A six-pack of Dolphins notes on a Monday night:
▪ If Josh Rosen needs any insight on perhaps the biggest factor working in his favor in Miami, he can call future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning. Or former Pro Bowler Matt Stafford. Or one-time Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco.
In Jim Caldwell’s first year coaching those respective players, Manning reached new heights; Flacco produced a superb playoff run and won a Super Bowl and Stafford made a Pro Bowl for the first time. All did their best work around Caldwell.
And now Caldwell – hired by new Dolphins coach Brian Flores as assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach – will get a chance to mold Rosen, a talented young player who can make all the throws but needs to be developed. And a former NFL general manager believes this is the perfect match.
“Jim Caldwell is one of the better coaching development quarterback coaches there is,” NFL Network analyst and former NFL GM Charley Casserly said. “Matt Stafford [played the] best football of his career [with Caldwell as his head coach]. Peyton Manning will stand on a table, literally, for this guy and endorse him.”
Manning presumably would have become a star with or without Caldwell. But the difference in his performance once Caldwell arrived is significant, and Manning suggested it’s not a coincidence.
In his first four NFL seasons, before Caldwell became his quarterback coach, Manning had 111 touchdown passes, 81 interceptions, completed 61 percent of his passes and had an 85.1 passer rating.
In his next four NFL seasons, after Caldwell became his coach, Manning had 133 touchdown passes, 49 interceptions, completed 67 percent of his passes and had a 102.4 passer rating.
Four times under Caldwell, Manning was named NFL MVP. He won a Super Bowl in 2006 and went to another in 2009, the year Caldwell replaced Tony Dungy as the Colts’ head coach.
“I felt like once he got to Indianapolis and became my quarterbacks coach, my game really improved. It took my game to another level,” Manning said during his final NFL season with Denver.
“He and I had a set routine that we tried to perform every day in the meeting room, on the practice field, in different drills. And from 2003 to 2008, when he was my quarterbacks coach, I was playing at a high level. The discipline of having that routine really made an impact on me. I really felt like I just sort of took a step up during the years that he was my quarterbacks coach. Jim meant a great deal in my career.”
Caldwell became Ravens quarterbacks coach in 2012, then was promoted to offensive coordinator that December, replacing the fired Cam Cameron, and oversaw the best stretch of Flacco’s career. Flacco joined Joe Montana as the only quarterbacks in history to throw 11 touchdowns and no interceptions during a playoff run, which ended with a Super Bowl victory over San Francisco. (Flacco fell off the next year, and Caldwell became Lions coach after that 2013 season.)
In Detroit, though Caldwell was head coach and not quarterbacks coach, he played a key role in helping Stafford turn a corner. In his first five NFL seasons (without Caldwell), Stafford had 109 touchdown passes, 73 interceptions, completed 59.5 percent of his passes and had an 83.1 rating.
With Caldwell as his head coach for four years, he had 104 touchdowns, 45 interceptions, completed 64.5 percent of his passes and had a 93.1 rating.
“He’s been great – as level-headed a guy I’ve ever been around,” Stafford told Detroit reporters the day Caldwell was fired on Jan. 1, 2018. “He understands the position of quarterback really well. He was great for me.”
Stafford staged more fourth quarter comebacks with Caldwell as his coach because “they were situations we practiced over and over and over again. They showed up in games and we executed… We did a pretty darned good job with those and [Caldwell] had a lot to do with that.”
And now Rosen gets the benefit of Caldwell’s mentoring.
“If he doesn’t follow the game plan,” Casserly said, “Jim Caldwell will take him right out of there.”
▪ Casserly and former Houston quarterback David Carr, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2002 draft, cautioned not to underestimate how Ryan Fitzpatrick can help Rosen.
“He’s got a good mentor there [with] Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is excellent as far as being a model of work ethic,” Casserly said. “He’s got a good environment.”
Carr, now an NFL Network analyst, said Fitzpatrick is “is going to be able to give that veteran experience and hopefully that triggers something in him. [Like Rosen, Fitzpatrick] is a cerebral guy as well. [Rosen is] not going to feel like there’s a guy that’s not as smart or can’t bounce things off of.”
▪ There’s no question about Rosen’s arm talent.
“The saving grace is you have ability, you have talent, you have something that not a lot of people have,” Carr said. “He can throw it with the best of him. You have every opportunity, albeit a bad one, to go out there and change some of these perceptions, slash realities, about you.
Said Casserly: “Does the light come on and he realizes he’s humbled and he has got to earn something for the first time in his career? Something has to click here. Fitzpatrick will play himself out of the job. He always does. He’s going to have a four interception game at some point. Is it going to be October? September? If this guy [Rosen] applies himself, and he turns himself on in the right way, he will get another shot. if he doesn’t, he might be up here with us next year.”
▪ But Casserly and Carr also were pretty blunt about their view of the Dolphins during their appearances on NFL Network this weekend.
“This may be the worst starting 22 in the National Football League,” Casserly said.
Said Carr: “You are in a situation where your team is terrible. They’re bad.”
▪ Couple notes from Pro Football Focus:
As an indication of his poor pass protection, Rosen last season was sacked 17 times on occasions when he had less than 2.5 seconds – most in the league.
And PFF said Rosen was victimized by 22 dropped passes. But “when his receivers were able to find separation from their primary coverage defender, Rosen was sharp,” PFF said.
“In fact, he outperformed Ryan Tannehill and Brock Osweiler in Miami last season when targeting receivers who had a least a step of separation. On such throws, Rosen recorded an 87.9 passing grade and a big-time throw rate of 4.2%. Tannehill, on the other hand, recorded just a 75.5 passing grade and a big-time throw rate of 1.2%, while Osweiler posted a 73.3 passing grade and a 1.8% big-time throw rate.”
▪ From the pre-draft process last year, one quote about Rosen that stood out: Fox’s Troy Aikman said “Josh can throw as well as anyone I’ve ever seen.”…Pretty remarkable that Arizona will end up paying 64 percent of Rosen’s rookie contract, but Miami will get him for three years (with an option to keep him for the 2022 season), while Arizona gets him only one. His $1.3 million salary this season is 17th on the Dolphins, and he’s due $2.1 million and $2.9 million the following two years…
Add Purdue center Kirk Barron to the list of undrafted players added by the Dolphins… With the Dolphins drafting Buckeyes offensive tackle Isaiah Price, they’ve now drafted more players from Ohio State and Tennessee (15 apiece) than any school except UM (17).
Here was my Monday piece with what you need to do about the Dolphins’ three new rookie running backs.