center down the stretch. But when Moore entered the game after halftime, on Sunday, with the team trailing 20-7, I felt it had a better chance to win the game than it would have if he was not entering the game.
After this game, Moore said, “There’s no magic potion,” available to turn the season.
But look at how he performed, with little to no practice reps this week, and literally five minutes advance notice in the locker.
“When the time comes you’ve got to make the guys feel, ‘We’re going to be OK.'” Moore said. “You’ve got to roll.”
Hardly anything has rolled right for the Dolphins this season. It’s a longshot. It’s so very unlikely.
But I feel if there is any magic left in this Dolphins season, it would come with Moore under center, not Cutler.