Steve Mitchell

Miami Dolphins History Of Backup Quarterbacks

Staff Writer Jim Driano takes a look at the Miami Dolphins backup quarterbacks from past to present.

The Miami Dolphins have a storied history of backup quarterbacks.  Back in 1972, the Dolphins signed Earl Morrell off waivers to back up starter Bob Griese.  This turned out to be a perfect move because when Griese went down with an injury in the 5th game of the season, Morrell stepped in and guided the Dolphins to 11 wins in a row.  This was nothing new for Morrell because in 1968 he filled in for than, injured starter Johnny Unitas, while in Baltimore.  Morrell led the Don Shula coached Colts to a 13-1 record and all the way to the 1969 Super Bowl.

Don Shula knew what he was doing when he signed Morrell as an insurance policy in 1972.  When Bob Griese eventually returned from injury in the AFC Championship game at Pittsburgh, Morrell took one for the good of the team, and relinquished the starting job back.

Griese promptly beat the Pittsburgh Steelers for the AFC title and Dolphins went on to complete the ‘Perfect Season’ by winning the Super Bowl.

But if someone other than Earl Morrell were the backup QB, who knows what would have happened.  The Dolphins may not have even made the playoffs.

I’m not sure how you would describe the perfect back up QB.  Maybe someone with lots of experience; a team player who knows his job is to be part coach and an extra pair of eyes for the starting QB.  It would have to be someone ready to enter the game with little or no notice, with nerves of steel, intelligence, and a strong arm.

Don Strock was another backup quarterback picked by the Dolphins in the 5th round of the 1973 NFL Draft.

Bob Griese was already a star coming off the recent Super Bowl win and Earl Morrell was the unquestioned back-up.  But I suppose Shula being the great coach he was, was always planning for the future.

The Strock pick turned out to be another intelligent move.  Strock backed up not only Griese but also Dan Marino, in a Dolphin's career that spanned from 1973 to 1987.

It was one game in January of 1982 that defined Don Strock.  It was the divisional round of the AFC playoffs and the Dolphins were already down to the San Diego Chargers 24-0 early in the 2nd quarter.  The Dolphin's offense was floundering under quarterback David Woodley and Coach Don Shula needed to do something.  He called on Strock to perform a miracle.  I don’t think anyone seriously considered the Dolphins could win this game, but it was hoped that Strock could at least score some points and keep it from being a total embarrassment.

I guess no one told Strock because he proceeded to carve up the Charger's defense and scored 17 points before halftime.  But the play of plays was with only 6 seconds remaining before halftime.  The Dolphins were on the Charger's 40 yard line (a bit too far for a field goal) and there probably wasn’t time for more than one play.  Would the Dolphins throw a Hail Mary pass into the end zone?  Would they throw a very short pass and hope to get a little closer to field goal range, and be lucky enough to stop the clock before the end of the half?  None of those guesses would be correct.  Don Strock threw a 15 yard come back pass to receiver Duriel Harris, who caught it and lateraled it back to trailing running back Tony Nathan.  Nathan scooted the final 25 yards into the end zone, as the half ran out.  The Orange Bowl went crazy.  After being down 24-0, the Dolphins now were only down 24-17.  The entire come back could basically be attributed to Don Strock.

After half time ,Strock and the Dolphins tied the game up and eventually even took the lead 38-31, before losing in overtime, 41-38.  But Strock drove the Dolphins down for the winning points twice; once at the end of the 4th quarter and once in overtime.  Both times, kicker Uwe Von Schamann, missed game winning kicks which kept Strock from really being the hero.  Still, Don Strock’s 4 touchdown and 400 yard passing performance earned him backup immortality.

Currently the Dolphins backup is Matt Moore.  He came to Miami via free agency in 2011, from the Carolina Panthers.  Unlike Strock, Matt Moore was a starter at one time, but his less than overwhelming performance led to him being released by the Panthers.  The Dolphins originally brought Moore in to back up Chad Henne when the Dolphins still had hopes that Henne would be the answer at QB.  But Henne and the Dolphins started out the 2011 season 0-4, and to make matters worse, Henne got injured and missed the final 12 games.  In came Matt Moore who salvaged a semblance of respectability to the team, throwing 16 touchdowns and helping the Dolphins win 6 games.

Four years later Matt Moore is still the Dolphins backup quarterback, and rightly considered one of the better ones in the league.   Some guys just seem to be born to thrive in this spot.  The Dolphins have been lucky enough to have had three of them.

FINS UP!!!  


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