When he announced Ryan Fitzpatrick would be the Miami Dolphins starting quarterback on Aug. 29, coach Brian Flores was very convincing about the move.
There was no equivocation.
And the idea Fitzpatrick was merely warming the spot until Josh Rosen got up to speed and ready to play was dismissed out of hand.
“No, that’s not something that’s — Fitz is our starter,” Flores said then. “You don’t go into one of these saying, ‘Oh, he’s going to start for this amount of games, and then we’re going to…’ That’s not how you do this.
“We feel comfortable with him as the starting quarterback. He brings the leadership, the experience, and just an overall knowledge and ability to manage and run this offense, and that’s what we are looking for. I think he will do a good job.”
Interesting, because so much has changed in about three weeks.
On Wednesday and Thursday mornings, Flores again said Fitzpatrick is his starting quarterback — ostensibly for Sunday’s game at the Dallas Cowboys.
But the tone was different. The words were different.
And by Thursday afternoon, the Dolphins starting quarterback was different.
That’s when Flores spoke with both players and announced Fitzpatrick is going to the bench and Rosen is the Dolphins’ new starter.
This should surprise no one. This change was inevitable when Rosen was acquired for a second- and fifth-round draft pick in April. And it was logical after Fitzpatrick struggled in the first two games of the year and last week couldn’t put any points on the board against New England.
But the give-away, really, was the language from Flores. His message changed from Fitz is the guy to Fitz is the guy right now.
As a man who was not always in great demand with the ladies, I experienced the significant difference between being the guy and the guy right now.
And the guy right now is always about to get replaced.
This coaching staff made the absolute right call in picking Fitzpatrick to start the season. He was better suited for facing the multiple defenses fielded by Baltimore and then New England.
He is the unquestioned leader of the offense and other players look to him.
He was ready to operate the offense better than Rosen.
And Rosen needs improvement in recognizing defenses and processing information more quickly before he can hope to be effective in the offense.
So the decision to pick Fitz then was 100 percent correct.
But there had absolutely been internal discussions within the Dolphins’ building about picking the right timing for benching Fitz and starting Rosen. That fact has been confirmed to me multiple times.
And that timing varied from doing it this week ...
...Or next week against the Los Angeles Chargers.
...Or following the bye on Oct. 13 against the Washington Redskins.
Said another way, Fitzpatrick’s time as Miami’s starter came with an expiration date. The clock on him was ticking.
Because the Dolphins knew they would play Rosen this season. They knew he would start games — plural. Practically everyone within the team agreed on that although no one would admit it publicly.
“We’ve talked about that as a staff and I don’t think there’s a set in stone number,” offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea said this week.
Now there’s another clock at work. The one ticking on Rosen.
I’m told the team’s plan is to let Rosen be the starter to season’s end if possible. They’re not going to put him in and take him out of the lineup week to week if they can help it. Rosen remains unless he’s injured or some other unexpected circumstance rears its head.
This is no surprise. When Rosen heard Fitzpatrick had won the starting job in August, he said casually that the team would eventually turn to him.
“It’s only [a matter of time before] this team is mine,” Rosen said.
That time was imminent once the Dolphins this week began splitting practice reps between Rosen and Fitzpatrick. Because backup quarterbacks never split practice reps with the starter unless a change is possible.
And now we have what this move means: To the Dolphins, they continually say they took “a flier” on Rosen when they traded for him Now we get to see if Rosen is more than a flier.
We get to see if he’s a lander.
But here’s something you won’t read anywhere else: It doesn’t matter if Rosen doesn’t fully develop between now and the end of the season in December. Because the Dolphins are going to draft a quarterback in the first round of the 2020 draft regardless of what Rosen does the next few months.
So if he is good or merely solid, Rosen will be around next spring when Miami brings in that rookie to compete for the starting job.
And if he’s not quite good, which is possible because he doesn’t have a ton of talent around him, Rosen probably still will be around next spring when Miami brings in that rookie.
Because the 2020 Dolphins will still need a backup quarterback and Rosen will be in his second season in this offense -- which suggests he should be better then.
So Josh Rosen is giving Dolphins fans a reason to watch games on Sunday again. Because Josh Rosen is the Dolphins starting quarterback -- right now.