Ryan Fitzpatrick, over this long career, has played because of suspension.
He has played because of injury.
He has even played because IK Enemkpali socked Geno Smith in the jaw over a $600 debt.
So he not only knows the fleeting nature of the NFL, he has benefited from it.
But when the Dolphins inevitably start Josh Rosen at some point this season, he will be on the flip side of that dynamic.
Little can surprise Fitzpatrick at this point. Not getting benched. And not keeping his starting job — at least for this week — despite being the league’s lowest-rated quarterback.
“I’ve seen it every way,” Fitzpatrick said. “I truly have. ... There’s a million things and ways it’s happened in my career. For me, always being ready and knowing that when I have my opportunity, I have to go out there and do my best.
“My whole career has been like that. I try to do my best in putting my focus in what I can control,” Fitzpatrick said. “The first two games, there’s a lot of things that I need to do better in order for us to perform better, and that’s where my focus is on right now.”
But he must know the leash draws shorter with every blowout loss. Dolphins coach Brian Flores seemed to equivocate a bit Wednesday when asked who would start at quarterback Sunday against the Cowboys.
“Right now, Fitz is the guy, but again every week both quarterbacks will get reps,” Flores said. “That’s the case every week throughout the league. You see there have been injuries at that position, across the league. It’s like every position on the field. You’ve got to have a backup. Every one, you’ve got to get them reps during the week, and it’s no different at quarterback for us.”
You don’t need bifocals to read between those lines. Rosen’s day is coming. It’s just a matter of when.
But if you’re expecting any awkwardness in the locker room over that switch, you don’t know Fitzpatrick. Honesty and transparency are important to him.
And those qualities have helped him lead this team during perhaps the most tumultuous few months in recent memory. Monday night’s trade of Minkah Fitzpatrick to the Steelers was just the latest major roster move that stripped the Dolphins roster of talent.
Those moves have inevitably been discussed — occasionally in anger — among players. And that’s a good thing, Fitzpatrick suggested.
“The elephant in the room. There are certain things, whether it’s the Minkah trade or Laremy [Tunsil] or Kenny [Stills] or dropping the ball or throwing an interception that some people treat them as taboo, but you have to be open about it and put everything out there and knowing guys are going to make mistakes, but maybe getting to the root of why it’s happening,” he said. “I just think as a whole, overcommunicating on all that and getting it out there is an important thing.”
Fitzpatrick has struggled in the first two weeks of the season. He has a garish passer rating of 39.9, and his 274 passing yards are the fewest among any NFL quarterback who has started the first two weeks.
The problem is, Rosen has been no better. He has thrown interceptions in each of his first two appearances as a Dolphin, both in mop-up duty.
Dolphins offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea said Rosen has “made progress, certainly.”
“I think anytime that you have to learn a new offense and you have to learn a new language and you’re doing it at a place in which it’s your first year, there’s challenges along the way. But I certainly think there’s progress that’s been made. Last week was a good week for him — and during the week — of preparation. He stayed well prepared during the week.”
But for Flores, who starts at quarterback might come down to a matter of trust, and fit.
“Fitz, I think he’s got real leadership ability. He’s smart, he knows what we’re doing offensively, he can get guys in the right position and he’s a guy that I have a lot of trust in,” Flores said. “I like Fitz a lot.”