A very good friend of mine sent me a text message recently. He wanted to know what my thoughts were on the idea of the Miami Dolphins bringing in Cam Newton from free agency to help get the new rookie quarterback (whoever that may be) up to speed in the upcoming 2020 season. While I kind of scoffed at the idea, it did get me thinking – are people forgetting about Ryan Fitzpatrick already? Let’s spend the next several minutes re-familiarizing with Fitzpatrick and talking about why he is the mentor who you want coupled with your new rookie quarterback.
Fitzpatrick’s storied career with rookies
The 2019 regular season for the Miami Dolphins was as much as a roller coaster ride as you can get for an NFL team. The expectations were already fairly low heading into the season opener with the Dolphins trading away many of their key players, having a ‘will they, won’t they’ relationship with quarterback Josh Rosen, and walking onto the field with very apparent roster holes throughout. Those low expectations became a harsh reality by the end of an afternoon with the Baltimore Ravens decimating the Dolphins’ young offense 59-10 in Week 1 of the 2019 season.
By the end of September, many of the league’s sources were calling out the Dolphins as the worst NFL team of all time. But, fast forward to the second half of the season, and what you find is a completely different narrative. The Dolphins were putting together some impressive numbers, stringing together some wins, and putting those “worst team ever” reports far behind in the rear-view mirror. And these weren’t just any barely squeak by wins, these were big wins against some heavy hitters and divisional rivals including grabbing a victory from the Patriots in New England — you have to go all the way back to September of 2008 to find a Dolphins win at New England.
Take a look at the 2019 Miami Dolphins offensive depth charts and it’s easy to see why this isn’t just your average, run of the mill mid-season turnaround. Most people outside of the Dolphins fan base looking at Miami’s offensive starters usually asked the same question. Who?
The Miami Dolphins offense was comprised mostly of either rookies, practice squad guys, or players that would normally be considered second or third string. And yet, Ryan Fitzpatrick took this unconventional squad of NFL unknowns as the starting quarterback and led them to a respectable finish of the regular season. But just how did he do this?
Fitzpatrick has been playing in the NFL since he was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in 2005. Since then, he has created quite a reputation for himself being the only person in the history of the National Football League to throw a touchdown pass for eight different teams.
This roundabout of franchises has put him through a slew of different offenses, schemes, and coaching staffs, leaving Fitzpatrick with a smorgasbord of experience. Combine this unique perspective of the game of professional football with Harvard brainpower — Fitzpatrick has been named as one of the smartest professional athletes of all time — and you’re left with an endless resource of NFL knowledge just ready to be tapped.
And other players are very much aware of Fitzpatrick’s personality and expertise. Newly signed Miami Dolphin veteran Kyle Van Noy said on the Double Coverage Podcast “I’m excited to see all of it. [Ryan Fitzpatrick’s] personality rubs off on people, just how he is as a person.” Fitzpatrick owns all of the qualities that you want to see in a leader and it’s infectious among the young talent around the locker room.
But, of course, you need a leader that can execute on the field as well. We can use the data from Pro Football Network’s OSM metrics to take a deeper look at Fitzpatrick’s on-field production. When graded on individual performance, Ryan Fitzpatrick ended the 2019 regular season as QB07 overall in the NFL with an OSM grade of 27.75. Over the second half of the season, Fitzpatrick finished four of the eight games as one of the best quarterbacks in the league with a grade of QB04 or better.
Fitzpatrick’s best game-day performance on the year came in NFL Week 9 against the New York Jets. He finished the day with an Elite OSM grade of 39.55 and ranked QB02 for that week. He threw 288 yards for three touchdowns and didn’t have an interception. He had a quarterback passer rating of 118.8 and a completion percentage of 66.7.
He has been able to prove week after week that he has both the mental and physical qualities that are demanded of NFL caliber leaders. He was able to lead a group of mostly unknown players from the “worst NFL team of all time” to a competitive squad capable of toppling the defending Super Bowl champions at home over the span of one season.
Even though we’ve got some good ideas, we don’t know yet for sure which rookie quarterback is headed to South Beach this offseason with the 2020 NFL Draft. But here is what we do know: no matter who that rookie is, Fitzpatrick is definitely the man you want taking him under the wing. With Fitzpatrick at the helm, the Miami Dolphins can remain competitive while molding the next generation of the franchise’s quarterback.
Thoughts on this feature? Something you would like to see during the offseason? Follow us on Twitter or join in on the conversation on Facebook. You can also check out my other articles from this season here.