The first Miami Dolphins starting quarterback competition in eight years begins in earnest this week, and the plan is to let Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen (and maybe even Jake Rudock) share practice repetitions as they get work with starters on offense and presumably against starters on defense.
“I think they’ll all be working in with similar guys and getting pretty much equal reps with everybody,” assistant quarterback coach Jerry Schuplinski said recently. “Then, eventually, we’ll just see how they develop and how they go. I think we’ll probably let the process come to us and see who is playing well.”
This process is new to the Dolphins because the team hasn’t conducted a quarterback competition of any significance since Ryan Tannehill’s was drafted in the first round of 2012, and Matt Moore returned to the team as the incumbent starter from the year before.
(Yes, there was a David Garrard sighting that offseason, but a knee injury ended that idea the first week of training camp and then it was all about Tannehill versus Moore — a competition Tannehill won by default when Moore failed to throw a TD pass, completed only 39.2 percent of his passes and posted a 37.5 rating in preseason games.)
Not exactly heady times.
This quarterback competition also pits a veteran who has started many NFL games — although not for the Dolphins — against a much younger candidate.
And although Fitzpatrick and Rosen are new to the offense the Dolphins are installing this year — which should be something of an equalizer because neither quarterback has been in the system — Fitzpatrick might be slightly ahead of Rosen because he signed in mid-March and Rosen didn’t arrive until the last days of April.
“He’s certainly not caught up to everybody probably quite yet; but I think we took the right approach with that.,” Schuplinski said of Rosen. “I don’t think he’s going to catch up in a week-and-a-half’s time. But if we take a little bit of a longer view, hopefully in the next couple of weeks he’s there. You can certainly see signs of progress.”
There’s another area where Fitzpatrick might initially enjoy an advantage over Rosen: Leadership.
Fitzpatrick came to the team as the starting quarterback March 17 and there was no question about that until the moment the Dolphins traded for Rosen five weeks later. In those five weeks, Fitzpatrick established himself in the Dolphins locker room and among offensive players as a leader. Perhaps as the leader.
“He’s come in our building and he’s provided great leadership,” offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea said of Fitzpatrick. “He obviously provided a veteran presence and he has certainly embraced everything we’ve asked him to do.”
Now that the Dolphins have asked Fitzpatrick to be part of a competition rather than a coronation, he is embracing that, too. One source said Fitzpatrick has not complained about the Rosen addition nor having to win the job. Another source said Fitzpatrick was actually pleased he wasn’t immediately cast as a backup when the Rosen trade happened.
And teammates say privately Fitzpatrick has been carrying himself like he intends to win the competition.
One might assume Rosen feels the same way. No, he didn’t enjoy the privilege of joining the team as the presumptive starter. But it would be strange if a quarterback who has been a starter all his life accepted anything less before a competition even begins.
So, game on.
And about that ...
The so-called organized team activities that begin this week — nine practice sessions in the next three weeks — will offer Miami’s quarterbacks a chance to compete against defenders as well as each other.
The offseason before now has been about throwing to receivers covered by, well, no one.
Throwing against air. And air has terrible man-press technique.
In 11-on-11 drills that presumably will be included in coach Brian Flores’ OTA practices, the quarterbacks won’t be hit (better not be) but will be rushed and will be throwing to receivers covered by defenders.
So this will kind of sort of look like football — minus maybe the threat of pain.
Dolphins coaches say the winner of this looming competition will probably be obvious to everyone. There’s really no secret about a quarterback avoiding turnovers, making good decisions, completing passes, moving the offense and getting the unit in the end zone.
It’s not neurosurgery.
But Miami coaches will be looking for at least one important intangible from their starting quarterback:
“I think the first thing is a leader,” O’Shea said. “You want someone that [teammates] see as their leader. You want somebody to be the ambassador of your program, to be your flag bearer — basically, somebody that you trust to carry on the message of what your vision is from coach Flo’, from the offensive staff, through the team. So, I think that leadership is very important.”