The PhinPhanatic staff will recap each Miami Dolphins player in 2016 as we await the start of NFL free agency. Today, we highlight Miami’s veteran backup quarterback, Matt Moore.
Matt Moore is the Miami Dolphins longest tenured quarterback on the active roster. However, 2016 was the first time we really got to see Moore since he was the starter in 2011. Ryan Tannehill has been Miami’s starting quarterback ever since he was drafted in 2012. As a result, Moore has only appeared in preseason games and in limited action during the regular season in the past five years. That all changed though in Week 14.
After Tannehill sprained his MCL late in a home game against the Arizona Cardinals, Moore was called into action, and was greeted by a sea of cheers from the home crowd. Moore has always been a fan favorite in Miami, and his play on this specific day showed us why. Even though Moore had barely seen the field in five years, he showed the poise of a great quarterback. On the final drive of the game, Moore took the offense down the field to setup for a game-winning field goal, highlighted by a 29-yard completion to Kenny Stills inside the red zone.
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The victory helped to keep Miami’s playoff hopes alive. It was evident after the game that Tannehill would likely miss the remainder of the season. Therefore, it was up to Matt Moore to get the Dolphins to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. That task stood with three games remaining on the schedule, all against divisional foes.
After defeating Arizona in dramatic fashion, Miami was scheduled to take on the Jets in New York. Odds were against the Dolphins for reasons being that it was in the cold, and in December, a time of year when Miami historically does not play well. Moore shut out any possibility of a Jets upset by throwing for four touchdown passes in the game, earning him AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors in Week 15.
Of course, the argument after that was that it was the Jets, and you’re supposed to beat the Jets. A bigger test was to come the following week with a trip to Buffalo. The temperature was the same, but the opponent was a bigger challenge for the veteran. Stakes were also higher since a victory combined with a Denver loss would clinch Miami’s first playoff berth in eight seasons. On this day, Jay Ajayi would shine above all else, but Moore showed his resiliency as well by throwing a couple touchdown passes. Miami would edge out a victory in overtime, 34-31, and after a Denver loss the following day, the Dolphins were officially in the playoffs!
Since Miami had already clinched a playoff berth, the regular season finale against New England didn’t quite have the same appeal. Playoff seeding was still at large, however, so Miami did have something to play for. Against the Patriots, Moore completed over 70% of his passes and threw 2 TD passes, but the Dolphins got off to a rough start in this game, and were unable to recover.
The good news was that the loss could not be put on Moore as the Dolphins made mistakes in other areas that essentially lost them the game. Dolphins fans felt confident in Moore enough to believe that a win in Pittsburgh was not out of the question. Unfortunately, that did not come to fruition.
Moore’s start against Pittsburgh was his first ever start in the playoffs, and for a brief stint, it showed. He actually completed season-highs in both completion percentage (80.6) and passing yards (289) against Pittsburgh, but costly turnovers prevented any chance of a Dolphins victory. Miami had a chance to cut the Steelers lead to within 7 right before the half, at worst 11 with a field goal, but Moore coughed up a costly fumble to eliminate any momentum. After halftime, Moore coughed up another fumble, and was then picked off on Miami’s next possession.
In all, Moore was the cause of three turnovers on nine plays. Miami’s defense was unable to stop Pittsburgh all afternoon, and the game would eventually get out of reach. Nonetheless, Moore had a terrific outing down the stretch of the season, and showed why Miami’s management team continued to keep the veteran around.
Moore had signed a two-year deal back in March 2016 to stay with Miami. He will receive a $1.75 million base salary in 2017. There have been many to criticize (myself included) the Dolphins management for not signing or drafting a top quarterback prospect that could come in, and at least, give Tannehill some competition. Based on Moore’s play at the end of the season, we may see those talks die down some for the time being.
Moore will be 33 in August, but he is one of the better backup quarterbacks in the league. Some would even claim he’s better than Tannehill in some areas, particularly with the deep-pass. A quarterback controversy is not about to transpire in South Florida, but keeping Moore around for at least one more year is great for the Dolphins. Him and Tannehill get along great, and in case Tannehill suffers another lengthy injury in 2017, Moore could be asked again to lead the Dolphins to their second consecutive playoff berth.