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CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist

If Smith, Flynn the alternatives, Dolphins better off standing pat at QB


Moore is no Peyton Manning but he might be as good as Alex Smith or Matt Flynn. (Getty Images)  
Moore is no Peyton Manning but he might be as good as Alex Smith or Matt Flynn. (Getty Images)  

The pursuit of Peyton Manning made a lot of sense for the Miami Dolphins. We understood it. They saw a chance to grab a guy who, if healthy, could have taken them to the Super Bowl, putting the chase to succeed Dan Marino finally to rest, albeit for a short time.

But Alex Smith? Matt Flynn?

Word came Sunday that the Dolphins were meeting with Smith, who has been with the 49ers the past seven seasons. Flynn, Green Bay's backup, was also on their radar before signing with the Seahawks.

Here's what I say to that: Are either of those two players any better than Matt Moore, who played well down the stretch for the Dolphins last season?

Maybe the question should be: Are they significantly better?

The deal is that Smith and Flynn will cost a decent chunk of money to sign. Big time. And even if they are signed, does anybody think that would close the door on the ghosts of Marino?

Is this not Jay Fiedler all over again?

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How long can Miami play the plug-in-a-game-manager-and-play game?

I would not consider Smith or Flynn franchise quarterbacks, the kind who can keep a team near the top for most of a decade or so.

Neither is Moore, but the Dolphins have him already -- and he's relatively cheap at $2.5 million. The other two would be about $5 million per year more -- at least. In 12 starts last season, Moore threw 16 touchdown passes and nine interceptions. In 16 starts, Smith threw 17 touchdowns and five interceptions on a 13-3 team.

Moore's completion percentage was 60.5 to 61.3 for Smith, the best of his career. Moore averaged 7.2 yards per attempt to 7.1 for Smith.

Smith did have a higher passer rating (90.7 to 87.1), largely because he didn't throw as many interceptions.

Most look at a quarterback who doesn't throw picks as being a smart, heady player. I look at it differently. I say it's a quarterback who doesn't take chances. Not all the time, but most. To get big plays, you need to take shots into tight windows. That's why Brett Favre threw a ton of interceptions.

I've had many NFL passers tell me they could go through an entire season without throwing 10 interceptions if they wanted, but they also wouldn't be the same. That's not playing quarterback. That's managing the game.

As for Flynn, he has had two starts. He looked good in both of them -- although not as good as his numbers -- and he might be able to be a top-15 passer like Green Bay starter Aaron Rodgers said.

You don't win consistently with top-15 passers. You win with top-10 guys.

Miami has to quit settling and strive to get one who will have sustainable success for the franchise.

Of all the playoff teams from 2011, the two I would say right now have a big chance to take steps back are the 49ers and Broncos because of their quarterback uncertainty. Why do you think they are both pursuing Manning?

Manning would provide short-term relief, but if he doesn't win a title, it will set either franchise back for a long time, too, but that's another issue.

This is about the Dolphins trying to fill their quarterback hole, a giant black hole Marino left when he retired.

Think about all the stiffs they tried as starters in the past 12 seasons. Talk about wings and a prayer.

Guys like Fiedler, Chad Pennington, Cleo Lemon, Joey Harrington, Daunte Culpepper, Trent Green and John Beck, all either breaking-down older players or speculative duds.

Chad Henne was drafted in the second round, so at least he came through their scouting system. They liked him, but it just didn't work out, and he signed with Jacksonville last week.

A year ago when the Dolphins went to camp, how many Dolphins fans or members of the media would have jumped at the idea of dumping Henne to get Smith or Flynn? Now they're talking about both as a potential franchise passer?

I just didn't see it.

The Dolphins should forget Smith for now and play Moore. Or decide if Ryan Tannehill is the answer and draft him if they can. If not, maybe it's USC's Matt Barkley next year, or maybe another passer will emerge. At this time last year, who thought Robert Griffin III would be the second overall pick? Or two years ago, Cam Newton the top pick?

With players like Flynn and Smith, you might have one of those accident seasons, where everything goes right, the team goes 13-3, but it's not sustainable.

Pick the six best teams heading into 2012. In no order: Giants, Patriots, Steelers, Saints, Ravens and Packers. They all have franchise passers -- OK, so the verdict is still out on Baltimore's Joe Flacco -- and five of them were drafted, with one, Drew Brees in New Orleans, acquired as a free agent.

Miami needs its draft and develop its own guy. They have to quit chasing other team's castoffs and all these game-managers.

Until that happens, the ghost of Dan Marino will continue to haunt this team.

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.

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