In his first minicamp with the Dolphins, veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick showed newly acquired player Josh Rosen why he’s the quarterback to beat as the starter.
DAVIE, Fla. — Rolling to his right with an easy glide and fluffy beard taking up his half his helmet, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick pulled his best Patrick Mahomes impression. He fired a no-look pass 20 yards on the money to wide receiver DeVante Parker, who dragged his toes along the sidelines for a catch. Miami Dolphins offensive players, standing on the nearby sideline, shrieked “Yeah” in excitement.
Several plays before that, Fitzpatrick cranked his arm back and threw a 70-plus yard pass that again hit Parker in stride. Fitzpatrick held up the touchdown signal and started skipping down the field. He later said he predicted that exact play and result to Parker when he walked into the building earlier that morning.
That’s some of the fun in FitzMagic. And on Wednesday — the Dolphins’ final day of spring workouts — Fitzpatrick had two memorable plays in a matter of minutes.
We’ve watched this 50 times already… What about you?
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) June 6, 2019
Yet the 36-year-old gunslinger is on his eighth NFL team because inconsistency and a penchant for interceptions has left him in a constant yo-yo between starter and backup.
The Dolphins have one of the NFL’s few starting quarterback competitions with Fitzpatrick battling talented second-year star Josh Rosen.
Everything screams that it’s in the Dolphins’ best long-term interest for Rosen to win the job.
Rosen, 22, was a top-10 pick a year ago and he was acquired by the Dolphins for pennies on the dollar in April. Miami has been looking for its true franchise quarterback since Dan Marino retired 20 years ago. There’s no chance Fitzpatrick is the No. 1 answer, but Rosen has a slight chance.
Fitzpatrick isn’t interested in what’s supposed to happen. He’s playing loose, confident and dare I say… consistent in these padless workouts. He has been the Dolphins’ best quarterback this spring.
“I’m a perfectionist. There’s already some stuff on my mind that I have to go talk to some players about, some coaches about and have to work on myself,” said Fitzpatrick, before a wry smile appeared between his beard. “But yeah, there’s always a couple throws a day that get me fired up a little bit.”
Fitzpatrick has Parker smiling more, too. Players try to avoid picking favorites in a quarterback battle, but it seems those two already have a blooming relationship.
“He helped me a lot with communications and signals and everything,” Parker said. “[Fitzpatrick’s] telling me what I’m doing and what I need to do to be in the right spot.”
There was a moment after Wednesday’s practice that Fitzpatrick pulled promising undrafted rookie receiver Preston Williams aside to coach him on a mistake he made earlier in the day. It was a subtle but natural move.
Dolphins coach Brian Flores doesn’t believe in June depth charts, but he does believe “everything counts” in regard to the quarterback competition.
With Fitzpatrick, it’s hard not to be impressed with the impact he has made on this young offense in a few short months.
“The first thing I think of is his command of the huddle,” Flores said. “How he works with players — older players, younger players — and his rapport with defensive guys, offensive guys and guys in the kicking game, I think that shows his leadership in a big way. Whoever he is in there with, he’s trying to help and improve and get better. I’ve been very pleased with him.”
Rosen doesn’t have the NFL experience or natural looseness that Fitzpatrick does. Rosen is adamant that he will stay true to himself (as he should), but he also has something that Fitzpatrick doesn’t: rare talent and youthful upside.
So despite his own uneven start coupled with Fitzpatrick’s strong spring, Rosen doesn’t seem deterred. The pads haven’t come on yet, and he’s admittedly still playing catch-up after a chaotic offseason saw him traded from the Arizona Cardinals to Miami.
“One of my favorite phrases is, ‘If you set no expectations, you’ll never be disappointed.’ I don’t really have any expectations,” Rosen said. “I have a daily standard I want to hold myself to and how good I feel like I am and how I should be.”
Neither Rosen nor Fitzpatrick say they are keeping score, but they are intensely watching each other. It would benefit the Dolphins if Rosen uses the spring workouts and the FitzMagic buzz as motivation to improve.
“Whatever he does well, I’m trying to figure out why he did it and emulate it and continue to add my own flavor to it,” Rosen said. “The real competition starts in training camp.”
The Dolphins aren’t expected to be a playoff team or even reach .500 during their rebuilding 2019 season, but the quarterback battle has added some much-needed interest to this team. As Miami moves on from the Ryan Tannehill and Adam Gase eras, offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea and quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell will play a big role in determining the team’s quarterback future in 2019 and beyond. Rosen, obviously, is the most important evaluation of the season.
For Dolphins fans, early signs are that even if your team isn’t winning they might be more exciting offensively.
Rosen and Fitzpatrick were the first- and third-most aggressive quarterbacks in 2018 per NFL Next Gen Stats. Fitzpatrick, playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, led the NFL in average complete air yards (8.8) last season, which he says is a tribute to his improved deep ball and explosive playmakers over the past few years. If you’re keeping score in early June — which Flores, Fitzpatrick and Rosen assure us they aren’t — then the FitzMagic show is making an early South Florida statement.
But if history repeats itself with Fitzpatrick’s knack for interceptions, Rosen will get his chance whether in Week 1, 6 or 9. Then, it will be up to him to prove his worth.