Barely a week into training camp, the Miami Dolphins are already making news because of their spontaneity in one regard and their apparent stubbornness in another.
In a highly unusual move, head coach Brian Flores dismissed veteran offensive line coach Pat Flaherty on Monday before his unit even had a chance to embarrass itself in a preseason game. That’s as spontaneous as you can get.
And with the start of the preseason against the Atlanta Falcons coming soon, there’s no indication quarterback Josh Rosen has done anything to convince Flores he should start ahead of veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick. And that’s troubling for a franchise that has led us to believe Rosen was its answer.
Let’s start with the firing of Flaherty, one of the league’s most seasoned OL coaches.
There have been many examples in pro sports where management foists an unwanted assistant on a head coach. This is not a good situation and it usually never ends well.
While it’s unclear if Flores even wanted Flaherty on his staff, it’s indisputable Flores hasn’t been happy with the direction the OL has taken. It’s been regularly getting its butt whipped by the defensive line in practice.
So instead of allowing the situation to worsen, he took immediate action and axed Flaherty, replacing him with another veteran, Dave DeGuglielmo.
Flores, in his first season as Dolphins coach after coming over from the New England Patriots, is very familiar with DeGuglielmo, who also worked for Bill Belichick as his OL coach (2014-15).
DeGuglielmo has a great reputation and did some fine work in Indianapolis protecting Andrew Luck. He will have his hands full in Miami since the Dolphins OL will be incorporating many new starters, likely including third-round pick Michael Deiter.
As for the quarterback situation, one might have logically assumed Rosen would the starter after the Dolphins went to the trouble of trading for the 2018 first-round pick after the Arizona Cardinals displaced him by drafting Kyler Murray. But that is not the case.
“He’s been more productive, and at the end of the day that’s what it comes down to,” said Flores of Fitzpatrick. “He runs the offense very efficiently. He has a great rapport with the entire team. He has a lot of leadership ability and we need that to continue. We need him to grow in that role.”
Fitzpatrick, a 14-year veteran who has already started for many teams, was signed ostensibly to serve as Rosen’s tutor. He has taken all of the first-team repetitions in camp so far. And that doesn’t bode well for the immediate future of the Dolphins since Rosen already has nearly one full season under his belt as a starter in Arizona.
There are some observers who believe this shouldn’t be considered a big deal right now. A lot of things can happen before the season opener on Sept. 8 against the Baltimore Ravens. But it might make sense for Flores to stand behind Rosen as soon as he can to communicate to the team that he will be its leader. And that is not happening.
To be fair, Flores has never said Rosen couldn’t be pushed. He’s preached from the first day that every position was an open competition. But this does tell you Rosen did not show enough in the spring to convince Flores the job was his to lose.
What’s more, if Rosen doesn’t make a case to be the Dolphins starter, that might force the organization to look to the 2020 draft for their long-term solution. And that would only delay the development of this team for at least another season.
“They’ll both have opportunities to work with our entire offensive group,” offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea told The Athletic.
Let’s give Rosen the benefit of the doubt. Since he’s new to the team – and to Flores – he probably needs more time to learn the offense and the flight patterns of his receivers. Maybe the more time passes, the more comfortable he becomes, the more dominant he might become.
“Sometimes, as receivers, you have to get used to the different arm in terms of how the ball comes off his hand and the timing of how he throws,” wide receivers coach Karl Dorrell said. “Then from the quarterback perspective, he’s getting used to a different group of receivers that he’s not quite used to throwing to. So there is some timing that both sides of the coin need to work on to get better.”
Rosen is also dealing with the unexpected loss of his quarterback coach, Jim Caldwell. The former NFL head coach left the team to deal with a medical issue, meaning Rosen must get accustomed to a new voice in the meeting rooms.
“It’s tough, he’s an unbelievable coach,” said Rosen of Caldwell. “He helped me a lot throughout OTAs, sort of eased the learning curve a little bit. I just wish him the best. I hope everything is OK with him.
“It’s not about taking a massive step forward. It’s just about continuing to grow and continuing to make positive progress. I think that any kind of setback is worse than any progress you can gain.
“I think it’s about getting used to everything — teammates, offense, situations and all of that. As long as tomorrow is better than today, I think we’ll be good.”
While Flores has been shifting the new with old at their various positions, he has stayed with Fitzpatrick at quarterback.
“It’s pretty clear to me that Ryan Fitzpatrick is leading the way,” said Flores. “He’s done that in a lot of areas from leadership to production on the field, to the meeting rooms to the walk-throughs. This is an ongoing competition, but right now he’s leading the way.
“It’s still a competition. Every day is a competition, I think they all know that but as we stand today I think Ryan has done a really good job. Hopefully he continues to improve and is consistent and that will help this team for sure.”