Miami Dolphins: Fitzpatrick or Rosen? Decision time for Brian Flores

With the gap between Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen closing, the Miami Dolphins will head into their third preseason hoping to gain clarity and move closer to a decision on who will be the team's starting quarterback when the regular season begins in less than three weeks.

All offseason long, the talk among both fans of the Miami Dolphins and the writers who cover them has been centered on one main storyline – the quarterback competition. Ever since the Dolphins signed veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, it was assumed he would be the bridge quarterback to the eventual rookie quarterback drafted next April.

Even after the Dolphins traded for second-year quarterback Josh Rosen on night two of the 2019 NFL Draft, the narrative did not change much. Fitzpatrick would begin the regular season as the starting quarterback while Rosen sits behind the veteran and learns the offense. At some point in 2019, barring some unforeseen renaissance from Fitzpatrick, the Dolphins would have to make the switch to Rosen.

For most, this was always the assumption.

Maybe that indeed was the initial plan that the team had laid out privately at the start of their offseason program. But a funny thing has happened as the summer has progressed – the gap between the 14-year veteran quarterback and the 22-year-old second-year quarterback has narrowed. Now it’s decision time.

Ryan Fitzpatrick is starting the third preseason game. So he’s the week one starter, right?

The belief commonly held is that the third preseason game is the game to have your projected starters see their most playing time of the preseason. Dolphins first-year head coach Brian Flores is obviously aware of this, too. So, having Fitzpatrick start the game on Thursday night would indicate he’s the favorite to start week one against the Baltimore Ravens. Right?

“No, I wouldn’t say that is accurate,” Flores said on Monday. “I would say that we go into every game trying to evaluate every player on the team. I know this is the third preseason game and the thought is this is the dress rehearsal for regular season game number one. In a lot of ways, it is that; but every game is important to me. So every time we step out there against another opponent, it’s a great evaluation for everyone on the team. This week is no different. That’s what I would say about that.”

Obviously, this indicates that while Fitzpatrick remains the leader of the quarterback competition, the door is still cracked open for Rosen to win the job. But if Fitzpatrick is going to start on Thursday night, how will Rosen have an opportunity to steal the starting job away from Fitzpatrick?

Flores shed light on that, too, on Monday. When asked if there’s a scenario where both Fitzpatrick and Rosen could see time in the first half with the starting offense, the rookie head coach seems to imply there very well may be such a scenario.

“Yeah, there’s a scenario you could see that. There’s a scenario you could see them playing a half. There’s a scenario you could see them playing the entire game,” said Flores. “That’s yet to be determined. It’s still early in the week. We’re going through the process. I’ve got a few thoughts in my head of how I’d like it to go, but again, there are various scenarios so we’ll see which one – it could be a half, it could be a quarter, it could be a series. We’ll see.”

Rosen closing the gap

Ryan Fitzpatrick began the offseason as the clear-cut favorite to be Miami’s week one starting quarterback. This gap Fitzpatrick opened on Josh Rosen during OTAs and minicamp only seemed to widen during the first week of training camp.

But then something happened. The Dolphins held their “mock scrimmage” following their first full week of camp, and it was Rosen who performed better. Then, Rosen began stacking good practices on top of good practices while Fitzpatrick leveled off. And it’s been clear to anyone with eyes that Rosen has outperformed Fitzpatrick this preseason, albeit in small sample sizes and not by a particularly wide margin.

Even still, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that as the second-year quarterback learns his new offensive system and gets more reps, he gets comfortable and begins to play better. While it’s a new system for Fitzpatrick as well, the 14-year veteran has played for eight teams and has seen much more than his 22-year old teammate.

The expectation should have always been that the gap would shrink between Fitzpatrick and Rosen as training camp and the preseason progressed.

What happens after Thursday night?

Flores made it clear on Monday that there’s a chance – a pretty good one, in my opinion – that both Fitzpatrick and Rosen will get time on Thursday with the starting offense. One would assume that a strong performance from Rosen, defined however you think the coaching staff would define “strong,” would boost Rosen ahead of Fitzpatrick and make him the favorite the start against Baltimore in week one.

Conversely, if Rosen struggles on Thursday while Fitzpatrick plays well enough, that will likely be enough to convince Flores to name Fitzpatrick his starting quarterback. But what if there is no “clear-cut” winner of the quarterback competition on Thursday night? Would Flores start the veteran quarterback knowing that at some time during the regular season, the Dolphins will need to see what they have in Josh Rosen?

“I want to put the best guy who will help us win, who we feel will give us the best chance to win games,” Flores said on Monday. “If that’s one quarterback, if that’s four quarterbacks – I think in a best-case scenario, it is one person. But things happen. We have to be ready to adapt. Guys go down at all positions, and you have to be ready to adapt and have that next-man-up mentality.”

Read that again, because it sounds to me like the head coach is saying he would prefer (barring injury) to have one starting quarterback for all 16 games.

Make no mistake – if Fitzpatrick is named the week one starting quarterback, it will only be temporary. A change will be made to Rosen at some point in 2019. But the head coach would prefer to start one quarterback for all 16 games. In other words, this is probably the closest we will ever get to Flores coming out and saying he would prefer Rosen grab the starting quarterback job now and never look back.

Thursday night should be very telling, as this quarterback competition nears its end. Come Friday, we could very well know who the Miami Dolphins starting quarterback will be to begin the regular season. Right, Coach Flores?

“Potentially. I think we may – obviously it’ll be our third game. We’ll have most of the evaluation done. So yeah, potentially we would be able to make that call. But we may not,” Flores declared on Monday. “I think part of that is as a staff, we’ll get together and talk about what we feel is best for the team and if we feel strongly that it’s one guy or the other, then we’ll make that decision. If not, then we’ll continue to evaluate and go from there.”

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast!

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Fantasy Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms.  Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review!

Related Articles