Dolphins coach wants competition among his quarterbacks
The Miami Dolphins presently have the smartest quarterback room in the NFL, and maybe of all time. Hyperbole, you say? Top this:
Ryan Fitzpatrick has an economics degree from Harvard. Scored a 48 on the NFL’s Wonderlic intelligence test, third-highest of all time. Got 1,580 (of 1,600) on the SAT. Can solve a Rubik’s Cube in a matter of seconds.
Josh Rosen, born of Ivy League parents, his father a spinal surgeon, earned an economics degree from UCLA. Is an environmentalist who wears cleats made of recycled ocean plastic. Plays guitar. Was called “the smartest player in college football” by GQ in 2017, when the player lamented, “Football really dents my ability to take some classes that I need.”
Then there’s third-string QB Jake Rudock. He was twice Academic All-Big Ten at Michigan. That was after he’d graduated from Iowa with a degree in (are you ready? ) Interdepartmental Studies of Multidisciplinary Sciences.
So it is with some irony, I guess, that the decision coming out of this room — who Miami hopes is its starting quarterback in 2019 — should be a no-brainer.
If the coaches in charge are half as smart as the men they’re judging, they’d better hope the man out front ends up being Rosen.
There should not be a scintilla of doubt about that.
And yet there is, at least publicly, as the team works through its offseason, whose next major milepost will be mandatory minicamp on June 4-6.
Coach Brian Flores raised a media eyebrow or two when, prior to the Dolphins’ recent rookie minicamp, he called the QB position an open competition, a may-the-best-man-win scenario. The assumption had been, from the moment he was acquired in a draft-day trade, that this was Rosen’s job. But Flores was merely doing his job in not publicly undercutting the veteran Fitzpatrick.
After all, “I’m here because this was an opportunity that I’d have a chance to play, to compete,” as Fitzpatrick said this week prior to a team practice. “It was a job that was open.”
Flores doubled down this week, saying, “I expect Ryan to compete for the starting position.”
Indeed, Fitzpatrick turned up No. 1 on the team’s initial depth chart of the season, perhaps a nod to tenure. And he outperformed Rosen in the team’s first full squad, post-draft practice.
Rosen’s youth, arm strength and huge potential face a stout challenge in Fitzpatrick’s experience, guile and veteran’s command.
On a different team, maybe you’d say may-the-best-man-win and mean it.
But on this team, there is every reason for fans and for the team itself, its management, to hope Rosen emerges and that Fitzpatrick melds into his natural late-career role as the quintessential backup/mentor.
Rosen is 22, of the first-round draft pedigree but trying to reprove himself after a rough rookie year with Arizona.
Fitzpatrick is 36, now with his eighth different team, ideally a safety net, a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency guy at this stage.
With Miami in the midst of a complete roster reboot/makeover and expected to be bad this season (lowest or second-worst over/under on projected wins), it makes zero sense to gives the keys to the old guy instead of seeing what you have moving forward with Rosen.
You see that best in actual games. Under pressure. When everything is coming fast. When it counts.
“We can tell as much about a quarterback on film or in practice as we can in games,” said no one, ever.
The Dolphins need to see what they have in Rosen. It might be the biggest imperative of this season for Miami. The rest of the NFL needs to see, too.
Will he rise to his ceiling and show signs of stardom, of being a franchise guy? You don’t find out if he’s wearing a ballcap and carrying a clipboard on a sideline.
Heck, even if the Fins believed Fitzpatrick was readier right now to start and to win, that would be another reason to start Rosen, considering fewer wins gives you a greater shot at landing grand prize QB Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama in the 2020 draft.
The nightmare scenario for Miami: Team has one of those 7-9 type seasons under Fitzpatrick, and the Dolphins miss out on both Tagovailoa and also the chance gauge Rosen’s future.
Starting Rosen not only lets Miami see what it has, but it also showcases him to the league for future trade purposes in the event the Fins do land King Tua or another premier QB in ‘20.
The only way Miami starting Fitzpatrick makes any sense is if it’s in an NFL Rubik’s Cube competition.