Dolphins get Moore than expected from ex-Beaver
The role of an NFL quarterback has all the security of an unguarded henhouse aside a foxes' den.
Jobs can be won today and lost tomorrow.
But Matt Moore's performance through the last five weeks has at least solidified his position with the Miami Dolphins.
The former Oregon State standout has quarterbacked the Dolphins to four wins in five games after the team's 0-7 start, and he has put himself in position to contend for a starting spot next season.
Moore ranks 10th in the NFL in passer rating (87.6), just behind most of the game's greats and ahead of, in order, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, Matt Ryan, Phillip Rivers and Matt Hasselbeck and ballyhooed rookies Cam Newton and Andy Dalton.
Not bad for a journeyman who signed a two-year free-agent contract in July with the Dolphins as the expected backup to Chad Henne.
Henne went down with a season-ending shoulder injury on Nov. 9, and the ball has been Moore's since then.
'I feel good about what I've done - very good,' says Moore, 27, a sometimes starter through his first four years in the league with Carolina. 'There's something every week where you know you could have done better. I'm learning every week.
'That's why football is such a crazy game. Guys older than me, guys who have been playing forever, are still learning. Defenses are evolving, and every week is a different challenge. I'm happy, but I'm still trying to figure things out, to learn and get better, to not be an error-repeater.'
Moore had his 2010 season end early when a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder required surgery last November. The Panthers, with Newton arriving through the draft, chose not to re-sign him.
'It was kind of a dark offseason,' Moore says. 'Coming off the surgery and with the lockout, I didn't know what was going to happen. I was battling the unknown.'
The best option was Miami. General manager Jeff Ireland and coach Tony Sparano were with Dallas in 2007 when Moore spent the preseason portion of his rookie season with the Cowboys. Quarterback coach Karl Dorrell was the head coach at UCLA, where Moore played before transferring to Oregon State for his final two seasons of college ball.
'I knew there were going to be some familiar faces,' Moore says. 'I just felt more comfortable with the situation in Miami.'
Still, Moore knew he was coming into a backup role with the Dolphins.
'They used the term 'competition,' but it was going to be Chad's deal,' Moore says. 'I was going to be ready if needed. I did as much as I could with the reps I got in practice, but Chad had control of the team.'
Then Henne was lost, and Moore took over as starter for an 0-4 team preparing for a game with the New York Jets.
'My whole thought was, 'We have nothing to lose here; we can only go up,' " Moore says.
Miami lost 24-6 to the Jets, then dropped heartbreakers to Denver (18-15) and the New York Giants (20-17) to fall to 0-7.
'Even though we lost those three, I proved a lot not only to the coaches, but to the guys in the locker room,' Moore says. 'They saw some good things.
'As a team, we've gone through a lot. We turned a page in the middle of the season and haven't looked back since. It's been pretty cool.'
The Dolphins finally got into the win column with a 31-3 pounding of Kansas City, and Moore was named AFC offensive player of the week after completing 17 of 23 passes for 244 yards and three touchdowns.
Miami's only setback since then was an agonizing 20-19 Thanksgiving Day defeat at Dallas. Through the last five games, Moore has completed 83 of 129 passes (64.3 percent) for 1,063 yards and eight TDs, with one interception.
'Matt has progressed greatly,' Miami receiver Anthony Fasano told the media. 'He has matured and is running this team as a quarterback should.'
'Everything is slowing down for him,' receiver Davone Bess added. 'He is doing a great job going through his reads and his checks, making the big throw and pulling the trigger when you need to.'
In last Sunday's 34-14 rout of Oakland, Moore connected on 13 of 25 passes for 161 yards and a TD. The 6-3, 205-pound QB also ran five times for 22 yards, including a 6-yard score on a quarterback draw.
'His mobility is better than I would have anticipated - throwing on the run, doing those things,' Sparano told reporters. 'There are a lot of things that can go wrong when you're doing that, but Matt's done a pretty good job taking care of the ball that way.
'He did a good job (against Oakland) of extending plays and making some hard-bodied throws - a couple to Fasano, one to Brandon (Marshall). They were really difficult throws to make, and he did a good job that way.'
Moore says the Dolphins' upsurge has reminded him of his two years at Oregon State.
'We'd start slow and finish with a bang,' he says. 'Being 0-7 was no fun, but it's been hard not to have fun since then. Guys have been making big plays. To have success and see your hard work pay off is a good feeling.'
Moore, who has completed 151 of 244 passes (61.9 percent) for 1,769 yards and nine TDs with five picks, doesn't have to do everything himself. Miami has a sound defense and a balanced offensive attack, with a productive running game led by Reggie Bush and an excellent offensive line. Moore is asked not to make mistakes and to occasionally make a play, and he has been doing his job.
Miami is 4-8 with four games left, beginning Sunday at Sun Life Stadium against 4-8 Philadelphia. The Dolphins then visit Buffalo and New England before finishing at home against the Jets. It's likely even 8-8 wouldn't make the playoffs, but Moore wants to try.
'There's a lot that can happen with the other teams playing each other,' he says. 'We're not dead in the water. We have to move forward, keep racking up wins and see where that puts us at the end of the season.'
After four years in Charlotte, Matt and his wife, Tara, are getting used to life in the Miami area. They live with their 8-month-old daughter, Aubrey, in nearby Weston, north of South Beach. Moore likes his situation with the Dolphins and wants to be the starter again next season, even with Henne back in the fold.
'If I keep playing well, hopefully I'll be able to hold down the job going into next year,' he says. 'Those are my intentions, but that's all out of my hands.
'I have a big opportunity right now. I know what I have and where I'm at and where I can go with this thing. For now, I'm just focusing on putting some wins together the rest of the way.'