The Miami Dolphins are going to be bad, perhaps even very bad, for at least the next two years. The fans know it, and from their moves this offseason, the organization knows it, too. They had hit their ceiling as a middling team with Adam Gase and Ryan Tannehill leading the way, so they cut bait with both and several other high-priced players. They hired Brian Flores after only one year as the defensive coordinator in New England, took a high-character leader in Christian Wilkins as their first-round pick, and took a cheap flier on former first-round pick Josh Rosen.
All things considered, it was a rebuild done right. Ditch salary, establish a locker room culture players want to be a part of, take chances on high-potential players on the cheap, and wait till the elite talent rolls in with your high draft picks. However, they’re on the verge of screwing up all that good work because of a certain Ryan Fitzpatrick, brought in to presumably provide some competition under center for Rosen. Early on, though, it seems Flores intends to consider Fitzpatrick as a starter going forward.
The Dolphins have everything to lose and nothing to gain by starting Fitzpatrick. He is a known quantity. On his good days, he’ll keep his team in the game and occasionally win them. On his bad days, he’ll make some truly egregious decisions and sink said team beyond any hope. We’ve seen it happen at every one of Fitzpatrick’s numerous stops in the NFL.
What, exactly, do the Dolphins hope to accomplish by starting a quarterback like that? Fitzpatrick pulling his magic act and getting them a win or two might send them hurtling down the draft pole. Only one win separated the Bucs, who picked fifth, and the Lions, who picked 10th, this past draft. A crazy last-second victory by Fitzpatrick could sink an entire season’s worth of tanking in Miami and be the difference between landing a QB of the future or another guy like Wilkins– good player, great guy, not a difference-maker for a franchise in need of one.
There is the simple possibility that Rosen really is that bad. Personally, I have a hard time believing we can make that judgment call after only one year in the league, a year spent with the worst supporting cast in the NFL by every conceivable measure. Maybe he ends up showing something if you throw him behind a semi-competent offensive line and with an offensive coordinator that doesn’t get canned less than halfway through the season. Or maybe he doesn’t. But at least you give him the chance.
Miami knows exactly what they have in Fitzpatrick. Rosen is essentially an unknown commodity. The absolute worst-case scenario if they start Rosen is that he ends up being horrendous and they land a top-three pick in a 2020 draft that has several strong QB prospects. The worst-case scenario if they start Fitzpatrick is that he pushes them out of the top ten with no playoff appearance, leaving them with the comforting thought that they were “competitive”.
NFL teams have more qualms with the concept of tanking than NBA teams, but every move Miami has made this year indicates they’re aware that they have to be bad in order to be good. Starting Fitzpatrick is a one-way ticket to mediocrity, and that’s not the point of the organizational reset Miami is going through.