After last Sunday's debacle, there is almost universal acknowledgement - even by Nick Saban himself - that Daunte Culpepper is not playing at the level the Dolphins would like to see. His decision making is slow, he's not seeing open receivers or not getting the ball to them and he's not scrambling like he used to.
He is neither physically nor mentally ready to perform at 100% of his capabilities.
The coaches see it, the fans see it and opposing teams see it.
The only question left is: What to do about it?
Before we answer that question, let's look at what the Dolphins are facing over the next few weeks.
This weekend, Miami will host Tennessee, which is easily one of the worst teams in the NFL. In two games so far, their defense has only managed two sacks and has not made a single interception. They are giving up a 71% pass completion percentage and 268 passing yards per game.
Following the Titans, Miami goes to Houston, whose defense is the worst in the league against the pass. They are giving up 350 passing yards per game, have managed 1 interception and 3 sacks in 2 games while surrendering 6 touchdown passes.
In other words, these are two teams that should be good for Daunte's confidence. Their ineptitude should allow Culpepper to work on his mechanics and help get him in rhythm with his receivers without having undo pressure put on him.
So, because the next two opponents are so weak, I am in favor of giving Culpepper three strikes. Strikes one and two will be against the Titans and Texans. Then he can take his final exam against the Patriots, in game 5 at New England.
If he passes his final exam, the Dolphins will be in good shape going into the rest of the season.
However, if he flunks against the Titans, Texans or Patriots, there is still enough time to put Joey Harrington in the lineup and possibly salvage a playoff run.
... if Harrington is up to it, of course.
In fact, if Culpepper flunks badly against the Titans, Harrington can still get in a tune-up game against the Texans before he has to face the Patriots.
So it makes sense to keep Culpepper as the starter for at least the next game against the Titans. If Daunte continues to struggle mightily against one of the worst defenses in the league, that will be a good indicator that he will not be ready to play at full speed for the rest of the year.
If, on the other hand, he manages to reverse course and have a good day, that should tell us that he can still play at a high enough level to continue as the starter.
Either way, Nick Saban can make his decision with a much better idea of what Culpepper's status is right now. That allows him to decide without hesitation and to do it ...
... On Porpoise.