It was long overdue, but the Dolphins have finally hit the reset button.
After repeatedly trying but failing to turn Ryan Tannehill into a franchise quarterback, the Dolphins jettisoned both their quarterback and the coach who so often defended Tannehill, plucked Brian Flores off the Bill Belichick coaching tree, signed Ryan Fitzpatrick as a bridge that, at the time, led to nowhere, and eventually capitalized on the Cardinals' infatuation with Kyler Murray by trading for last year's No. 10 pick, Josh Rosen, for the relatively cheap cost of a second- and fifth-round pick.
Given where they're at in their rebuild -- the beginning stages -- the Dolphins likely won't field a competitive football team in 2019. But that doesn't make them an uninteresting team. They might actually be the most interesting bad team in football.
It starts, of course, with their quarterback situation, a competition that has already begun and will continue at training camp when Dolphins players report next week. As we continue our summer series here at CBS Sports, let's examine what might be the most interesting quarterback competition that'll unfold this summer in the NFL.
Why this battle is key
We don't need to overcomplicate this.
The quarterback position isn't just the most important position in football, it also happens to be the most important position in all of sports. The Dolphins are one of the few teams in the NFL that do not have a quarterback entrenched atop the depth chart. If the Dolphins are going to exceed expectations in 2019 and make a surprise run at the playoffs, they'll need one of their two quarterbacks -- or both maybe -- to play at an elite level and overcome a bad supporting staff. That's why this training camp battle matters in the short term.
It also matters beyond just this season. While it's incredibly unlikely -- impossible really -- Fitzpatrick will emerge as the team's franchise quarterback given his age, it's very much possible that Rosen can emerge as the team's long-term solution at the position. That's what's at stake in the long term. If both Fitzpatrick and Rosen stink, the Dolphins will probably stink, and they'll probably wind up with a high pick in next year's draft, which will set them up with the chance to draft a quarterback like, say, Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert. If Rosen plays well, he might convince the Dolphins that he's the quarterback they should be building around.
The Dolphins' quarterback battle doesn't just matter for this year. It'll have a major effect on their long-term plans.
Players in the mix
Technically, the Dolphins have three quarterbacks on their roster. With all due respect to Jake Rudock, we're only going to examine the two quarterbacks positioned above him on the depth chart.
Step Brothers 2: Laces Out, Man pic.twitter.com/WQxZJdesbf— Heath Cummings (@heathcummingssr) July 10, 2019
Barring injuries or intervention from a supernatural force, only Fitzpatrick and Rosen have a chance to win the starting job. These are the quarterbacks we'll be keeping a close eye on this summer.
We'll start with Fitzpatrick for a few reasons. For one, he joined the Dolphins first, signing a two-year deal in mid-March after the team failed to lure Teddy Bridgewater away from New Orleans. Two, he is seemingly entering training camp with a lead over Rosen in the competition after looking like the better quarterback through the first portion of the team's offseason program. Three, we know more about him.
Chances are, you're already familiar with him. A seventh-round pick of the St. Louis Rams in 2005, Fitzpatrick has appeared in at least one game with seven NFL teams. In all, he's started 126 games with 141 total appearances. He's best known as the Bills' starting quarterback from 2009-12 and the Jets' starter from 2015-16 before he managed to rack up 10 starts with the Buccaneers over the past two seasons.
It's been a wild ride for Fitzpatrick, but by this point in his career, we know what he is: an inconsistent journeyman who is capable of reaching incredible highs, but always comes crashing back down to earth.
Take last season in Tampa Bay. Filling in for Jameis Winston, Fitzpatrick completed 66.7 percent of his passes, averaged 9.6 yards per attempt, and threw a touchdown on 6.9 percent of his passes. Those weren't just good numbers for Fitzpatrick, those were good numbers for any quarterback. The only problem? Fitzpatrick also threw an interception on 4.9 percent of his passes. So, at the very least, he was entertaining, either providing audiences with awesome deep touchdowns or interceptions on ill-advised throws. But he was the opposite of consistent, which has been the theme of his career. If anything, he's been consistently inconsistent.
That's Fitzpatrick. A 36-year-old quarterback with a career 81.1 passer rating, 4.4 touchdown rate, and 3.5 interception rate. Yet somehow, he's still in the mix to be starting games for an NFL team.
Even after showing up to the beginning of the Dolphins' offseason program out of shape because he ate too much birthday cake, Fitzpatrick took advantage of the fact that he was the only startable quarterback on the roster with Rosen still stuck in Arizona. He's had more time to absorb the offense. And it's showed. According to most reports, Fitzpatrick has outplayed Rosen so far this offseason.
Whether he can continue to hold off Rosen as Rosen gets more comfortable in a new system remains to be seen, but for the time being, Fitzpatrick, who believes he's been disrespected throughout his career, appears to be holding a slight edge over Rosen in the quarterback competition as training camp nears. It's Rosen who needs to make up a deficit.
And then there's Rosen, a quarterback some considered to be the most NFL-ready out of last year's rookie quarterback class, a group that also included Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, and Lamar Jackson -- one immediately made the Browns competitive and another took his team to the playoffs. Rosen did not do either of those things.
There's no way around it: Rosen was terrible in 2018. After the Cardinals traded up to make him the fourth quarterback selected in the draft, Rosen started the season behind Sam Bradford on the depth chart before taking over near the end of the Cardinals' Week 3 loss to the Bears. He went on to make 13 straight starts to close out the season.
In those 14 total appearances, he completed 55.2 percent of his passes, averaged 5.8 yards per attempt, threw 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, and accumulated a 66.7 passer rating. By DYAR, a Football Outsiders metric, he ranked 34th out of 34 qualified quarterbacks. By DVOA, another Football Outsiders metric, he ranked 34th out of 34 qualified quarterbacks. By QBR, he ranked 34th out of 34 qualified quarterbacks. Guess who ranked 33rd in QBR: Ryan Tannehill.
It's not hyperbole to say Rosen was the worst starting quarterback in football last year. He was.
But that doesn't mean Rosen is destined to remain terrible. There's a strong argument to be made that Rosen was put in a position to fail with bad coaching (offensive coordinator Mike McCoy got fired in October and first-year coach Steve Wilks was fired at the end of the year) and a bad supporting cast (the offensive line was bad, the receivers weren't good, and David Johnson was completely misused). Put another way: Not many quarterbacks would've succeeded in Arizona last year. Most rookies would've flopped in that same situation.
Rosen will now get a fresh start in Miami, but he'll face similar hurdles with his new team. The Dolphins are a team in transition, which means the supporting cast also isn't very good. Rosen is also tasked with learning a brand new offense after he started learning Kliff Kingsbury's offense earlier this offseason after he had to spend his rookie year playing under two different play-callers. It's not difficult to imagine Rosen struggling in Miami, the Dolphins drafting a quarterback next year, and Rosen moving onto his third team in three seasons. He's been dealt a bad hand.
At the very least, Rosen might be in slightly better hands with Chad O'Shea as his new offensive coordinator. O'Shea spent the past decade in New England with a team that is known for putting its players in the best possible situation to succeed. We see it every year, but we especially saw it when the Patriots' coaching staff expertly handled Tom Brady's four-game Deflategate suspension, deftly switching between Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett before transitioning back to Brady. It's also not difficult to imagine O'Shea putting a quarterback-friendly offense together for Rosen.
At this point, we just don't know enough about Rosen to make any predictions. It might be best to treat him as an incoming rookie by ignoring most of what he did in Arizona and giving him the chance to make a better first impression in Miami. First, he needs to defeat Fitzpatrick in a quarterback competition. Once that happens -- and let's face it, it'll happen at some point, either in August or during the season -- he'll need to convince the Dolphins' decision makers that he's a quarterback worth building around. Defeating Fitzpatrick, who is better suited to be a backup, in August would be a good first step. If he really is a franchise quarterback, shouldn't he be able to beat Fitzpatrick in a quarterback competition?
Either way, the Dolphins are actually in a decent situation. They acquired last year's 10th-overall pick for a cheap price. If he succeeds, they'll have completely lucked their way into a great quarterback situation that could put them in a position to overtake the Patriots when Brady is forced to retire. If he doesn't succeed, they can draft a quarterback in next year's draft and nobody will criticize them for having taken a chance on Rosen given how little it cost them to do so.
The Dolphins probably won't be a good football team in 2019. But they're going to be an interesting one. Any team with a legitimate competition at quarterback automatically becomes interesting. And that's exactly what the Dolphins have as the season approaches.