The Miami Dolphins and new coach Brian Flores are trying to do the right thing with the most important position. All indications through the first half of this NFL preseason suggest that.
Josh Rosen is getting the vast majority of snaps at quarterback. The stage is his to prove he deserves to start, or that he does not.
He does. He has shown enough. Flores’ decision on a starter is unmade, or at least unannounced, but it should be clear to him by now. On merit and for other reasons perhaps even more important, Rosen should be given the keys to this season, and that should be unequivocal.
Anointing Rosen would be a surprise to some, for sure.
Flores already indicated, after Friday night’s exhibition loss at Tampa Bay, that Ryan Fitzpatrick likely would start this coming Thursday against Jacksonville — third preseason games being the “dress rehearsal” where fans usually see more of their actual starting team.
Fitzpatrick is the proven veteran, the safe choice to start. By most eyes he has had the better training camp in practices. Flores even mentioned that Fitzpatrick leads Rosen in the “body language” department, as if there is a football coach on Earth who’d prefer an inferior QB with a great attitude over a more talented guy who struggled to hide his emotions.
Quick side note: Dan Marino’s many attributes did not always include great “body language.” He’d melt the facemask of receivers who ran the wrong route, and be unafraid to get in Don Shula’s face.
We are in a different world now, of course, as, 20 years removed from Marino, the Dolphins continue to navigate the elusive path toward their next great quarterback.
(Flight of fancy: Dolphins mimic what the Hurricanes did in naming Jarren Williams as starting QB. Fins surprise us all and say No. 3 guy Jake Rudock will start. Hey, he’s 12 of 19 for 137 yards in two preseason games, and has the team’s only two touchdown passes! OK, now back to reality ...)
Rosen or Fitzpatrick will be the starter in the Sept. 8 season opener against Baltimore.
Rosen is a solid 23 of 38 for 293 yards (one interception) in two preseason games, to Fitzpatrick’s 5 of 14 for 40 yards, yet Fitzpatrick likely starting in Fake Game No. 3 suggests he still has the edge.
It is plainly a lesser-of-two-evils competition.
Fitzpatrick is sporadically competent, frequently bad and consistently inconsistent. There is a reason he has wandered through eight teams in a nomadic career, but also a reason that career has lasted 15 seasons.
Rosen, in his second NFL season, is in Miami because he greatly disappointed in Arizona last year, seeming to be a wasted first-round draft pick.
The one startling difference in those two that should steer Miami’s decision:
Fitzpatrick is the Old Guy who has zero chance of being your QB answer moving forward, while Rosen is the Young Guy who might be your answer — and finding out about that should be Miami’s priority in this 2019 season.
The Dolphins need to be mindful of where they are right now. This is a transitional season. Flores has a free pass. The Fins are expected to be really bad and so if they are, nobody will blame the rookie coach.
He already has weathered the abrupt firing of his offensive line coach, the truck accident and arm amputation that erased defensive tackle Kendrick Norton from the team, and the controversy over club owner Stephen Ross hosting a fundraiser for Donald Trump.
He’ll weather a five-win season.
The focus on 2020 should be resolute.
That is why I laughed out loud at the recent speculation that Miami might be angling to trade for either of two pricey Pro Bowl holdouts — Washington left tackle Trent Williams or Houston pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney.
Miami dearly needs O-line help but already has a quality left tackle whose contract must be extended in Laremy Tunsil. Besides, Williams is 31 and last played all 16 games in 2013.
Miami also is desperate for the pass rush Clowney would provide, but, again, trading for him would be too costly, likely erasing the 2020 first-round draft pick the Dolphins would need if they must trade up next spring to get Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
Of course, Miami will only know the desperation of its need for a starting quarterback in the 2020 draft if it finds out exactly what it has right now.
Don’t overthink this, Brian Flores.
Josh Rosen needs to start.