This Sunday, the Green Bay Packers will travel to south Florida to try to keep their slim playoff hopes alive during a Christmas day game against the Miami Dolphins. The Fins are even more in the postseason hunt, largely thanks to quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. The third-year quarterback is having the best season of his career, even though he missed two games to injury. With a healthy Tua under center, the Dolphins finally have something they’ve largely lacked since Dan Marino retired in 1999: consistency at the quarterback position.
Up until now, we’ve reserved these “X team’s starting quarterbacks of the last Y seasons, ranked” lists for Green Bay’s division rivals (read our Lions, Vikings, and Bears posts). However, the Dolphins have seen a shocking amount of QB turnover over the last two decades, so we’re going to make an exception for them. Since the start of the 2003 season, a whopping TWENTY THREE quarterbacks have started a game for the Miami Dolphins. Here’s a ranked list of them from worst to best (strictly in terms of their performance as a starting quarterback for Miami).
23. Skylar Thompson
One of the two games Tagovailoa missed this season was started by rookie Skylar Thompson. The 7th round pick was so ineffective during that October start against the Vikings that Miami eventually replaced him with Teddy Bridgewater, who was initially sidelined because he wasn’t deemed healthy enough to start. We’re not writing Thompson off forever, but as of now, he’s at the bottom of the list.
22. Josh Rosen
Following a 3-10 record with the Cardinals in his rookie season, former 10th overall pick Josh Rosen was traded to the Miami Dolphins the following season. He proceeded to go winless in three starts in teal and orange. In six total games (three starts) with Miami in 2019, Rosen threw for 567 yards, one touchdown and five interceptions.
21. John Beck
Speaking of high draft picks who didn’t meet expectations, John Beck was taken by Miami in the 2nd round of the 2007 draft. He quickly saw action in five games (four starts), where we threw a single touchdown compared to three interceptions and the Dolphins lost every game he started. He stuck around Miami for one more season, but never played another regular season game with the Fins.
20. Daunte Culpepper
Prior to the 2006 season, the Vikings traded ex-star quarterback Daunte Culpepper to the Dolphins, where he started four games before a mixture of poor play and (more so) nagging injuries prematurely ended his single season in his native Florida. During his brief stint with Miami, Culpepper led the Dolphins to a 1-3 record, throwing two touchdowns (and rushing for another) and tossing three picks during that span.
19. Sage Rosenfels
Sage Rosenfels managed an eight -year NFL career. Along the way, the career backup was plugged in as a spot starter for a total of 12 games. A couple of those starts came with the Dolphins, where he threw four touchdowns, posted six interceptions, and amassed just over 700 passing yards in two Miami losses split between 2004 and 2005.
18. A.J. Feeley
Best known as an Eagles backup in the Donovan McNabb era, A.J. Feeley cut his two stints in Philly with season in Miami. He started that 2004 season as a backup, then was given the reins after a shaky start by Jay Fiedler (more on him later), then lost the job to Fiedler again, before replacing an injured Fiedler and finishing the forgettable Fins campaign out. Along the way, he went 3-5 in eight starts, throwing 11 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in the process before returning to the bench in Philadelphia the following season.
17. Trent Green
In 2007, less than two years after being named to his second Pro Bowl, the Chiefs traded Trent Green to the Dolphins, who planned to make him the starting quarterback. Unfortunately, Green sustained a nasty concussion five games into his Miami tenure and missed the remainder of his single season with the Fish. Before his the concussion, Green was 0-5 at the helm with five touchdowns, seven interceptions, and a paltry 987 passing yards.
16. Tyler Thigpen
From late 2009 through 2010, Tyler Thigpen appeared in a total of six games with Miami. One of them was a start, which was a Dolphins loss. In total, Thigpen managed 518 passing yards, three touchdowns, four interceptions, and 73 rushing yards as Miami’s quarterback.
15. Teddy Bridgewater
The fact that Teddy Bridgewater is still playing football is nothing short of incredible. Unfortunately for Vikings fans, the 2014 first rounder and 2015 Pro Bowler suffered a horrific leg injury that essentially ended his career in Minnesota (excluding one offensive series late in the 2017 season). Since then, he’s logged time under center as a member of the Saints, Panthers, and Broncos. After going 7-7 as Denver’s starter last year, he signed a deal to be backup with his hometown Dolphins. When Tua sustained a viscous concussion this fall, Bridgewater filled in. Over four games (one start, a Dolphins loss) so far in 2022, Teddy has thrown for 522 yards along with three touchdowns and three interceptions. Not terrible, not great.
14. Brian Griese
Also in the “not terrible, not great” realm is Brian Griese. John Elway’s former heir apparent and the son of Dolphins legend Bob Griese eventually landed in Miami in 2003, where he started five games. In total, he had 813 passing yards, five touchdowns, six picks, and the Dolphins went 3-2.
13. Jacoby Brissett
Somehow, Jacoby Brissett—who was never signed with the intention of being a team’s starter—has started 48 games so far in his career. Between being named the default Colts starter when Andrew Luck abruptly retired and filling in for a suspended serial sexual assault perpetrator in Cleveland this year, Brissett was in Miami and starting five games in place of an injured Tua in 2021. During that span, the Dolphins went 2-3, but Brissett did his part to keep things afloat with almost 1,300 yards passing and six touchdowns (five passing).
12. Brock Osweiler
Now a cautionary tale for NFL general managers, Brock Osweiler turned a few good games with the Broncos in 2015 into a life-changing $72 million contract from Houston. After getting paid, his performance dipped. Once the Texas traded him to Cleveland, the Browns released him before he played a single down with them, and his second go-around with the Broncos fizzled out, the Dolphins took a chance on Osweiler in 2018. As a Fins quarterback, Osweiler threw for 1,247 yards, tossed six touchdown compared to four interceptions, and Miami went 2-3 with him as a starter.
11. Cleo Lemon
Don’t be fooled by his 1-7 mark as a Dolphins starter between 2006 and 2007. Cleo Lemon was actually…kind of okay. In parts of 13 games with Miami (eight starts), Lemon posted 2,185 passing yards, 12 touchdowns (eight of those of the passing variety), and a semi-acceptable seven interceptions. As you’ve seen, it could’ve been a lot worse.
10. Joey Harrington
After the Lions finally did away with former third overall pick Joey Harrington in 2005, he wound up in Miami as the assumed backup to the newly-signed Daunte Culpepper. The aforementioned injury to Culpepper opened the door for Harrington, who was serviceable in 11 starts. In those games, he threw for 2,236 yards and 12 touchdowns as the Dolphins went 5-6. Harrington also had 15 interceptions, which tracks for him.
9. Jay Cutler
Remember when Jay Cutler retired after the 2016 season and was planning to start a post-playing career in broadcasting? Remember when Ryan Tannehill had a season-ending injury weeks before the 2017 regular season and the Dolphins signed Cutler to a one-year, $10 million deal? Crazy times! Well, in that one season, Cutler started 14 games. Over that span, he threw for 2,666 yards and tossed 19 touchdowns compared to 14 picks. The Dolphins went 6-8 with Cutler as starter.
8. Matt Moore
Would you believe the longest tenured Dolphins quarterback since Dan Marino is…Matt Moore? Miraculously, that’s true. While Moore spent seven seasons in Miami, he only started 17 games. He played in 27, though, and during his time as the Dolphins playcaller, Moore threw for roughly 4,300 yards and 29 touchdowns (compared to 19 interceptions). He also won eight of the games he started.
7. Gus Frerotte
People might forget that Gus Frerotte was even on the Dolphins (we know we did!), but his single season in Miami was among the best years in the journeyman QB’s long career. During that 2005 season, Gus started 15 games, during which he threw 18 touchdown and fell four yards shy of the 3,000-yard milestone as Miami went 9-6 under his offensive leadership.
6. Ryan Fitzpatrick
Instead of listing a bunch of stats again, let’s just post this photo from one of the most amazing throws in recent memory.
Okay, we will add some stats, too. In 24 games (20 of them as a starter) with Miami, “Fitzmagic” threw for 5,620 yards and 33 touchdowns through the air. And once again, he did THIS.
5. Chad Pennington
While he’s known best for his years with the Jets, Chad Pennington actually had the best year of his career as a member of the Dolphins. During the 2008 season, the veteran quarterback set a career high in passing yards while leading Miami to an 11-5 record and the AFC East title. He was named the Comeback Player Of The Year after that season and was runner-up in MVP voting. His performance fell off significantly in Miami in 2009 and part of 2010 before he retired, but he and Fins fans will always have 2008.
4. Chad Henne
Fun fact: Chad Henne is still in the league! Before he quietly made a career as a backup, Henne was given oodles of opportunities to land the starting job in Miami. The Dolphins’ 2nd round selection in 2007 played a total of 36 games with Miami, including 31 starts, spread over four seasons. Along the way, he topped 7,000 passing yards and threw 31 touchdowns. Uh, let’s not talk about the 37 interceptions he also threw. Somehow, he’s currently sixth on the franchise’s all-time passing leaders list.
3. Jay Fiedler
The third guy named Jay on this not-so-illustrious list happens to be the best of the bunch. Jay Fiedler appeared in 62 games as a Dolphin (59 starts), where he threw for more than 11,000 yards (4th most in franchise history), 66 touchdowns (also 4th most among Dolphins quarterbacks), and led Miami to a 36-23 record as starter (also, you guessed it, 4th best).
2. Tua Tagovailoa
Despite only being drafted in 2020 and already missing games every season in his brief career so far, Tagovailoa is well on his way to being one of the best Fins quarterbacks of all time. Even with concussion issues, Tua is having a career year in 2022, with 24 touchdowns (compared to only five interceptions) and more than 3,200 passing yards with three games remaining in the regular season. Between what he’s already done and how quickly he’s done it compared to the others on this list, we’re putting Tagovailoa at number two…for now. With two or three more seasons like this, he’ll earn the top spot without a doubt.
1. Ryan Tannehill
We’ve made it to the final name on our 20-year journey through Dolphins quarterback inconsistency. That name is none other than Ryan Tannehill. Though his career didn’t really hit the next level until he went to Tennessee, the former Dolphins first rounder sits behind only Dan Marino and Bob Griese (not Brian) in almost every quarterback category in franchise history. Much of that is due to how long he was able to serve as Miami’s starter. In 88 games (all of them starts), Tannehill threw for more than 20,000 yards, had 123 passing touchdowns (compared to 75 interceptions), and helped the team to 42 wins. It’s not a great list, but someone has to top it, and at least for the time being, that someone is Ryan Tannehill.