$10 million sure didn’t buy Dolphins much with Jay Cutler

 

It was a nice round number back in August when Jay Cutler signed for $10 million to provide the Miami Dolphins with one season of competent quarterbacking.

Easy to remember. Fairly easy to swallow, since it was Stephen Ross’ money and not ours, and since Ryan Tannehill shockingly was out of the season.

Also, $10 million in “special money” is what Jeffrey Loria spent for the one-year rental of Hall of Fame catcher Pudge Rodriguez, a key figure in the old Florida Marlins’ 2003 World Series championship run. That worked out pretty well.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler on the sidelines in the first quarter as the Miami Dolphins host the Buffalo Bills at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday, December 31, 2017. (Allen Eyestone, Palm Beach Post)

Now that Miami’s 6-10 season has ended, however, there are many ways to show what a waste Cutler’s signing was in a league where journeyman quarterbacks play, and sometimes win, for so much less.

The Minnesota Vikings, for instance, earned a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs at 13-3. Their quarterback Case Keenum, signed in March to provide depth behind Sam Bradford, is working on a 2017 salary of $2 million.

Other quarterbacks in the NFL playoffs either because of injuries or because their team had no one else include Philadelphia’s Nick Foles ($1.6 million) the Rams’ Jared Goff ($6.4 million), Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles ($6.57 million), Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota ($6.6 million) and Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor ($9.7 million).

These numbers come from a Sports Illustrated report in August and are based on 2017 cap hits alone, not overall contract values.

So Cutler got a pretty good deal to come out of retirement at 34. And what did he give Miami in return? Pretty much what he’s given every other team that has started him.

In 14 starts Cutler had a quarterback rate of 80.8. That’s slightly below his career average of 85.3 but certainly in the ballpark. Jacoby Brissett, the tough Dwyer High School product who has started 17 games as an emergency quarterback in New England and Indianapolis, is a fair match for Cutler’s numbers in this category.

Cutler threw 14 interceptions for the Dolphins. His average was 16-plus over the seven previous seasons where he avoided missing major time due to injury.

By throwing 19 touchdowns in 2017 Cutler came in just under his average of 23 over those same seven seasons where he was mostly healthy.

Cutler averaged 190 passing yards per game in Miami. That’s 29th in the league and two spots ahead of Bears rookie Mitch Trubisky.

Overall, the Dolphins would have been better off with Tyrod Taylor, who always seems to beat the Dolphins and throws fewer picks. Buffalo’s got Taylor, however, and Buffalo is in the playoffs.

There are other ways to quantify how badly the Dolphins overpaid to get a quarterback that coach Adam Gase believed capable of saving the season, but here is the simplest way to state who Cutler is and who he’s always been.

With Miami Cutler was 6-8 as a starter. Over his career he is 74-79 in the regular season and 1-1 in the playoffs.

Nothing worth writing home about, or writing a big check, either.

[Does anybody out there want a piece of UCF now?]

[Jeter missed memo on how fed up Marlins fans are with fire sales]

[It’s OK to start wondering again if Tiger will play Honda Classic]

Remembering what Ricky did there, Dolphins shouldn’t fear a snowy day in Buffalo

Let it snow.

I’m saying that because absolutely anything can happen when a football game is played in wintry conditions, and because the Miami Dolphins are at the stage of the season where absolutely everything must happen in order for them to make the playoffs.

ORCHARD PARK, NY –  LeSean McCoy of the Buffalo Bills scores a touchdown to win the game during overtime against the Indianapolis Colts on December 10, 2017 at New Era Field in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

So when the Dolphins play at Buffalo on Sunday, a real mid-December treat from the NFL schedule-makers, might as well root for the kind of accumulation that turned last week’s game there between the Bills and the Colts into a snow-globe classic.

Light snow and sleet and eventually a full-on barrage of near whiteout conditions didn’t stop Ricky Williams from rushing for a career-best 228 yards at Buffalo on Dec. 1, 2002. That remains a Miami franchise record, and it came on a day when the temperature was 25 degrees at kickoff with a wind chill of 13.

The Dolphins’ first snap was a handoff from Ray Lucas to Ricky, who rumbled 45 yards around left end for a touchdown. The field was slippery, but so what?

In the third quarter Ricky cut loose right up the middle for a 55-yard score. The snow was building from a fine powder to a regular winter wonderland by then, but so what?

Truth is, Ricky would have had a chance at 250 total rushing yards if not for a leg injury that removed him from the game early in the fourth quarter.

“I was a little nervous about it,” Ricky said, admitting postgame that he had been checking the weather forecast on his cellphone all week. “It wasn’t bad, you know. It was just cold. Once you get past the mental part of it being cold and you being miserable, then it’s just football.”

Drew Bledsoe, the Bills’ quarterback at the time, clearly agreed. While Lucas was laboring on a 6-for-11 passing day with two fumbles, Bledsoe threw for 306 yards and three touchdowns. Included in there was a 73-yard touchdown pass from Bledsoe to Peerless Price, the play that put Buffalo ahead to stay in a 38-21 victory.

How would Kenyan Drake fare on an icy field if it comes to that on Sunday? That would be a new experience for the Dolphins’ new feature running back, who grew up in Georgia and played college ball at Alabama. All I know is that Buffalo’s LeSean McCoy rushed for 156 yards and the winning touchdown in overtime last week in snow up to his ankles, and it was his best game of the season.

In the end, there need be no particular advantage for either team, not when the Bills have an indoor practice facility to use on snowy weekdays.

So bring on the blizzard. The Dolphins and Bills are each trying to slip and slide their way into a wild-card playoff spot anyway. Might as well make it truly epic.

[A dream night for Jakeem Grant, but what about that TD drop?]

[It’s OK to start wondering if Tiger Woods will return to Honda Classic]

[Bobby considered FSU a destination job but Jimbo? Not so much]

A dream night for Jakeem, but not without the familiar frustrations

Jakeem Grant finally caught a touchdown pass on Monday night, the first of his NFL career, and people are still mad at him.

Because the guy is 5-feet-7 and 169 pounds, everything Jakeem ever does is going to be magnified, if that makes any sense. To me, it’s a wonder that he’s even in the league. Speed and elusiveness got him here as a specialty player, of course, but being so different means that he always is going to try a little too hard, too.

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jakeem Grant catches a touchdown pass over New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler in the third quarter at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on December 11, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

There was a play in Monday’s 27-20 upset of New England, for instance, where Jakeem decided not to return a punt but couldn’t keep himself from standing way too close to the bouncing ball as it settled to a rest. What was the point of that, when touching it would have made it a live ball? A New England player even took the opportunity to shove Grant toward the ball while everyone was just standing around and watching it on the ground.

Very poor instincts for a player who has returned 41 punts and 38 kickoffs in his career.

Two other spotlight moments from Monday night introduced a whole new category of exasperation for Jakeem the Dream.

The first was a spectacular leaping grab for a 25-yard touchdown over Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler, the hero of Super Bowl XLIX for his interception at the goal line with 20 seconds remaining. Jay Cutler made the ball a 50-50 proposition and Jakeem hauled it in for a 20-10 Miami lead. Not only was it Grant’s first career touchdown catch, it was his fifth NFL reception period.

In the fourth quarter, however, Jakeem had everyone gasping, Miami and New England fans alike, with a dropped ball that could have gone for a game-clinching touchdown bomb. Cutler put the ball on Jakeem’s fingertips, just slightly beyond comfortable reach, but instead of a transformational, two-touchdown night it turned into a major downer. Grant, who had trouble with drops last year as a rookie, said in the locker room that he reached out his arms too soon instead of running through the ball and catching up to it more easily.

I tried to cut the kid a little slack on Monday night, tweeting that because the ball didn’t arrive in perfect stride and required a stretch on the dead run it should not be classified as a truly horrendous drop. Many of the responses to that opinion were similarly sympathetic, signaling that tons of people are pulling for Jakeem to succeed, but here is one that probably resonates with most of you.

“C’mon dude, an NFL player should make that catch!”

Bottom line, Jakeem made himself available by sprinting past Butler and into the clear but failed to finish the play. At that point of the game, with New England on the ropes, it was the one play that everybody would have gone home talking about on Monday night, not only as Cutler’s fourth touchdown pass but as a Mark Duper moment for Jakeem.

Credit Adam Gase with finding ways to utilize Grant in this game, even lining him up in the backfield a time or two. You’ve got to find things that Bill Belichick and Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia haven’t planned for, and who game-plans for Jakeem?

I still wonder, however, if the former sixth-round draft pick will be on the Dolphins roster next season. Might as well keep using him as much as is practical in the final three regular-season games to explore all the possibilities.

One thing is for certain. With Jakeem Grant, a gadget player with the ongoing mission of becoming a reliable wide receiver, it will never be boring.

[It’s OK to start wondering again if Tiger Woods will play in Honda Classic]

[Bobby made FSU seem a dream destination but Jimbo? Not so much]

[Before Richt became available, UM interviewed Schiano and Mullen]

If you have the courage, here’s where Monday night’s lifeless defensive effort ranks in Dolphins history

I lack the precision to work for the Elias Sports Bureau statistical search team, and then there’s the  personal flaw of occasionally getting up from my desk to eat or sleep.

You can trust me, however, when I say that Monday night’s defensive showing by the Miami Dolphins was historically bad.

Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (93) chases Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) in the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

Carolina rolled up a franchise-record 548 yards in total offense in a 45-21 victory that Cam Newton didn’t even bother to finish. By hunting through a half century of Dolphins stats, I could find only seven games in which Miami allowed more yards, and three of those were in overtime.

Here’s the list of deadliest defensive efforts in Dolphins history.

622 yards allowed, 38-24 loss to New England in 2011

597 yards allowed, 38-34 loss to New York Jets in 1988

593 yards allowed, 31-28 loss to L.A. Rams in 1976

589 yards allowed, 34-31 OT loss to Buffalo in 2016

582 yards allowed, 35-31 loss to Buffalo in 1991

581 yards allowed, 51-45 OT loss to New York Jets in 1986

564 yards allowed, 41-38 playoff OT loss to San Diego to end 1981 season

548 yards allowed, 45-21 loss to Charlotte in 2017

Every game but Monday’s was a shootout, a competitive game, an NFL happening.

This loss to Carolina, the 21st-ranked offense in the league, was a dud from the start. Poor tackling, including several total whiffs. Lousy coverage of receivers, who actually helped Miami quite a bit with some wide-open drops. Poor positioning and sluggish response to practically everything the Panthers presented, and it’s worth noting that Carolina was limited to a single field goal by Chicago a few weeks back.

I covered a couple of the games on the list above and they rank among the most compelling assignments of my career. The overtime playoff loss to the Chargers at the old Orange Bowl. The 51-45 video-game affair at the Meadowlands in which Dan Marino passed for a career-high six touchdowns and lost.

Today’s Dolphins have no one on offense to balance out big numbers like these, but I don’t want to hear about Jay Cutler being a turnover machine or Adam Gase trading Jay Ajayi away or anything else.

When the Miami defense is disintegrating like this, allowing the two highest yardage totals of the season in consecutive weeks, there is nothing to say except that the entire team is kaput, and the season with it.

Feels strange to say something like that about a 4-5 team, especially when the Dolphins turned the 2016 season around so rapidly and so well after a 1-4 start, but it is so.

You can’t win much of anything in the NFL playing Pac-12 defense. Things will get better against Tampa Bay this Sunday but then comes New England and Kansas City and all the rest.

Prepare to see more entries to the franchise’s list of Top-10 defensive demolitions. Prepare for the moment when things like these are no longer shocking.

Once the Miami defense lays down, and it appears to have happened, there’s just no getting up for this team.

 

 

Not the first time that fans have wanted Jay Cutler’s injury replacement to keep the job

This business with Jay Cutler getting injured and fans favoring his backup as a permanent solution is nothing new.

It happened at Chicago in 2013, when Cutler missed one start with a torn groin muscle and four more with a high ankle sprain. At no point did former Bears head coach Marc Trestman waver from the notion his starter would be back in the lineup as soon as he was physically able, even though Cutler’s replacement did quite well.

And who was that replacement? Believe it or not, Josh McCown, these days a starter with the New York Jets.

New York Jets outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins  grabs Miami Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler  and slams him to the ground in third quarter of Oct. 22 game in Miami Gardens. Cutler was injured on the play. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Stories in the Chicago Tribune archives give the details, how McCown went 3-2 as an emergency starter that year and was coming off a great performance on the week that Trestman announced Cutler had been medically cleared to return to full practice and would rejoin the lineup immediately.

McCown completed 27 of 36 passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns to beat Dallas in his final game before Cutler’s return. Matter of fact, that was enough to win McCown the NFC Offensive Player of the Week award.

Trestman explained his general philosophy on the matter like this.

“He (Cutler) is our starting quarterback. He’s our leader,” Trestman said. “It’s in the best interest of our football team, if he can move the team and not hurt himself or the team, we want him to be in there. And he wants to be in there.”

The Bears were 7-6 at the time and tied with Detroit for the NFC North lead. What followed was a near miss at making the playoffs, with Cutler and Chicago losing two of the last three games, including a 54-11 blowout at Philadelphia. Cutler was sacked five times in that one, but to be fair the Eagles dominated every facet of the game.

Use this as a template for what probably will happen with the Miami Dolphins a few weeks from now, providing Cutler is cleared to return from the cracked ribs he got in Sunday’s 31-28 win over the New York Jets.

Dolphins coach Adam Gase works well with Matt Moore, who sparked the comeback on Sunday, but he chose Cutler to run the team when Ryan Tannehill was lost for the season in August and he can be expected to choose Cutler again at the earliest opportunity.

That’s what Trestman did in 2013, rushing Cutler back into the lineup even though McCown had a higher passer rating to that point in the season, 109.8 to 88.4.

“We’re certainly very, very happy about the way Josh has performed,” said Trestman, “but this has been the plan and we’re going to execute it.”

There was one other time when Cutler came back from an extended injury absence in Chicago. He missed five games early in the 2016 with an injury to his right thumb but the Bears never got anything going with Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley as his replacements. Eventually the entire season went down the drain with Cutler missing the last six games due to surgery on his throwing shoulder.

“We did try to exhaust all the non-surgical remedies,” said Bears coach John Fox, who noted that Cutler finished up the game in which his shoulder was injured. “Jay is a tough guy and proved that to me in the   past.”

Gase’s respect for Cutler is also high, worthy of a one-year contract for $10 million with the Dolphins this year. Ready or not, you’ll see him again, and maybe with more emotion from Cutler than people have come to expect.

Cutler’s former Chicago teammates reported that the quarterback gave a pregame motivational speech on the night he returned from that five-game injury absence last season, and then he went out to lead a 20-10 win over Minnesota.

The guy still wants to be out there, all right. If he didn’t, Cutler would have stayed retired at 34 rather than taking Gase’s offer to return to the NFL.

[Hoping for a little churn at top of NBA and not Cavs-Warriors rematch]

[Offensive line, a real mess now, used to be source of stability for Shula]

[Even the greatest UM teams learned how tough it is to run the table]

 

Cutler and Gase are nearing their production level with 2015 Bears, but is that good enough?

If Jay Cutler and Adam Gase are finally back to the comfort level of their former collaboration in Chicago, that would be good for the Miami Dolphins.

The question is how good? That crazy comeback in win at Atlanta featured Cutler’s first Miami game with two touchdown passes. He kept everything short and safe and, in the second half at least, he kept the Dolphins offense humming.

Quarterback Jay Cutler walks out to the field for warm-ups prior to his final game working with Adam Gase in Chicago, a 24-20 loss to Detroit with three interceptions on January 3, 2016. (Photo by Kena Krutsinger/Getty Images)

We can project the best of this solid effort onto the rest of the season, or maybe even something better, but to me it’s more realistic to look at what Cutler and Gase did together with the Bears. That’s always advertised as one of Cutler’s most efficient seasons, remember, and at the of 34 efficiency should be his highest goal.

First, if you’re looking for Cutler to run off a long string of victories, he never did that when Gase was his offensive coordinator and playcaller in Chicago. Their longest win streak was two in a row, which happened twice that season, and two in a row is where the Dolphins’ win streak is right now.

You have to go back to 2013 to find a longer win streak for Cutler. He won five in a row back then, spanning from the end of the 2012 season into the start of the next one. It didn’t last, though, as the Bears missed the playoffs at 8-8.

As for multiple-touchdown games, Cutler is just getting started at Miami with his first against Atlanta. He didn’t have any in 2016 but in 2015, working with Gase, it happened seven times. There’s some promise there.

The most explosive passing game Cutler and Gase had together in Chicago was a 37-13 win over the Rams. Playing indoors, at St. Louis’ Edward Jones Dome, Cutler completed 19 of 24 passes for 258 yards with three touchdowns. Included in that were scoring plays of 87 and 83 yards. Altogether, it was a career-best quarterback rating of 151.0 for Cutler.

In 2017 with the Dolphins, he has climbed above a rating of 100 just once, in the opening win over the Los Angeles Chargers, and has an average rating of 85.3 through five games. That’s short of his career-best 92.3 rating for the 2015 season, achieved with Gase.

In short, we’re seeing something just a little shy of the rhythm that Cutler and Gase found in 2015 as a quarterback-playcaller tandem. Through the first five games of that season the Bears were 2-3 and Cutler had four interceptions to go with seven touchdown passes. In 2017 the Dolphins are 3-2, while Cutler has four interceptions and five touchdown passes.

If Cutler is going to vary a great deal from 2015, it figures he will be a little worse over time instead of better. He’s older now, and so far has been involved each week in low-scoring games with little margin for error.

Look again to 2015. The Bears had three wins and four losses in games decided by a field goal or less.

Boy, is that familiar. Miami has scored 71 points this year and has allowed 73. It wouldn’t be that good, either, without a defensive touchdown scored on a Reshad Jones fumble return against Tennessee.

All of this puts a ton of pressure on Cutler to take advantage of every opportunity. That’s what the Dolphins need to make the playoffs, but he’s going to need all the help he can get.

We’re pretty much seeing the 2015 Jay Cutler right now, and the 2015 Bears finished 6-10 with a couple of overtime losses.

[What will Miami get from Syracuse, the team that lost to Middle Tennessee?]

[Spooky offensive room once was source of strength for Shula’s Miami teams]

[Flying high again with the ever-changing Central Florida Knights]

 

Total shocker for Adam Gase, who enjoyed record high-scoring extremes at Denver

Any coach would be steamed if his team suddenly forgot how to score, but here are some numbers to demonstrate what an unprecedented shock this is to Adam Gase.

The Miami Dolphins coach had a hand in several NFL scoring records

Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

during his time with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.

Denver scored 50-plus points in three games during the 2013 season, when Gase was the Broncos’ offensive coordinator. That ties a league record shared by the 1969 Minnesota Vikings, the 1966 Dallas Cowboys, the 1963 San Diego Chargers and the Giants and Rams of 1950.

The Broncos also scored an NFL-record 606 points in 2013.

Cast the net a little wider, from 2012, when Gase was Denver’s quarterbacks coach, to 2014, his second season as playcaller, and you find 30 consecutive regular-season games in which the Broncos scored at least 20 points. That, too, is an NFL record.

So far in 2017, Gase’s Dolphins have scored a total of 25 points. That’s a league-worst average of 8.3 per game.

There were only half a dozen times during Gase’s five-year run on the Broncos’ staff when Denver scored eight points or fewer. It wasn’t all Peyton, either. That stretch includes 33 games started by Kyle Orton at quarterback and 16 by Tim Tebow.

Gase’s one season calling plays in Chicago was significantly better, too. The Bears, with Jay Cutler at quarterback, averaged 20.9 points per game in 2015 and were held to single digits only once.

Of course, all of this could change on Sunday against the Tennessee Titans. The Dolphins offense could catch fire like the Houston Texans, who scored seven points in a season-opening loss to Jacksonville and 57 last week against Tennessee.

The current pace, however, is historic, and in ways that Gase never believed he might experience.

That’s because the NFL record for fewest points in a 16-game season is 140 points by the 1992 Seattle Seahawks. They averaged 8.75 points per game, and that’s more than Miami is managing now.

[Is it possible Derek Jeter has rarely even seen the Marlins play a game?]

[Dolphins needed Timmons back more than they needed to punish him]

[Craziest thing about Giancarlo Stanton’s huge season is that he batted second]

Gase got more done with Tebow in Denver than he’s getting from Dolphins ‘garbage’ offense now

Adam Gase came on pretty strong the other day with his description of the Miami Dolphins offense as “garbage.” That’s really coming off the top rope, like Bill Parcells might have done.

There’s a deep well of frustration bubbling up here, and it reminds me of how Gase based his choice of Miami as a head coaching destination on the presence of Ryan Tannehill.

Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase on the sidelines in the second quarter against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017. The Jets won, 20-6. (Al Diaz/Miami Herald/TNS)

Too many NFL coaches are getting by with whatever they’ve got at quarterback. Sometimes it clicks for  a week or two but that’s about it. The Dolphins are going to be dealing with that with Jay Cutler this year.

So just how much garbage are we talking about here, based on one lousy performance against the New York Jets and a low-scoring escape against the Los Angeles Chargers?

Well, the Dolphins are ranked 30th in the league in points (12.5 per game) and 27th in total yards (280.5 per game).

Denver led the league in both categories when Gase was the Broncos’ offensive coordinator and Peyton Manning was his quarterback.

The Bears were better, too, in 2015, when Gase was calling plays for Cutler and, in a pinch, Jimmy Clausen. Chicago averaged 20.9 points and 345 yards per game that year.

[Giancarlo Stanton, the epic slugger who bats second]

[A look back at Heat’s inaugural exhibition game at FAU in 1988]

[Gators return to soothing openers with Charleston Southern in 2018]

Then there was the Tim Tebow experience in 2011, with all the sophistication ripped out of the playbook and the Broncos going 8-8 with an offensive style was roundly panned around the league as “unsustainable.” Always confused me that John Elway and his staff could be somehow repulsed by the six-game win streak that Tebow ripped off and eager to rid themselves of the problem, but that’s another story.

The point is that Gase was Denver’s quarterbacks coach back then, and in concert with offensive coordinator Mike McCoy he managed to squeeze 18.7 points per game out of Tebow’s 13 starts, with a couple of playoff games included.

The Dolphins are well below that output now, a level of production that Gase probably figured was the absolute minimum standard for his NFL coaching career, and even more so once he was in complete control of a team.

Not sure how many effective personnel changes are available to him now, but it’s got to get better for Sunday’s London game against the Saints. There are stronger words than garbage. Gase knows them all and he’s not afraid to use them.

The two places in America where there is nothing but love for Jay Cutler

There are all kinds of opinions around the NFL on new Miami Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler but there also are at least two places in America where you will never hear anything but good.

One of them is Lincoln City, Ind., down near the Kentucky border. Abraham Lincoln spent most of his childhood on a farm near there and, a little bit later, Cutler led the local high school, Heritage Hills, to its first state championship in any team sport during the perfect 15-0 football season of 2000.

Jay Cutler throws for NFL scouts at Vanderbilt’s Pro Day on March 17, 2006 in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Cutler scored the winning touchdown in overtime of the state final against Zionsville, and he did it as a receiver.

First Cutler threw a lateral to a teammate and then he released down field to make himself wide open for a 12-yard score. The rest of the passing attack hadn’t gone all that smoothly for Cutler, who threw three interceptions that night, but he also scored a touchdown on a quarterback sneak earlier in the game and was credited with 19 tackles as a two-way player at safety.

Cutler was a three-year starter at quarterback for Heritage Hills and a first-team All-State selection in football and basketball so, yeah, the good folks of southern Indiana aren’t too interested in hearing from anybody who is disappointed in their boy.

The next stop was Vanderbilt University, which last year added Cutler to the Commodores’ Hall of Fame.

Vandy is the only private university in the SEC and they don’t do a lot of winning. It was no different during Cutler’s time there, but in four seasons as the starting quarterback he put a major scare into some of the league’s traditional powers.

One of the most memorable games was a 49-42 double-overtime loss at Florida in his senior season of 2005. The Gators appeared to be in good shape, leading 35-21 with 4:11 to play and getting a couple of touchdowns off Cutler turnovers. However, two quick Cutler touchdown drives, sandwiched around a successful on-side kick, tied the game and Vandy actually came awful close to winning it in regulation.

A celebration penalty on the receiver who caught Cutler’s fourth touchdown pass of the game prevented coach Bobby Collins from trying for a two-point conversion and the win. Ultimately, Cutler, who passed for 361 yards in the game, was intercepted in the second overtime to end the upset bid.

Cutler was voted the SEC’s Offensive Player of the Year as a senior and he remains the career leader at Vanderbilt in passing yards (8,697) and touchdown passes (59) and total offense (9,953 yards).

Not bad for a player whose scholarship offer from Illinois was withdrawn, leaving Cutler to fight his way through an 11-35 career with a Vanderbilt program that was overmatched at every position but quarterback. Cutler still keeps his offseason home in Nashville, close to Vanderbilt, and he got a little emotional while addressing the crowd at his Hall of Fame induction there.

“It snuck up on me a little bit,” he said. “I have such fond memories here and have been surrounded by so many people at this university and within this organization.”

A former Vanderbilt teammate, wide receiver Brandon Smith, said Cutler would step into the huddle at the roughest moments and say “It’s time to play, I’m going to be your leader, that’s what I’m here for, trust me.”

A little bit of that would go a long way with the Dolphins now.

[Any legend you hear about Vince Wilfork is probably true]

[Lamar Jackson bucking tons of Heisman history in trying to win second trophy]

[No second-guessing Adam Gase on Jay Ajayi’s training-camp concussion]

Cutler didn’t win any championships at Vanderbilt but his final play there was just as dramatic as the way he wrapped up his high school career in Indiana.

With the last pass of his college career, a 5-yard touchdown to Earl Bennett with 1:11 to play, Cutler gave Vanderbilt its first victory over Tennessee in 23 years.

Not quite a fairy tale, not with a 4-27 record in every other game Cutler played against SEC competition, but a foundation. The guy just keeps coming, and there are at least two places in America where people believe he always will.

Matt Moore gives Dolphins the kind of QB insurance other teams crave

 

It’s times like these when you remember that Matt Moore is on the Miami Dolphins’ roster, and then you remember to appreciate him, and then you remember to forget his lackluster preseason performance because, really, who cares?

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) and Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore (8) walk to the field prior to preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on August 29, 2015. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) and Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore (8) walk to the field prior to preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons at Sun Life Stadium on August 29, 2015. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

In March, the Dolphins worked a one-year deal for $2.6 million to keep Moore around. They did it to avoid falling into the trap door that has swallowed other NFL teams just two games into the regular season. Smart move, and it’s looking smarter every day.

Look to Dallas, where Tony Romo is out with a broken clavicle and Brandon Weeden, 5-16 as an NFL starter, is the new quarterback.

Or Chicago, where it is hoped for a couple of reasons that Jay Cutler will be able to play with a hamstring injury. First, Cutler is a pretty good quarterback. Second, starting Jimmy Clausen at Seattle on Sunday would put the Bears in a serious pickle.

Then there’s New Orleans, where Drew Brees is dealing with a bruised rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder. His backup is Luke McCown, who has started just nine games since joining the league in 2004 and still, frankly, feels a little overused.

Moore is better than any of those emergency options. Matter of fact, if Ryan Tannehill ever were to leave the lineup due to injury, and he’s bothered by a bad ankle right now, it would feel like maybe half of an emergency in Miami and not the full-blown disaster of a team that’s bubbling up possibilities from the waiver wire and the practice squad.

[Deep balls aren’t exactly falling from the sky for Mike Wallace with Vikings, either]

[Heightened anxiety just part of the package with Ndamukong Suh]

[Like other coaches, Chip Kelly must figure Tim Tebow scores all his TDs by accident]

Back in 2011 Moore was voted the Dolphins’ MVP after starting 12 games in relief of Chad Henne. It wasn’t much of a season, with Miami coming in at 6-10 and Tony Sparano getting fired as coach, but Moore had a couple of three-touchdown games and was the AFC Offensive Player of the Week in one of those.

Tannehill’s had all the playing time the last three-plus seasons, but nobody ever painted Moore as some kind of franchise quarterback. He’s a reliable backup, thoroughly immersed in the Dolphins system and ready to provide competent leadership for as long as needed.

Jerry Jones is just one NFL owner who would pay a lot more than $2.6 million to have that assurance right now.

Here are some career stats to prove Moore’s value to Miami. Doesn’t matter that he’s thrown only 10 passes since 2012 and never wears his helmet past pregame warmups. What matters is that the Dolphins have a Plan B that doesn’t digging through the scrap heap.

Player                             Record as Starter                 Comp. Pct.         TDs     Ints   Rating     Age

Matt Moore                         11-12                                      58.9                 33           28       79.2         31

Brandon Weeden                 5-16                                     56.4                  27           28       73.4         31

Luke McCown                       2-7                                       58.0                   9            14       68.3        34

Jimmy Clausen                     1-10                                      53.2                   5            11       60.0        28