Miami Dolphins donate equipment to Miami Edison football team
Ryan Fitzpatrick arrived first and brought 14 years of NFL experience and a reputation as a fully developed player. When he agreed to become a Dolphins quarterback, the team believed he’d serve its short-term purposes, but everyone acknowledged Fitzpatrick is not the future.
Josh Rosen came weeks later and brought mostly unmet potential and much uncertainty. The Dolphins paid a premium price — second- and fifth-round picks — to pry him from Arizona during the draft but that came with no guarantees.
We were told Rosen has the ability to develop into Miami’s next great quarterback, ending a nearly two-decade search for that franchise changer. But we were also told it was no biggie if Rosen’s abilities didn’t manifest because 2020 would offer another chance to find Miami’s franchise quarterback.
So here we are at the opening of the Dolphins 2019 training camp: Fitzpatrick versus Rosen for the starting quarterback job.
“I think it’s going to be a competitive camp between the two,” Dolphins coach Brian Flores said Tuesday. “You’ve got Ryan Fitzpatrick, who’s the veteran, who is smart and a leader and been through it. And you have Josh Rosen, who’s smart and talented. He hasn’t been through it.
“May the best man win.”
Most NFL teams that go into training camp without certainty at quarterback are typically cringing at the prospect. And to be historically accurate, most of those situations don’t always pay big dividends right away. Dan Marino 1983 doesn’t happen very often, as South Florida has painfully come to understand.
But Flores doesn’t seem worried about that. He saw Rosen and Fitzpatrick compete in the spring programs and camps and was pleased with both. “I think they both competed and both got better,” Flores said.
And this is where we pause this happy column because critical facts need addressing: The snapshots of what we saw in the practices the Dolphins allowed to be viewed by reporters more often than not were pictures of a one-sided competition.
There were days Rosen was good. There’s no doubt. But Fitzpatrick was typically just as good on those days. And on days Rosen wasn’t quite as sharp as an NFL starter needs to be, Fitzpatrick was often clearly better.
This happened time after time. So without actual games being played, Fitzpatrick was ahead on points in the bout between the two.
So was the offseason really as competitive as Flores says?
“Yeah,” the coach responded. “Absolutely.”
Flores intends to make it clear to anyone who asks that despite what looked like Fitzpatrick leading Rosen in the race for the starting job — which included Fitzpatrick getting practically all the first-team practice repetitions — he isn’t really ahead of Rosen at all. And neither is Rosen ahead of Fitzpatrick.
“The offseason is just a piece of the entire evaluation process,” Flores said. “Each one of those guys will continue to learn and grow and get better, and whoever performs the best will be out there starting.”
But, coach ... what about what I saw? Are my eyes wrong?
“I wouldn’t say you’re wrong,” Flores said adding perspective. “But you did say until we see a game. That’s a big caveat there, where you have to understand the evaluation process had not ended. It’s just begun.
“So we’re not going to put the cart before the horse, so to speak. We’re at, what? Eight practices in the spring? I don’t think that’s enough to say one guy is definitively ahead of another guy. I would say I thought Ryan did a really good job. I thought Josh did a good job. I thought Jake Rudock did a good job. But it’s an ongoing process and the evaluation is ongoing and we will find out.”
The Dolphins lost a key cog in making that evaluation when assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell had to step away from his post for medical reasons. Caldwell has helped quarterbacks in Indianapolis, Tampa Bay and Detroit improve through the years and not having him will require some adjusting.
“I talked to him today,” Flores said. “You won’t see him at practice, but he’ll have a role as a consultant. He’ll be around to a degree.
“He’ll be here from time to time. It’s very fluid. I can’t say he will be or won’t be. It’s a fluid situation. We’ll fill in with guys on the staff. We’ve talked about that. We’ll split his roles among guys on the staff — game day roles, weekly tasks. We’ll split it all up.”