For the second time this season, the Miami Dolphins are making a quarterback change.
After nearly guiding the Dolphins to a come-from-behind victory against the Washington Redskins on Sunday, Ryan Fitzpatrick will start Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, Brian Flores announced Wednesday.
“We’re going to start Fitz this week,” the coach said. “We kind of came to that conclusion really over the last couple of days. We decided that we feel like that was the best thing for this team and give us an opportunity — the best opportunity — for this team to go up into a tough environment and try to pull out a win. And we do that on a weekly basis. What’s the best way, what’s the best grouping, set of players — offense, defense, kicking game — to help us try to win the game? We felt that that was the case this week.”
Fitzpatrick started the first two games of the season before Miami (0-5) turned to quarterback Josh Rosen last month against the Dallas Cowboys. Rosen started the next three game before throwing a pair of interceptions and taking five sacks against the Redskins on Sunday. Fitzpatrick entered with the Dolphins trailing by two touchdowns and guided Miami within a two-point conversion of its first win. The Dolphins failed a two-point conversion in the final seconds and lost 17-16 after trailing 17-3.
There was only one word Fitzpatrick could use to adequately describe his first season in Miami: “Rollercoaster.”
“Through it all, you just try to stay steady,” Fitzpatrick said, “and try to make sure that all the stuff that’s either going on outside or even inside of the building, it’s not affecting the way that you’re doing your job and the way that you’re approaching your job.”
Fitzpatrick struggled in his first two weeks as a starter, completing 25 of 50 passes for 274 yards, a touchdown and four interceptions in a pair of blowout losses. Rosen entered both games in relief of Fitzpatrick in garbage time and outplayed the veteran to get the nod as the starter for the next three weeks of an already-lost season.
Fitzpatrick, however, led Miami to its best half of football Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium. The Dolphins, who hadn’t scored in the second half all season, scored 13 in the fourth quarter after Fitzpatrick entered. Fitzpatrick went 12 of 18 with 132 yards and a touchdown pass to wide receiver DeVante Parker with six seconds left to cut Washington’s lead to 17-16 in Miami Gardens.
In three full quarters, Rosen went 15 of 25 with 85 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. He is now just 58 of 109 with 567 yards, one touchdown and five interceptions this season.
Flores has spent the entire year separating himself from all the tanking chatter which has surrounded the organization. He is doing his all to win every game even with the unhelpful hand the front office has dealt him. His decision to go with Fitzpatrick, 36, instead of Rosen, 22, is the most clear-cut bit of evidence yet.
Less than two years ago, Rosen was a top-10 pick by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2018 NFL Draft. In April, the Dolphins spent a second-round pick to land the quarterback in a trade with the Cardinals. Rosen would have a chance to prove himself as Miami’s quarterback of the future before the Dolphins went out and drafted a quarter.
Rosen, however, didn’t win the starting job in the preseason. He didn’t win it after Miami suffered its first blowout loss at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens in the season opener last month, either.
It took until the third game of the season for Fitzpatrick’s poor play and some flashes from Rosen convinced Flores to make a change. It took three quarters Sunday for Flores to decide to change back.
“I mean, it impacts it negatively,” Rosen said when asked how this benching affects his long-term status with the Dolphins, “but the degree to which it impacts it I think is still to be determined, and it’s my job to kind of minimize that and still continue to prove. We’re here seven days a week.”
The Dolphins hoped they were going to find a late bloomer after Rosen struggled as a rookie in Arizona. Flores said Monday, however, Miami already feels good about the evaluation it has of Rosen.
On Wednesday, Flores made it clear the evaluation says Fitzpatrick is the better choice to win games right now, although he wouldn’t go quite as far as to say the rest of the players respond better with Fitzpatrick in the game.
“We need to be more productive on offense. We really need to be more productive everywhere, but offensively, we need more production. We got that out of Ryan the other day for a quarter,” Flores said. “He’s got the ball in his hands on every snap, so he’s got a relationship with the center, the receivers, the backs, the tight ends. So, yeah, players — really, I would say on every team — they have to respond to the quarterback.”
Not all faith is lost on Rosen, though. As Flores said, the Dolphins wouldn’t have started the quarterback the last three weeks if they didn’t think he could be of starting caliber.
The problem is, more often than not in 2019, Rosen hasn’t looked starting caliber once he has actually been on the field.
“I’m bummed out, but it’s a part of the process and if coach wants to make the decision, it’s his decision to make,” Rosen said. “I wish I would have made it a little tougher on him, but it’s a long season. I’m going to continue to push Fitz and be there for him like he was there for me.
“I mean, it worked this last game. I wouldn’t like to say it, but the decision to flip almost gave us a chance to win at the end of the game and Coach Flo is the head coach, so it’s his decision to make on what gives the best opportunity to win. It’s my job to prove him wrong at this point. I respect the decision. I understand it.”