Dolphins coach settles on Fitzpatrick as first squad quarterback but it’s still a competition
Dolphins coach Brian Flores was right.
This has been, and continues to be, an important week — perhaps the most important week — in the Dolphins’ quarterback competition.
But has anything really changed?
From 10,000 feet, the dynamics seem largely the same — even after Josh Rosen worked almost exclusively with the starters in practice Wednesday, which he might do again in Friday’s preseason game.
Rosen remains the guy who, at least based on Flores’ criticism, hasn’t quite arrived.
And Ryan Fitzpatrick remains the guy he was for two years with the Buccaneers (and with the Rams, Bengals, Bills, Titans, Texans and Jets before that): steady, likable and smart.
For 15 years now, teams have tried to replace Fitzpatrick with someone younger, more talented, with a higher ceiling.
But Fitzpatrick has made a career out of hanging around, doing the right thing behind the scenes, and when opportunity knocks, answering the door.
Plus having a blast in the process.
“I think I had an opportunity to come to Miami and to compete for the job,” Fitzpatrick said here this week. “For me at least, football is a lot more fun when I’m out there playing.”
He had plenty of fun last season in Tampa Bay, when he started the first four games in place of a suspended Jameis Winston. Fitzpatrick responded by throwing for more than 400 yards in each of his first three games before regressing to the mean.
But it was the way he did it — fun-loving, gregarious — that so endeared himself to Tampa-St. Pete fans. Like when he showed up to a postgame news conference looking like Conor McGregor last September in flashy outfit owned by DeSean Jackson, replete with an open-chest shirt, chains and sunglasses.
“I think we just have to stay humble,” he deadpanned that day. “We’ve got to make sure we know how to handle success and all of those things so we don’t change who we are.”
Could you imagine Rosen trying to pull off the same schtick? It would fall flatter than a lead pancake.
But Fitzpatrick has the ideal football temperament, particularly for a career backup. He badly wants to play (and win), but is careful never to overstep.
He does whatever he can to win the job, but does whatever he can to help the other guy win it, too.
“I love having him,” Flores said of Fitzpatrick this week.
The dynamic in Tampa last seasib was a tricky one. Winston, for all of his faults, had (and still has) a future with the organization. Like Rosen does with the Dolphins now.
And as was the case a year ago, there’s no comparing their natural gifts. Rosen throws the ball with ease.
Fitzpatrick has to put his entire body into his delivery.
And yet, it works for him, and has for a generation.
“If being a quarterback was all based on height, weight, speed and arm talent, then I wouldn’t be in the NFL,” Fitzpatrick said. “... The intangibles are very important, because that’s why I’m standing up here in front of you. There are so many things that go into being a successful quarterback and playing the position the right way. That’s what I strive to do every day.”
Other quarterbacks, notably Joe Flacco in Denver, make it clear that their job is to play football, not to coach it to the guy trying to win his job.
Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, has been selfless with his time and insight.
“He’s been unbelievably helpful,” Rosen said. “He’s probably one of the best mentors I’ve had in the sport, and he’s been an unbelievable teammate and very selfless in helping me so much. It’s pretty impressive how he can just sort of walk up to the line and see it and just know what front, what coverage — everything they’re trying to do — and I’m just trying to get to that level.
“I think I have a sort of special skill set so that when I can put those two together, it can be special; but it’s going to be a long road, a lot of film, a lot of studying, and I’m just indebted to Fitz for how selfless he’s being. He is being selfless and whatnot, but he’s still competing his [expletive] off. He’s balling and when/if/and, whenever this or whatever shakes out this year, he’s going to absolutely fight his [expletive] off.”
He will again Friday night. And if past is prologue, don’t expect much about the Dolphins’ quarterback battle to change.