DAVIE, Fl. – Quarterbacks Matt Moore and David Garrard are playing the game, and we’re not talking about football.
The game, for these purposes, means lying in the weeds, doing and saying all the right things, maybe even laughing to themselves a bit while Miami Dolphins fans and media fawn over rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
But when training camp starts late next month, Moore and Garrard, the veterans, will pounce on the starting job like hungry lions. They’ll display nuance and flair while running first-year coach Joe Philbin’s new offense.
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And they’ll likely chew up the youngster. Watch and see.
Why do I say that? I know the judging criteria. I heard what Philbin said during this week’s three-day minicamp. He was asked about the quarterback battle.
“I’m more of a guy that coaches on instinct, and what your gut tells you, what your eyes tell you,” Philbin said.
That usually favors the older, more experienced guys.
So unless something unexpected happens between now and the Sept. 9 season opener at Houston, expect Moore, the 27-year-old, sixth-year pro, or Garrard, the 34-year-old, ninth-year player, to be Miami’s starting quarterback on opening day. And expect Tannehill to mount a courageous, but losing battle to be the starter.
You recall Tannehill. He’s the strapping kid who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs in at 222 pounds. He has a rocket for a right arm. You should see him throw the deep ball and the 15-yard out. You’d nod your head in approval. Guaranteed.
Tannehill is the most fascinating player at all of Miami’s minicamps, including the three-day session that concluded Thursday.
Tannehill, a two-year starter at Texas A&M, was taken by Miami with the No. 8 pick of the draft. It was a pick that lent itself to lots of second-guessing. Miami hadn’t used a first-round pick on a quarterback since 1983 when it selected Dan Marino. Anytime you invoke that name, heads turn in South Florida. That’s why Tannehill is such a big deal. Miami is dying for a high-quality quarterback, and the organization is banking on Tannehill being that guy. That’s why he gets all the attention.
And Moore and Garrard, a couple of genuinely classy guys, are more than happy to play along. If you talk about Tannehill knowing this offense because Miami’s offensive coordinator, Mike Sherman, was Tannehill’s coach at Texas A&M, Moore and Garrard will feign deep concern.
They’ll even tell you how Tannehill, the wet-behind-the-ears kid, helps them with certain aspects of the offense. But as they’re smiling and complimenting the youngster, you also get the feeling they’re doing their homework in bulk, watching film in ways Tannehill doesn’t even know exist.
The same goes for their snaps with the first team in practice. Each quarterback had a day with the first team in this minicamp. But listen to Garrard talk about his attitude toward his repetitions.
“When I’m getting the reps with the (first-team), I want to make sure it is productive, it is crisp and sharp and I am moving quickly in my drops and getting the ball out of my hands and all those things,” he said. “But even when I’m with the (second-team), I want to look just as sharp.”
Moore, voted Miami’s MVP after posting a 6-6 record last season, and Garrard, who missed last year with neck/back surgery, are competitive. This chance is more pressing for them than Tannehill. He’s almost assured of being in the NFL next season. That’s not the case for the older guys.
Just as importantly, Moore, once a starter in Carolina, and Garrard, a five-year starter in Jacksonville, also listen to their coach, who is proving to be a take-in-all-the-evidence type of guy.
Philbin, who spent the past few years developing Pro Bowl quarterback Aaron Rodgers while serving as Green Bay’s offensive coordinator, understands Tannehill has to develop further to become a viable NFL starter.
“I like the development he’s made,” Philbin said. “But I don’t think we really know yet.”
Tannehill has time to learn and grow into his role with Miami. For Moore and Garrard, the future is now. This is a great chance for them to show the entire NFL they can handle being a full-time starter, someone an organization can rely on. Again. Both have had such chances previously in their careers.
Not many people believe either Moore or Garrard are the right guy to lead the Dolphins into the future. In fact, no one in South Florida is interested in seeing them as the starter next season. No one. Next year, it’s Tannehill’s job. This year, it’s anybody’s job. Everybody knows that.
Everybody also knows if the quarterback competition among Tannehill, Moore and Garrard is even close, Tannehill likely gets the starting job. Moore and Garrard have to far outshine him in training camp. Count on that happening.