What history tells us about Dolphins QB Josh Rosen’s chances of becoming a quality player

Barry Jackson
Miami Herald

Even with Tua Tagovailoa under contract, the Miami Dolphins hope Josh Rosen’s career can be salvaged for multiple reasons:

They need protection if Tagovailoa gets injured — more so in 2021, when Ryan Fitzpatrick might not be on the team.

There’s a need for a third quarterback this year, to protect a team if one if its top two quarterbacks is sidelined by coronavirus.

Rosen could be a cheap backup in 2021, when he would make $920,000, with a $3 million cap hit.

He could become a trade chip if he excels at any point in the next year-plus.

But what are the chances that a quarterback who was so poor during his first 20 NFL games could become a quality NFL starter?

The historical data leads to two dramatically different conclusions.

Consider:

Rosen, in his career, has thrown 502 passes and has a poor 63.5 passer rating. Only four other quarterbacks this century have thrown at least 500 passes and had a passer rating that low — or worse.

Those four were: Mike McMahon (515 pass attempts, 55.1 rating), John Skelton (602 pass attempts, 63.0 rating), Chris Weinke (709 pass attempts, 62.2 rating) and DeShon Kizer (519, 58.9).

Of those, McMahon (a fifth-round pick), Skelton (a fifth-round pick) and Weinke (a fourth-rounder) were NFL washouts. Weinke, a Heisman Trophy winner at FSU, started 20 games over six seasons for Carolina and San Francisco but was never anything more than below average, to be kind.

Kizer, a second-round pick of the Cleveland Browns in 2017, is already with his third NFL team, hoping to win a backup job with the Raiders.

So using this criteria (at least 500 passes thrown, passer rating of 63.5 or lower), no first-round NFL quarterback this century has been worse.

And there’s more bad news: Among quarterbacks to throw at least 500 passes this century, only 11 have a completion percentage of 54.8 or lower.

Those 11: Rosen, Weinke, Derek Anderson, Tyler Thigpen, Brady Quinn, Skelton, Kizer, Bruce Gradkowski, Drew Stanton, JaMarcus Russell and McMahon. It’s too early to tell on Rosen (and possibly on Kizer), but none of others obviously became long-term starting quarterbacks. Anderson led the group with 49 starts; Russell — the former No. 1 overall pick of the Raiders in 2007 and one of the biggest draft busts this century — had 25 NFL starts.

So that’s not good, if you’re trying to project what Rosen will become based off historical data.

But enough with the depressing and distressing. Here’s the good news, and why a team shouldn’t give up on Rosen, who’s 23 and entering his third pro season:

Except for Russell and Quinn, none of those aforementioned quarterbacks were considered as talented — or as good an NFL prospect — as Rosen was coming out of college.

Now, the very good news. A bunch of premier quarterbacks struggled early in their careers.

Two stand out because of their early career ineptitude, and should give Rosen hope:

During the first 501 pass attempts of his Hall of Fame career over two seasons (1985 and 1986), Steve Young had a 63.1 passer rating and 53.3 completion percentage, with 11 touchdowns and 21 interceptions.

Those are almost identical to Rosen’s numbers in his first two seasons: 502 pass attempts, 63.5 rating and 54.8 completion percentage, 12 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.

Now check out the first 501 passes of Hall of Famer Dan Fouts’ career, from 1973 to 1975. He had a 53.7 passer rating (much worse than Rosen’s) and a 47.5 completion percentage (much worse than Rosen’s), with 14 touchdown passes and 29 interceptions.

Keep in mind that passer ratings and completion percentages were lower in that era.

What’s clear is that the Dolphins decided they couldn’t project Rosen as their franchise quarterback. Beyond that, there is mixed reaction internally, with some down on him and others noting that Rosen improved in practice last season and still believe he can become an asset.

In fairness, it’s far too soon to judge him off 13 starts for Arizona and three for the Dolphins.

But even with Tagovailoa clearly the Dolphins’ quarterback of the future, it’s not too late for Rosen to rebuild his value and become a valuable commodity — either as one of the NFL’s better backups, potentially, in 2021, or as a trade chip who could net something assuredly worse than the second and fifth-rounders Miami traded for him, but better than say, a seventh-rounder.

Barring a staggering turnaround to his career, it’s highly doubtful the Dolphins will pick up the 2022 fifth-year option for Rosen, a number that has not yet been set.

For perspective, quarterbacks taken in the top 10 of the 2017 draft had a $24.8 million fifth-year option.

Miami isn’t paying that unless something crazy and unforeseeable happens.

But there is still hope for Rosen.

And anytime Rosen or anyone else is feeling dispirited about his 502-pass NFL body of work, just look up Young and Fouts, and realize the full story on the 2018 draft’s 10th overall pick hasn’t yet been written.

Here’s our Monday piece on a prestigious award for a revered former Dolphins coach.

Here’s my Monday UM 6-pack.

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