Stocked at quarterback, Miami Dolphins move on from Brandon Doughty
The Dolphins placed Brandon Doughty on waivers today, ending his two-year run as their practice squad quarterback. The move frees up Doughty to look elsewhere for playing time, which appeared unlikely with Miami.
Doughty, 26, was the team’s seventh-round draft pick in 2016 and never made it onto the active roster.
When Ryan Tannehill went down in 2016, the Dolphins brought in free agent T.J. Yates as the backup to Matt Moore. When they needed an emergency option again last year, they called David Fales.
Going into the upcoming season, the team has Tannehill entrenched as the starter with Fales and recently signed Brock Osweiler competing to be his backup. Fales appears to be the frontrunner for that spot, and Osweiler, despite his struggles, has played in 42 career games.
It’s also possible Miami will draft a quarterback in one of the higher rounds this year.
That setup wouldn’t have left much of an opportunity for Doughty, and given the timing of this move, it has the appearance that he wanted to be turned loose to find another team.
Doughty has one season remaining of practice squad eligibility.
In four preseason games last year, he had two touchdown passes against two interceptions and completed 19 of 40 attempts for 263 yards. He played extensively in the final game at Minnesota, completing 8 of 17 throws for 106 yards.
Doughty was a South Florida kid who grew up rooting for the Dolphins and played at North Broward Prep. He started three years at Western Kentucky and earned back-to-back Conference USA MVP honors before being drafted.
DAVIE—Last December, the Dolphins weren’t sure about Brandon Doughty. Now they have to decide if anything’s changed in the past year.
With Jay Cutler going out with a chest injury, Matt Moore is Miami’s only healthy quarterback. The team has just three days before its road game against Baltimore, leaving little time to rush a veteran free agent into the backup spot. If Cutler is out, as expected, promoting Doughty from the practice squad is the simplest answer.
Doughty, 26, came to the Dolphins as a seventh-round pick out of Western Kentucky last year and spent the entire season on the practice squad. He grew up in South Florida and played at North Broward Prep in Coconut Creek before going to the Hilltoppers.
Doughty was one of five quarterbacks in camp this summer and spent most of the preseason battling David Fales. Fales, who did not have practice squad eligibility, was released and remains a free agent.
Fales completed 27 of 55 passes, put up 424 yards and had five touchdown passes with one interception in four preseason games this year. Against the Vikings in the final game, he was 12 for 20 with 193 yards and touchdown passes to Jakeem Grant, Mitch Matthews and MarQueis Gray.
As he packed up his locker that night in Minneapolis, Fales believed he had a chance to make the roster as Miami’s third quarterback. Ultimately, Gase felt comfortable going with two.
Fales has appeared in an NFL game before. When Cutler was injured while with Chicago last year, the Bears turned to Fales for a few plays in their final game. Fales went 2 for 5 for 22 yards against the Vikings, playing behind Matt Barkley.
If the Dolphins don’t add a quarterback, be it Doughty or another free agent, they’d be counting on Gray or receiver Jarvis Landry as their contingency if Moore gets hurt Thursday in Baltimore.
Miami was in a pinch at quarterback last December, too, after losing Ryan Tannehill to a knee injury. Rather than go with Doughty, the team brought in journeyman T.J. Yates out of free agency and he remained Moore’s backup the rest of the season. Yates even got a snap in the playoff game.
“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed,” Doughty said when Miami signed Yates. “I’m a competitor, man. I want to help this team out. But I understand the process and I understand what they’re trying to do bringing in a guy that has playoff experience, so I’ll be here to support him and help him as much as I can.”
In four preseason games this year, Doughty completed 19 of 40 passes for 263 yards and had two touchdowns and two interceptions. He had a 33-yard touchdown to Leonte Carroo and a 69-yarder to Grant.
Doughty’s most extended run came in the finale, when he went 8 for 17 for 106 yards against Minnesota.
He was a three-year starter at Western Kentucky and was Conference USA’s MVP each of his final two seasons. In total, Doughty posted a 68.6 completion percentage, threw for 12,855 yards and 111 touchdown passes against 34 interceptions in 43 games.
When Dolphins coach Adam Gase met with the media Friday afternoon for his final briefing before Sunday’s wild-card game at Pittsburgh, quarterback Matt Moore’s name was never mentioned.
If you want evidence in the kind of confidence Moore has earned over these past three weeks, look no further. No alarm bells, no last-minute check on nerves. Just business as usual.
And, truth be told, it is business as usual — not only for the Dolphins, but around the NFL, as these playoffs begin. A 16-week season has taken its toll on quarterbacks through injury or lack of production. Suddenly, teams that thought they had their quarterback situation settled are having to make a change, some on the eve of their most important game.
“It happens every year,” said T.J. Yates, who in the blink of an eye has become the Dolphins’ backup QB.
Veteran Dolfans might recall something to this effect taking place in 1972, but more recent NFL history is littered with names such as Tarvaris Jackson, Randall Cunningham and Sean Salisbury — all fill-in examples from the Minnesota Vikings’ playoff appearances alone. Not to mention Tom Brady, Trent Dilfer and Kurt Warner as Super Bowl-winning QBs who at points of their respective seasons were not the starters.
Yates speaks from experience. As a rookie, he was thrust into the role of starting quarterback of the Houston Texans and even helped them to their first-ever postseason victory.
This year, the Dolphins aren’t alone. Connor Cook will make the first start of his NFL career Saturday when Oakland plays the Texans, who themselves are poised to un-bench Brock Osweiler because of a concussion suffered by Tom Savage. And when Cowboys training camp opened, nobody expected Tony Romo to get hurt and for some rookie named Dak Prescott to alter the future of that franchise.
The Dolphins gave the freshly signed Yates the locker next to Moore’s, so the two have swapped stories of what it’s like to go from holding a clipboard to holding a team’s future in their hands. Their situations have parallels. Both had several starts under their belt before the playoffs. Yates was comforted knowing he had a strong defense and a quality running back, Arian Foster. Moore, of course, has Dolphins MVP Jay Ajayi. Just listen to defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, the former Texan who has had a close-up view of both ex-backups embarking on the playoffs:
“It definitely worked out,” Mitchell said, of Yates’ pinch-hitting. “It says a lot about the team that you have, the guys in the locker room that are encouraging your teammates. We went into that game and we had all the confidence in the world, especially when our head coach had so much confidence — Gary Kubiak has so much confidence in T.J., he’s the one that reassured us.”
“Nobody is second-guessing themselves when we’ve got a guy like Matt Moore in there,” Mitchell said. “He’s done a great job.”
For all the whining you hear about a lack of quality quarterbacks in this league, there can be no overstating the value of a dependable backup. And no organization can say it learned that lesson any better than the Miami Dolphins.
Of course, that’s a reference to when Don Shula’s insistence on investing in a whopping $100,000 insurance policy in backup Earl Morrall was vital toward the 17-0 season after Bob Griese broke his ankle and didn’t return until midway through the postseason. Shula knew what he was doing, because in 1968, Morrall filled in when Johnny Unitas was hurt in preseason and led the Colts, coached by Shula, to the Super Bowl. Two years later, Morrall again subbed for the injured Unitas during the Super Bowl and helped Baltimore win.
And that doesn’t even take into account the Clipboard Hall of Fame performance in the 1981 playoffs when Don Strock replaced David Woodley and went 29 of 43 for 403 yards and four touchdowns in Miami’s classic 41-38 overtime loss to San Diego.
Fast-forward to 2001 and how many Patriots fans thought their season was over when Drew Bledsoe suffered a serious chest injury and the Pats were forced to go with Tom Brady? Was the sense of dread any different in Pittsburgh, when the 2004 savior turned out to be Ben Roethlisberger, or in St. Louis, when former stockboy Kurt Warner embarked on a fairtytale 1999 season? Of course, for each of those examples, there also are plenty of cases such as Rex Grossman, who stepped in for Kyle Orton on the 2005 Bears and was 17 of 41 in a loss to the Panthers.
Yates’ experience in 2011 consisted of five regular-season games, “so it’s not exactly like the guy in Oakland, where his first start ever is going to be in the playoffs,” he said.
Yates was called upon after Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart were hurt. He was an efficient 11 of 20 for 159 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions (a 97.7 rating) in a 31-10 victory over Cincinnati in the first round before throwing three interceptions and losing 20-13 to Baltimore the next week.
“The first start of the regular season, I was a little more nervous, because once I had six games under my belt going into the playoffs, I definitely was a lot more calm going in there,” Yates said. “I kind of had more grasp of what we were doing offensively.”
If he were to give the Raiders’ Cook advice?
“Study your butt off and once you get to game day, just let it loose and go play football,” Yates said. “He’s going to have nerves. It’s good to have nerves. Once you get that out of your system, just go out there and play football, because it’s all the same.”
The Dolphins certainly hope so. After five years of inactivity, Moore has exceeded expectations, throwing eight touchdown passes against three interceptions. His passer rating (105.6) actually is better than Tannehill’s (93.5). He’s 2-1.
Although Moore is a nine-year veteran, this will be his first playoff start.
“It’s an unbelievable opportunity,” Moore said. “Some guys go a lot and some don’t get those chances. This is my second time ever being a part of a team that has gone to the playoffs, so I’m excited. I know the guys are excited.”
DAVIE–The playoffs will be a new experience for most of the Dolphins‘ roster, but a few of them have been there before.
Miami has three Super Bowl champions in the locker room. Cornerback Byron Maxwell won XLVIII with Seattle’s Legion of Boom, Jermon Bushrod was on the Saints team that beat the Colts at Hard Rock Stadium for XLIV and Spencer Paysinger helped take XLVI.
DAVIE—Knowing the Dolphins needed another quarterback on their roster this week, rookie Brandon Doughty spent the past few days hoping it’d be him.
It wasn’t. Miami bypassed Doughty, a rookie who’s been on their practice squad all season, in favor of veteran T.J. Yates. Yates has been in the league since 2011 and has two postseason games on his record.