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  Starting QB for 2012: Matt Moore
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by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

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If you are hoping, maybe even demanding, that the Miami Dolphins will make a major move to find their next franchise quarterback, you are likely to be very disappointed.

As things stand today, the odds are very high that the starter for 2012 will be incumbent Matt Moore. I say incumbent because Moore has clearly taken the starting job away from Chad Henne, which means that Henne wonít be back.

In the draft, it is well known that the number of franchise level QBs are just two: Stanfordís Andrew Luck and Heisman winner Robert Griffin III of Baylor. The Dolphins current draft position (8 or 9, depending on a coin toss with the Panthers) places them well behind other teams also in need of a new QB, which means that it would take a mint to move up to draft either man.

And if youíre hoping for meaningful help in free agency or via a trade, just remember that franchise caliber QBs donít usually fall from trees. Drew Brees is a rare example, though no one could have predicted his rise at the time the Saints signed him (and the Dolphins didnít). And overpaying on potential, as the Dolphins did with AJ Feeley and Daunte Culpepper, usually ends up badly for the chump who gives into desperation (as the Dolphins did).

So for those of you swooning over Packer QB Matt Flynn's 400+ yard, 6 TD performance yesterday, keep in mind that the Lions have one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL (23rd). In other words, he looked better than he probably is. So the Dolphins shouldn't toss major money at him, or the first/second round pick that the Packers will demand, because the upside over what they currently have (Moore), if there is any, may not be worth it (think Matt Cassel, Kyle Orton, and Kevin Kolb).

And, please, do not think about an aging Peyton Manning. The compensation to get him will be just as high, and his long term football fitness is a serious concern. The Dolphins know this and will hopefully shop elsewhere.

So back to the draft. Some say the Dolphins should pay three first rounders, plus players, to move up and get Luck or Griffin. In other words, do whatever it takes cause Ireland canít be trusted with the picks and the Dolphins are far better off getting a Ďsure thingí versus another bundle of average players.

The reality of the situation, however, is that Jeff Ireland is not a bold GM like Atlantaís Thomas Dimitroff. Iíve met and interviewed Ireland, and I can tell you that he is a conservative football man who disapproves of high risk moves like the one Dimitroff pulled to draft WR Julio Jones last April. This is why I believe he is likely to talk owner Stephen Ross out of any exorbitant attempts to trade up for Luck or Griffin. Heíll argue that it isn't worth crippling the franchise for years to come just to get one player who isnít guaranteed to work out. And, despite the hype, no player comes to the NFL with a guarantee. No one.

Yet it would be wrong of you to mistake Ireland for a fool. The man is a survivor and heís got this whole thing figured out. He knows that Ross wants a new QB, a face to build the franchise around. He has reportedly mandated this to Ireland. But Ireland will continue to play it cool; he will wait until a new coach is hired, persuade that new coach as to the merits of a safer avenue for long term growth, and jointly sell that vision to Ross. And Ross will go along with it because he would look stupid overriding his GM and coach.

This brings us back to Matt Moore. Objectively, his performance over the past nine games has been very good, even great. What else can one say about 15 TDs versus just 5 INTs? Every single good player on the team has lauded his work. One could argue, as I would, that Moore is the Team MVP for 2011.

How could anyone justify sitting a player of that caliber?

You canít. Moore is the best QB in the division not named Tom Brady. That is a fact.

Now this does not mean that the Dolphins wonít draft a quarterback. They should hedge their investment in Moore, in the event that he returns to earth as Buffaloís Ryan Fitzpatrick did after getting a fat multi-year contract. And I think Ireland will do just that so that he and Ross are not criticized for bypassing the position yet again. But the QB they are more likely to draft will be a lesser talent who may not end up being any better than Moore. He may not even be good enough to beat Moore out next year (or the year thereafter). In the process, the Dolphins will avoid handing out another fat contract to a rookie, money which Ireland would rather spend elsewhere.

Again, not the outcome that many of you are hoping for but thatís what I believe will happen. In fact, the Dolphins are more likely to focus on upgrading the talent on the offensive line, with three of the draftís Top 10 prospects being much needed tackles (according to Scouts Inc), versus a trade up for Luck or Griffin.

Itís not sexy but itís the sort of move that would fit the modus operandi of Jeff Ireland. And it would align perfectly with the argument that says Moore is at his best when he is afforded protection, which the Dolphins werenít very consistent with this past season (3rd worst in the NFL in sacks yielded with 52, almost a team record).

So why should people feel any better about the 2012 Dolphins versus the version of the past three seasons? The answer Ireland would offer is Moore, even if it is less than you hoped for.

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