Armando Salguero

Dolphins sign QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to start, signaling the plan to tank 2019 is intact

The biggest names on the move this NFL offseason

Whether it's trades or free agents signings, the NFL offseason has already been one to remember. Here are the biggest names on the move.
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Whether it's trades or free agents signings, the NFL offseason has already been one to remember. Here are the biggest names on the move.

Think about what you’re seeing from these Miami Dolphins. Look at it closely because it is at once depressing, desperate, amazing, interesting, and borderline genius.

The Miami Dolphins, clueless in how to piece together a consistent NFL winner this entire century, are going to the nuclear option for 2019. That’s official.

This is no longer a prediction that began when owner Stephen Ross fired coach Adam Gase on December 31 and said the reason was because Gase “wants to win now.”

This is no longer hidden amid informed sources whispering or texting that talk of tanking was mentioned in at least one head coach interview that followed the Gase firing.

This is now a naked approach to tanking the 2019 season.

It’s out in the open. Right in front of your disbelieving eyes. This Miami Dolphins 2019 season isn’t going to be about winning. Or trying to compete. Or even about being relevant.

This 2019 Dolphins season is all about 2020.

About the future.

About tomorrow. Even at the expense of today.

Now, that sounds like criticism. It’s not. I understand what this organization is doing. I don’t love some of the things happening because there are other ways to go about this. But I understand the approach.

So, this is definitely not a critical description of what the Dolphins are doing. It is merely the description. It’s the truth. That’s undeniable now.

The Dolphins are setting themselves up to lose in 2019 so they can indeed own lots of cap space and a high draft slot with multiple picks in the 2020 draft.

That’s confirmed by what they’re doing:

On Sunday the Dolphins agreed with Ryan Fitzpatrick on a two-year deal, reported by ESPN to be worth $11 million, so he could be the team’s veteran bridge quarterback in 2019. Let me define veteran bridge quarterback for you:

Starter.

And sacrificial lamb.

And what else to call a 36-year-old journeyman who will be playing behind an offensive line that doesn’t currently have a starting right tackle or starting left guard because Ja’ Wuan James left in free agency and Josh Sitton was cut?

The guy is going to stink assuming (big assumption) the offensive line keeps him healthy enough to play.

This, by the way, pushes back against the idea Fitzpatrick might be good. It runs counter to the thinking that the Dolphins just added a too-good option to play quarterback for them.

That’s kind of exactly what the Dolphins want you to think and the genius of what they’re doing.

They want to stink. But they don’t want to openly admit it to fans or, more importantly, to their locker room because that would feel too clownish.

So the best move is to add a guy who will indeed be terrible while giving the appearance he has a chance to succeed.

Thus Ryan Fitzpatrick.

And let’s be clear what Fitzpatrick is. He’s a significant downgrade from Ryan Tannehill, who was just traded to the Tennesee Titans. That is not debatable.

The Dolphins intentionally downgraded at QB the last couple of days. The team effectively traded away a better quarterback, added a worse quarterback, and added fourth-round pick in 2020.

Now, convince me this isn’t all about 2020.

Fitzpatrick is a career backup who fell into some starting assignments with terrible teams in the past. The Buffalo Bills, in the midst of a 17-season playoff drought, made Fitzpatrick their starter for four of those lean years.

Those Bills were so dumb they even gave Fitzpatrick a big contract. And he rewarded them with a 20-33 record. And, I’ll remind you, Buffalo was actually trying to win.

Fitzpatrick’s lifetime record as a starting quarterback?

A wholly atrocious 50-75-1 for a .402 winning percentage.

Perfect!

And, yes, Fitzpatrick has been a wild card at times. He’s consistently inconsistent and part of that means he plays well at times. But, just as useful for 2019, he’s horrible other times.

We’re talking about a player who threw six touchdown passes without an interception in a November 2014 game. And threw six interceptions without a touchdown in a September 2016 game.

No team, until now, has ever brought Fitzpatrick onto its roster to be its unquestioned starting quarterback.

He was drafted in the seventh round by the St. Louis Rams in 2005. He was traded for a seventh-rounder to Cincinnati in 2007. He joined the Bills in 2009 to be Trent Edwards’s backup.

After he was released in 2013, the Tennessee Titans signed him to be Jake Locker’s backup and he was gone after one season.

Houston signed him in 2014 and asked him to compete with Ryan Mallett. He won that competition to start the season, then lost the job by November and was on the market again in the spring of 2015.

The New York Jets signed him in March of 2015 as Geno Smith’s backup. Then Smith got punched by a teammate in training camp and Fitzpatrick was thrust into the starting role. He turned in a career year, throwing 31 touchdown and 15 interceptions.

And, in the current Dolphins bizarre world, that good year is a concern for some fans.

Because what if this guy puts together another career year? What if he strings together three good games and the Dolphins win them all?

Look, that’s part of the gamble of having plausible deniability about the whole tanking process.

The Dolphins don’t really care about your concerns right now but they do want the players in the locker room to think they have a chance. They want to point to Fitzpatrick and remind his teammates of his amazing 2015 work.

But I remind you that work happened four seasons ago. And Fitzpatrick’s never been able to get that level of consistency back since. And his winning percentage since is .333 in 21 games.

And the Fitzpatrick addition is just one of many tanking steps the Dolphins are taking this season. Others?

Have they signed a starting right tackle to replace James? Have they unquestionably upgraded any position in free agency? Who is going to rush the passer? Who is going to start at left guard?

Relax, tank-a-holics. The Dolphins are on course.

The plan to tank in 2019 is apparently intact.

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