Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea spent many Saturday afternoons in the shadow of the old Orange Bowl in the early 1980s, playing football in the parking lots around the stadium before University of Miami games.
O’Shea’s father Mike was on the Hurricanes athletic training staff when Howard Schnellenberger was coach and O’Shea, between 7 and 12 during those years, grew up loving and understanding the importance of great quarterback play.
“I grew up at a time when I could wear a Jim Kelly jersey, a Bernie Kosar jersey and Vinny Testaverde jersey,” O’Shea said Thursday. “My dream was to be the quarterback at the University of Miami and play for coach Schnellenberger. But I only grew as tall as 5-11 and 3/4. I went another path.”
O’Shea’s path has coincidentally led back to South Florida.
And the quarterback position.
O’Shea along with assistant head coach and quarterback coach Jim Caldwell and assistant quarterback coach Jerry Schuplinski are a big deal now. So become familiar with the names if you aren’t already.
Because these three are responsible for fixing the Dolphins quarterbacks. They’re responsible for a position on the Dolphins that’s been damaged, if not altogether broken, since Dan Marino retired following the 1999 season.
But no pressure.
These coach have to make Josh Rosen a franchise quarterback. Or make Ryan Fitzpatrick a consistent starter. Or make Jake Rudock the NFL’s biggest surprise.
That makes O’Shea, Caldwell and Schuplinski the most important assistants on Brian Flores’ staff.
It’s not that any of the other assistants aren’t important. They are. But the Dolphins have had good defensive lines at times the past 19 years. And some good offensive lines. And good receivers. And good defensive backs and special teams.
And even when the men who coached or played those positions lived up to expectations, failures at quarterback limited their success. Overshadowed them.
So the quarterback position needs fixing for the team to return to winning.
O’Shea, Caldwell and Schuplinski are responsible for that. They have to identify and develop the next franchise quarterback. They have to find the fixer -- be it Rosen, Fitzpatrick or someone still playing college ball.
And the work is already underway.
“I would just say that as a whole, we’re pretty happy about our room,” Schuplinski said. “I think they’re all working hard – Ryan, Jake and Josh. It’s a really good group, so you’ve got to be on your game to come in and present information to them because they’re going to have a lot of good questions as a whole. Josh is included in that.”
Rosen last year said he wouldn’t run a play if he didn’t know why it was called. These coaches seem comfortable with that.
“I think players should want to know why,” O’Shea said. “That’s something that we encourage our players as they learn our offense to learn the whys. If they’re really not inquisitive about the whys, then they’re never really conceptually going to understand the offense. I think Josh is highly intelligent just like Ryan and Jake.
“Having smart guys in the quarterback room is a good thing. I think those guys aren’t afraid to ask why and we’re not afraid to answer.”
Having leadership among the quarterbacks, particularly the starter, is also important. Maybe more important. And Caldwell, Schuplinski and O’Shea will gauge that as the team searches for the winner of a looming quarterback competition.
“I think that’s really all part of it,” Caldwell said. “I think coach Flores will take a look at that and make some determination. Chad will as well, as you look for guys that best reflect what we want to do and are able to get it done. The intangibles are important.”
O’Shea said he wants the quarterback to be “the ambassador of your program. Your flag bearer basically -- someone you trust to carry the message of what your vision is from coach Flo to the offensive staff through the team.”
It’ll be interesting which quarterback these coaches ultimately select as the starter. The coaches insist the competition will be real, echoing Flores marching orders from two weeks ago.
“We have options,” O’Shea said.
But pragmatically, Rosen must get a good share of repetitions, game snaps, and starts for the evaluation on him to be as fair and as complete as possible. Without that full evaluation the Dolphins might not make the right decision about whether or not to draft another quarterback in 2020.
And whatever that distant decision, O’Shea, Caldwell and Schuplinski will be intimately involved. Another reason they’re so important.