DAVIE, Fla. (Oct. 9, 2006) -- There's no mystery this week. Joey Harrington will remain as the Miami Dolphins ' starting quarterback.
For now, anyway.
Dolphins coach Nick Saban said that when his team opens practice for an Oct. 15 visit to the New York Jets, Harrington will be the first-stringer. Daunte Culpepper will enter a rehab-type program designed to help restore some explosive movement in his surgically rebuilt right knee.
"We'll evaluate it on a week-to-week basis," Saban said. "This week, we're going to plan to play like we did last week. ... We're going to work with Daunte, improve his movement, give him some reps in practice, get Joey ready to play in the game. Now, does that make him the starter? I guess that makes him the starter."
Harrington completed 26 of 41 passes for 232 yards and two interceptions in Miami's 20-10 loss at New England on Oct. 8. He was chosen the starter one day earlier by Saban, while Culpepper was listed as "probable" on the team's injury report with what the team said was a sore shoulder.
And while Saban said Culpepper's shoulder remains a concern, it was clear that the knee recovery issues were foremost in his decision to continue with Harrington.
The decision could change "any time," Saban said, but no timetable for Culpepper's return exists.
"When he's playing and he can move laterally and quickly, not just in straight-ahead running, but in lateral movements and quick, explosive movements," Saban said when asked what he needs to see before he'd return Culpepper to the starting role. "That's what we'll be looking for."
The Dolphins are 1-4 and have lost seven of the last eight games at the Meadowlands, not including a 2003 win over the stadium's other tenant, the New York Giants.
Only one team in Miami history has recovered from a 1-4 start or worse to finish with a .500 record; the 1986 Dolphins rallied to end that season 8-8, yet still missed the playoffs.
Still, such a start isn't always a death knell. There are nine teams who have reached the playoffs from 1-4, most recently Green Bay in 2004.
"We've got to get it right. ... I think if we do that, we improve as a team, we start winning games and we got on a roll around here in a positive way," Saban said. "We're going to continue to focus on the good things, correct the bad things, focus on the good things that we have here and get the thing turned around."
Culpepper took every snap in the first four games, completed 81 of 134 passes for 929 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions -- and was sacked 21 times.
Harrington was sacked only once by the Patriots.
"By design, it was helpful that if the ball's coming out faster, you don't have to block them for as long," Saban said.
Culpepper and Saban exchanged heated words during practice Oct. 6, something the coach loudly -- and somewhat angrily -- tried to downplay Oct. 9.
Culpepper, Saban said, knows he's doing something that's best for the team right now, even though the Dolphins' top offseason acquisition is obviously disappointed by the situation.
"I understand that and I respect it," Saban said. "I would be a lot more concerned if the guy said: 'Great, I don't care. Let me go down to South Beach and see what's going on down there.' I would be real concerned then."