We all care about who the starting quarterback on our team is. Arguably the most important and glamorous position in football, the quarterback is the face of the franchise. But what about the guys in baseball caps holding the clipboard on the sidelines? Why don't they ever get the love and attention the starters do?
Backup quarterbacks are one of the most underrated positions in football. They have to know everything the starter does, but they never get the money, opportunity, or recognition. Until they are needed at any moment, they are mostly forgotten and unsung. So let's talk about some of the unsung heroes of the league.
Here are the five best backup quarterbacks in Miami Dolphins history:
1. Don Strock
A fifth-round pick all the way back in 1973, Don Strock began his career in Miami behind Bob Griese and Dan Marino. However, nine years later in 1982, Strock got his opportunity to play. In a divisional playoff game, the Dolphins found themselves down 24-0 to the San Diego Chargers and decided to let Strock have his chance to turn the game around. And that he did. Storming back, the Strock-led Dolphins tied the game in the third quarter behind Strock's 403 yards and 4 touchdowns. Ultimately, the Dolphins lost the game in overtime, but it was one of the best backup quarterback performances in NFL history.
Strock also stepped up in 1987 when punter Reggie Roby suffered an injury, punting for the first time in his career. In the same game, Strock also took over at quarterback in the waning minutes of the same game, nearly mounting yet another miraculous comeback.
2. Earl Morrall
Former Super Bowl quarterback for the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, Earl Morrall was nearing the sunset years of his career. In 1972, Morrall signed with the Miami Dolphins as a backup quarterback to play for his old Colts coach, Don Shula. When starter Bob Griese suffered an injury early in the season, Morrall was forced to play for the Dolphins. Morrall went on to win every game he started en route to the first undefeated season in NFL history since 1942, throwing for 1,360 yards and 11 touchdowns in a run-heavy offensive attack.
After leading the Dolphins to a playoff win over the Cleveland Browns, Morrall was eventually pulled for Bob Griese in the AFC Championship the next week in the postseason. However, Morrall is forever immortalized for leading the 1972 Dolphins on their undefeated Super Bowl run.
3. Matt Moore
An undrafted prospect in 2007, Matt Moore spent the first four seasons of his career as a backup in Dallas and Carolina. After Carolina didn't re-sign Moore in 2011, the Miami Dolphins brought him in to back up Chad Henne. Early in the 2011 season, Henne went down with a shoulder injury and thrusted Moore into action against the Chargers. Moore played so well that he was named MVP of the Miami Dolphins season, finishing with 2,497 yards and 16 touchdowns. The next season, playing backup to rookie Ryan Tannehill, Moore was called into action again in week eight, when Tannehill injured his knee. Moore led the Dolphins to a 30-9 win over the New York Jets.
Fast forward to 2016, as Moore is still the backup to Tannehill. Tannehill injures his knee once again and Moore is sent in to action. Moore led a game-winning drive in the same game, followed by a four-touchdown performance the next week as the Dolphins defeated the Jets 34-13. Moore was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week as the Dolphins clinched the playoffs for the first time since 2008. The next season, Moore entered the game after Jay Cutler went down with an injury and defeated the Jets once again in relief action.
4. Cleo Lemon
In 2005, the Miami Dolphins traded the San Diego Chargers quarterback AJ Feeley and a sixth-round pick for a young backup quarterback in Cleo Lemon. After a strong preseason in 2006, Lemon solidified his spot as the primary backup quarterback to Joey Harrington for the Dolphins. In December, Lemon got his shot when Harrington was benched, throwing for 98 yards in the game. Two weeks later, Lemon again replaced Harrington at halftime on a Monday night game, as he earned a 107.3 passer rating.
Lemon's first start of his career came on New Year's Eve of 2006 as he threw for a respectable 210 yards and a touchdown, scoring 10 fourth-quarter points, as the Dolphins couldn't complete the comeback.
The next season, 2007, Lemon was re-signed and would back up incumbent starter Trent Green. As Green went down in week five, Lemon stepped up with four total touchdowns (two passing touchdowns, two rushing touchdowns). In week 15, Lemon threw the game-winning touchdown in overtime against the Baltimore Ravens, giving the Dolphins their only win in their 1-15 season.
5. Damon Huard
After being undrafted and waived by the Cincinnati Bengals in 1996, Damon Huard was out of football for a year. In 1997, the Miami Dolphins gave him a shot as a reserve quarterback. After a few uneventful seasons, Huard was thrown into the fire in 1999 after Dan Marino went down with an injury. Huard went on to win his first three starts, and four of his first five before Marino returned. Huard threw for 1,288 yards and 8 touchdowns in 1999.
In 2000, Huard was once again relegated to backup quarterback behind newly acquired Jay Fiedler. Huard did start one game in Fiedler's absence, as the Dolphins defeated the Indianapolis Colts 17-14. It was a memorable start for Damon, as Damon and his brother Brock, who started for the Seattle Seahawks, became the first pair of brothers to start an NFL game in the same week.
Despite his promising production in limited action, Huard was not re-signed by the Dolphins after the 2000 season and spent the next 10 years as a journeyman backup around the league, making a handful of starts here and there.