On January 2, 2000 Dan Marino played his final game in a Miami Dolphins uniform. In the 12 seasons since, the Dolphins’ tale of quarterback woes is a cautionary horror narrative that keeps many an NFL GM awake at night.
Miami has started 16 different players at quarterback since Marino stepped away from football. It has finished in the top ten in scoring one time since (2001) and no higher than 12th in total offense. Only two seasons since, 2001 and 2008, have the Dolphins started the same player for all 16 games. The organization has played in one playoff game since 2001.
Here are the 16 quarterbacks who have started a game for the Miami Dolphins since the retirement of Dan Marino following the 2000 season:
Jay Fiedler (2000-04)
The Darmouth grad gave the Phins an extremely false sense of security with a relatively solid stint in Miami immediately following Marino’s depature. Fiedler started 59 games in his five-year Miami career, including all 16 games in 2001 — the best offensive season since Marino for the Fish. He was 36-23 as the starter and averaged 178.1 yards per game with 66 TD and 63 INT.
Damon Huard (1998-2000)
Huard filled in for Fiedler in Week 12 of the 2000 season after he had previously stared five games during Marino’s 1999 farewell tour. He won his only post-Marino start after throwing for 183 yards and his only TD of the year. The Washington alum went on to start 21 more games over a five-year span for the Patriots and Cheifs before retiring in 2008.
Ray Lucas (2001-02)
The Rutgers Scarlet Knight started only six games for the Dolphins, all in 2002 spot duty for Fiedler. He went 2-4 as the starter, completed only 57.5 percent of his passes for 149.3 yards per game and threw only four touchdowns (against six INTs). Lucas never played football again following that season.
Brian Griese (2003)
As the Jay Fiedler experiment continued to fall off the tracks for various reasons, Griese became the third quarterback to get a start in place of the Ivy League grad. All five career games Griese played for Miami came in place of Fiedler in ’03. He went 3-2 as the starter with five touchdowns, six interceptions and 162.6 yards per game.
AJ Feeley (2004)
The Oregon quarterback, like Griese the year before, played only one year in Miami and got eight starts in place of Fiedler. He lost his first two starts in Week 2 and 3 before returning to the line-up from Weeks 10-15. Feeley was 3-5 as the leader of the Fish, completing only 53.7 percent of his passes with 15 interceptions for his Dolphins’ career.
Sage Rosenfels (2002-05)
In his third season as a Dolphin, the Iowa State Cyclone finally got to start a game when he entered the line-up for the final game of 2004. He completed 42.1 percent of his passes (16 of 38) with three interceptions and one touchdown in the loss. He then started one more game in 2005 (Week 10) when he threw for 14 yards and two picks in the shutout loss to Cleveland. He never started another game and ended his Fish career 0-2 as the starter.
Gus Frerotte (2005)
The real starter in ’05 was Frerotte. And he was mildly effective. He was 9-6 as the starter and nearly topped 3,000 yards (2,996) with more touchdowns (18) than interceptions (13). Numbers that aren’t amazing, but look Hall of Fame-esque when placed next to the other starters from South Beach.
Joey Harrington (2006)
Another year and another starting quarterback experiment. Harrington started 11 games in 2006, winning five while throwing for over 200 yards per game. He also threw 15 interceptions and 12 touchdowns and was an Atlanta Falcon the next year.
Daunte Culpepper (2006)
The Former Viking played his first game with a new team when he started four games for the Dolphins in 2006. He was 1-3 as a starter and tossed just two touchdowns as a Dolphin. The former first-rounder played for four teams in four years from 2005-08. Don't forget, the brass in Miami decided it was a good decision to go with Culpepper instead of Drew Brees.
Cleo Lemon (2006-07)
The Arkansas State grad played four years in the NFL on three different teams. He started eight career games, all for the Dolphins, and won only one time in his entire career. He threw for 168.1 yards per game, completed 56.0 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Trent Green (2007)
Green also only played one season for the Dolphins and failed to win any of his five career starts in Miami. He threw only five touchdowns and seven picks over that span while averaging nearly 200 yards per game.
John Beck (2007)
The second-round pick played one year for the team that drafted him. Beck was 0-4 as the starter in Miami and threw only one career touchdown pass as a Dolphin. He averaged 111.8 yards per game and has never won a game as a starter in the NFL.
Chad Pennington (2008-10)
The soft-tossing Marshall grad likely had the most successful season of any quarterback in a Fish uni since Marino retired. He started every game of the 2008 season, winning 11 and earning Comeback Player of the Year honors. He led the NFL in completion percentage (67.4 percent) and posted a nice 3,653-19-7 stat line en route to a co-AFC East title and playoff berth. However, he started only four more games over the next two years (1-3) before retiring in 2010.
Chad Henne (2008-11)
The strong-armed Michigan grad came to Miami in the second-round of the 2008 draft. He got into the starting line-up in year two and actually posted a winning record at 7-6. Yet, despite statistical improvement in year three, Henne lost more than he won (6-8). He was 0-4 as the starter in year four and has bolted for Jacksonville.
Tyler Thigpen (2010)
The Coastal Carolina product started and lost one game in his Dolphins one-year career. He threw for 187 yards, one interception and lost in a shutout at the hands of the Bears.
Matt Moore (2011)
The Oregon State Beaver was relatively effective last year on a team with a lame duck coach and terrible roster. He actually won six of his 12 starts, threw more touchdowns (16) than interceptions (9) and appears poised to start the 2012 campaign atop the depth charts. At least, for now, until Ryan Tannehill becomes the 17th quarterback to start a game for Miami since Marino.
The Fish aren’t the only NFL franchise that suffered after the retirement of a truly great signal caller. The Bills haven’t been the same since Jim Kelly. The 49ers are the poster children for how to adapt to loss — Joe Montana to Steve Young — and how not to adapt to loss — Young to everyone since then. Those two franchises have combined for six winning seasons in 28 combined years of competition since Kelly (1996) and Young (1999) stepped away.
But hope springs eternal on South Beach as the Dolphins enter their 13th season without No. 13 — and are doing so with their first first-round quarterback since taking Marino in the 1983 NFL Draft. Yes, Ryan Tannehill has the unenviable task of being the first quarterback taken in the first round by Miami since Mr. Isotoners himself joined the club.
While I have my doubts about Tannehill’s ability to succeed at the NFL level, the beauty of the NFL lies in its balance. Teams can go from worst to first and vice versa in a matter of months and new head coach Joe Philbin brings one of the most powerful offensive systems in the NFL to the franchise.
Only time will tell if Tannehill is the next Dan Marino.
Or the next Cleo Lemon.
- By Braden Gall