Greg Cote

There is zero doubt now. Rosen — not Fitzpatrick — must start at QB for Miami Dolphins | Opinion

Dolphins QB Rosen says he is not competing for QB he is only trying to get better each day

Miami Dolphins quarterback Josh Rosen says he is not competing for quarterback he is only trying to get better each day, August 22, 2019.
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Miami Dolphins quarterback Josh Rosen says he is not competing for quarterback he is only trying to get better each day, August 22, 2019.

The Miami Dolphins seem prepared to take a big loss even before the NFL regular season begins. Is this a thing that might actually happen?

This is the feeling, and we hope we are wrong. Because it would be much easier to say “oops” on what we think and fear than to try to explain why on earth a team in the midst of a rebuild might start bearded fossil Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback at the direct expense of fully finding out what it has in young Josh Rosen.

Fins coach Brian Flores acknowledged his Fitzpatrick-leaning after Thursday night’s 22-7 home exhibition win over Jacksonville, saying of Rosen’s performance: “He played well. That makes the decision harder.”

The go-with-Fitzpatrick scenario seemed dumber and dumber Thursday when Rosen, 22, finally got in the game late in the third quarter and led a 99-yard touchdown drive, going 4-of-5 passing for 52 yards, including an impressive 39-yarder on a rollout that reminded of his ability to outrun poor pass protection.

Fitzpatrick, 36, had played the entire first half and into the second in the home exhibition game against Jacksonville and was 5 for 11 for 33 yards in a stultifying first-half performance by the Miami offense. The Fins loped off the field to a numb crowd sound. I believe the fans there were too bored to boo.

The game’s opening drive under Fitzpatrick lasted only slightly longer than it takes you to say, “The Miami Dolphins began the game with a three-and-out drive that took 19 seconds.” (It was three straight incompletes by FitzBeardrick.)

This was the third of four preseason games, traditionally the Least Unimportant of the Fake Games (LUFG), the one that is the “dress rehearsal” that teams actually have sort of an interest in winning.

Fans seemed not to get the message.

The crowd approaching kickoff looked like a Marlins Wednesday night against the Padres. After-market tickets were out there for $5 or $6. (Was a “Seinfeld” rerun competing on TV?)

The NFL needs to stop including exhibition games in season-ticket packages and forcing uninterested fans to pay full dollar for two meaningless-except-to-fringe-players practice games. (We digress again. That’s for another column.)

Miami sitting at least 10 starters Thursday verified the win/lose factor was of minimal importance to the team as well.

This is in the NFL preseason after all, encapsulated in one sentence this week:

“The Dolphins have signed WR T.J. Rahming and waived WR Saeed Blacknall.” (Damn! And I’d projected Blacknall as a potential 12th-round reach in my fantasy draft.)

Fitzpatrick has verified on the field in August why he is on his eighth team in 15 seasons. In three fake games through halftime Thursday he was 10 for 25 for 73 yards. Rosen through Thursday’s game is 28-of-45 for 352 yards, and has directed seven scoring drives -- four of at least 60 yards.

Fitzpatrick stayed in to open the third quarter Thursday and looked great. Sharp. He was 7 for 7 for 90 yards and a short scoring pass to Mark Walton. (That made it one good series in eight for him.)

Whatever.

It isn’t about preseason statistics! And it isn’t just about that 99-yard drive Rosen piloted. It is about the plain, overarching logic of giving Rosen a full season to declare his worth, now and moving forward. August numbers have only tended to generally underline the point.

“We’re still evaluating both quarterbacks,” said a noncommittal Flores.

No matter how this quarterback thing shakes out for Miami in 2019, be assured Miami will go QB in the first round in 2020. Bank on that. Rosen would have to emerge, bloom and all but reprise Dan Marino ‘83 to shift the corporate thinking.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. issued his first “Big Board” for the ‘20 draft on Thursday and slotted Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa the fourth overall pick, Oregon’s Justin Herbert eighth and Georgia’s Jake Fromm 25th.

Whether Miami bottoms out with a three- or four-win season or manages to surprise with six or seven, the Fins will get a quarterback next spring. It is just a matter of which one (Tua, please) or whether a costly tradeup is required.

The thing is, the Dolphins are spinning wheels if they go with Fitzpatrick. The full measure of Rosen at least lets the club know if he is worth keeping or has trade value.

A common scenario being regurgitated is that Fitzpatrick will start the season, maybe play the first month and then perhaps cede the starting job to Rosen.

Which makes zero sense.

The very tough four-game stretch that begins the regular season — Ravens, Patriots, at Cowboys, Chargers, then the bye — is exactly the time to best gauge Rosen vs. optimum competition and pressure.

“May the best man win” almost always suits competition in football or any sport.

Not now. Not with these Dolphins. Not in a season plainly building to the future.

Fitzpatrick might well be the best quarterback, right now. The safer option.

Rosen needs to start anyway.

And there should no longer be any real argument on that.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick says, "I think we got a lot better" about the team's practice game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on August 22, 2019.

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