Ryan Fitzpatrick gets one more down, one last opportunity, to get the Miami Dolphins offense into the end zone this Wednesday practice period against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Despite some inconsistent protection, Fitzpatrick delivers a line drive between two defenders into the grasp of receiver Trenton Irwin.
Fitzpatrick throws his arms up and sprints 30 yards to celebrate with the rookie wide receiver and the rest of the Miami offense that has joined the two in a giddy end zone pile.
And this is important: This scene plays out on the day Fitzpatrick, the team’s starter almost the entire training camp, is relegated to working with the second-team offense while Josh Rosen is promoted ahead of him to the starting offense.
So this scene is playing out despite what Fitzpatrick could easily feel is a bad-news day. This is happening on a day he’s been demoted.
But there’s no sign of that trouble from Fitzpatrick.
No disappointment. His body language, his demeanor, is exactly what it has been the entire training camp.
It’s exactly what the Dolphins want from their quarterback.
“I think it’s always good,” Dolphins coach Brian Flores said of Fitzpatrick’s body language. “This is a guy who’s upbeat, who works hard. Football is very important to him. I think it’s good. He’s a leader on this team. He does a lot of really good things. I love having him.”
Flores raised the issue of “body language” on Tuesday. The coach spoke of how important it is to see the right body language from his players and coaches and added body language will be judged in the quarterback competition.
And while Flores made it clear Rosen needs to improve in that area, he didn’t really include Fitzpatrick as needing similar work. That’s because Fitzpatrick is the total package in that area.
When it comes to body language or demeanor Fitzpatrick has a clear advantage over Rosen because he simply has it just right.
“Well, if being a quarterback was all based on height, weight, speed and arm talent, then I wouldn’t be in the NFL,” Fitzpatrick said. “...The intangibles are very important, because that’s why I’m standing up here in front of you. There are so many things that go into being a successful quarterback and playing the position the right way. That’s what I strive to do every day.”
Fitzpatrick is a uniting force on the Dolphins. Players say he’s been in that in the huddle and the locker room. And this isn’t a new thing.
Before coming to the Dolphins, Fitzpatrick played in Tampa and often replaced starter Jameis Winston in the starting role although the team is committed to Winston as its franchise quarterback. Despite that delicate situation, Fitzpatrick was able to maintain a great relationship with the entire locker room and, yes, Winston himself.
That’s why Winston gleefully played with Fitzpatrick’s newest family addition after practice Tuesday.
”Yeah, I mean we are friends,” Fitzpatrick said. “It was good to just catch up with him for a little bit. I got to introduce him to little Jake, my seventh little baby. Yeah, there are a lot of guys on this team I have a special relationships with and he is certainly one of them.”
Fitzpatrick wants badly to beat out Rosen as Miami’s quarterback That goes without saying.
The Dolphins may be Fitzpatrick’s final opportunity to be an NFL starting quarterback. Yet, Fitzpatrick has been helpful to Rosen improve even as he’s trying to stay ahead of him. Rosen has said this. Coaches have said this.
“I’m certainly very open to questions,” Fitzpatrick said. “I always throw in my two cents whether they want to hear it or not. I just think in playing this game for as long as I have, there are so many good things that have happened and there are also scars that have developed from mistakes that you’ve made that you don’t want other people to make.
“I just try to share all of those experiences with them. They’ve been real good too in terms of being receptive and asking questions. I’m an open book. I’m here to compete, play football, have fun and go from there.”
Fitzpatrick is going to continue being, well, himself. The only question left unanswered on the body language or demeanor front is whether Rosen can improve on something that typically is ingrained in personality rather than learned.
But if Rosen can learn it, he’s got a great example to follow in Fitzpatrick.
“I think just the position of quarterback in general, that is a leadership position on the team,” Fitzpatrick said. “Guys are looking at you for something as little as the play call, something as little as demeanor in and out of the huddle.
“Bad plays, they are looking at you to see how you’re going to react, good plays looking at you to see how you’re going to react. All of that stuff goes into it.”