The Miami Dolphins finally admitted Wednesday what most thoughtful football people believed was the case all along: Coach Brian Flores said having Josh Rosen as the team’s starting quarterback the remainder of this season is “settled” business.
Good, bad or somewhere in between, Rosen is the team’s starter the remaining 12 games of 2019. Only an injury could force the team to reinsert Ryan Fitzpatrick, the starter the first two weeks, into the starting lineup.
So what does that mean? Well, the common thought is that Rosen has a 12-week window to prove himself to Flores and general manager Chris Grier. That thought is so pervasive that even Rosen himself shares it.
“The way I am sort of approaching this year is I feel like I am really just trying out for the team,” Rosen said Wednesday. “I feel like I am auditioning and I am trying to put my best foot forward and prove to everyone upstairs and coach Flo and Mr. Grier that I am the man moving forward.
“It is not like what you would — I don’t know, it’s a different circumstance than a lot of other quarterbacks have been put in. But it is the one that I have been given, and I am taking it in full stride and I am excited to hopefully prove over these next 12 more weeks that I am their guy moving forward.”
Except ... that’s not correct.
Not at all.
So let’s clear up the misconceptions — even for you, Josh, since you’re reading this:
Rosen is absolutely the Dolphins’ guy the next 12 weeks, and he will continue to be one of their guys beyond that into next season. That is practically guaranteed. Rosen is in the second year of his rookie contract that ties him to the Dolphins through the 2021 season.
And because it is a rookie deal, it’s relatively cheap. Rosen, carrying a $1.28 million cap number this year, will see that number rise to a (not) whopping $2.08 million next year. That’s a bargain. Even by backup quarterback standards that’s very cheap.
So anyone thinking that Rosen’s window is 12 games and then the Dolphins must either commit to him or flush him is wrong. He is, at this stage, very much in the team’s plans for 2020.
And his status for the start of that 2020 season is pretty much already decided as well.
Because whether Rosen continues his current arc or falls off or even if he improves exponentially, the Miami Dolphins are going to draft a quarterback in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft.
I have been told this over and over and over by Dolphins sources. And everything the Dolphins are doing in scouting the current crop of likely available quarterbacks for that draft is further proof of Miami’s unshakable intention.
So Rosen is wrong on two fronts:
If he thinks he’s gone if he bombs the next 12 games, he’s wrong.
If he thinks he will can earn the starting job for 2020 and cause the team to bypass a quarterback in the first round next April, he is also wrong.
(First of all, the Dolphins brain trust is aware the current offense around Rosen is substandard. The man would have to be better than Dan Marino to get good results with this crew. So he’s not going to be consistently amazing anyway. But even if he plays well, the idea is to add that quarterback).
And that brings me to Rosen’s so-called 12-week window.
Rosen’s window is actually much wider than anyone thinks. Congrats, Josh!
Rosen’s going to be around next training camp — assuming something strange doesn’t occur. And at the opening of that camp Rosen and Miami’s newly minted first-round pick quarterback will compete for the starting job.
And the best man will be the starter at the beginning of the 2020 season.
Now this is where it gets interesting: Barring a coaching change after this season, Rosen will be in his second year under the current offense and under offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea. The rookie first-round pick, regardless of talent, will be in his first few months in the system.
So unless the rookie is a prodigy, Rosen may very well win the starting job for the 2020 season-opener.
There’s more: The Dolphins are tanking this season. But they are definitely not tanking next year. They expect to use a sizable portion of the $110 million to $125 million in cap space they have saved up to field a much more veteran and competitive team in 2020. They also have multiple first- and second-round draft picks in the 2020 draft.
So the same Rosen who is surrounded by subpar players this season will be surrounded by much better players, many of whom will be proven NFL veterans, in training camp and the preseason next year.
That means Rosen then will have a truly legitimate opportunity to show if he’s good. Right now? Be serious, that’s not a legit opportunity and everyone knows it.
So that 2020 training camp and preseason will be the climax moment of Rosen’s so-called tryout. Because if Rosen, having a full season and offseason under the current offense, 14 games of starting experience under the current offense, and much greater talent around him, can play like a top-tier quarterback then, he can win a starting job for 2020.
Similarly, if he can’t do it then, with so many variables working in his favor, he better get used to backup duty either in Miami or elsewhere.
Keep in mind Rosen will be given this opportunity in the context of the team having a first-round quarterback waiting in the wings. If that guy — presumably Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert — is simply amazing from the first moment and thus better than Rosen immediately, the issue will be settled.
But the assumption is the rookie will need to grow into the job. Even Marino had to grow into the job his rookie season.
So that will keep the window of opportunity open for Rosen — at least through Miami’s 2020 training camp and preseason.