DAVIE, Fla. -- Nothing is more important to the Miami Dolphins' rebuild than finding a franchise quarterback, and after six weeks, it has become more clear that player isn't on the roster.
There was hope Josh Rosen could fill that role, or at the very least have a strong chance to do so, but those slivers of faith are dissipating. Wednesday, Dolphins coach Brian Flores announced Rosen has been benched for veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick for Sunday's 1 p.m. ET game (CBS) at the Buffalo Bills (4-1).
Fair or not, Rosen's benching Sunday against Washington and now Wednesday are signs the Dolphins have a different quarterback plan -- one that doesn't involve him. Rosen had hoped his last 12 games would be an audition for the Dolphins' front office to count on him for the long-term, but it's looking increasingly unlikely he will get a chance to acquire much film for the audition.
"By now we've got a pretty good evaluation of him since April, and all OTAs, all training camp, three starts," Flores said Monday. "As far as the development part of that, I don't think that's part of [the starting QB decision]. It's more what we feel is best for the team."
After previously saying Rosen would return to being the Dolphins' starter, Flores changed his mind because he felt Fitzpatrick gave Miami a better chance to be productive on offense and win. He noted that a lack of production and poor play changed his mind. Multiple Dolphins players also said they felt more energy and confidence in the team when Fitzpatrick entered the game.
There's a very good chance the Dolphins' brass has decided to select a quarterback in the 2020 NFL draft. With an 89% chance to land the No. 1 pick per ESPN's Football Power Index, Miami should have its choice in a QB class led by Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa.
Flores knows -- reading between the lines of coach speak -- exactly what he has in Rosen.
Rosen handled the benching admirably. He took responsibility for his role in the decision, citing his poor play and needed growth in terms of anticipation as a passer. He also noted he wished he had made this decision harder for Flores by playing better.
"I think you earn each start. So, I'm not entitled to anything," Rosen said. "Coach Flo is the head coach, so it's his decision to make on what gives us the best opportunity to win. It's my job to prove him wrong at this point. I respect the decision. I understand it."
Three stats sum up Rosen's Week 6 game: He recorded a total QBR of 2.1, the second-worst QBR game of the season (behind Luke Falk in Week 5). Rosen's air yards to the sticks was -8.9 (meaning he averaged throwing 8.9 yards behind the sticks), per NFL Next Gen Stats. That's the lowest AYTS game for any QB this season with a minimum of 14 attempts. And, two more interceptions Sunday gave Rosen five for the season compared to only one touchdown.
Miami's offensive line gave Rosen little time to operate, and the team's issues go far beyond quarterback. But you have to evaluate quarterbacks based on their play and how they elevate the team around them despite less-than-ideal circumstances.
Rosen ranks last among starting quarterbacks in completion percentage, quarterback rating, QBR and yards per attempt.
We figured Rosen would get the majority of the season to prove his worth, but the Dolphins have seemingly made their evaluation of him already in mid-October.
Now it seems clear that neither Rosen nor Fitzpatrick, who signed in March knowing he was a stopgap answer, will be the starting quarterback in Miami in 2020 and beyond.
Rosen, 22, is talented enough to get another shot somewhere to be a long-term starter. He probably deserves a real chance to be a starter at a place with a functional offense around him to see if he can excel in that environment. He surely hasn't had that in Arizona or Miami. Add on, Rosen is still raw as a quarterback, but he's flashed some things you can't teach like arm talent and pocket mobility that assures another NFL team would be interested in trading for him should the Dolphins aim to move on.
The rest of the 2019 season for Rosen should be about development and learning from Fitzpatrick.
"He knows I’m there and he knows I've been through a lot of different things. I wasn’t a first-round, high-draft pick but I have been the guy that has been the starter and quote, unquote franchise guy, getting paid money and whatever else. So I’ve had the weight of the world on my shoulders at times and I know as a quarterback and especially as a young guy and a guy that got drafted high you feel that pressure sometimes," Fitzpatrick said. "I'll openly answer questions for him, but I also think at times just watching, he's a lot more talented than I am, but just watching certain things about me, maybe things he likes or doesn't like and figuring out things that he might want to apply to his game or things he'll try to avoid."
Miami's extreme rebuild is based on doing something different than what they have done in the past like settling for a good-enough quarterback. The 2020 draft is where it's at, and the focus will be on a hyped group of QBs featuring Tagovailoa, Oregon's Justin Herbert, LSU's Joe Burrow and Georgia's Jake Fromm, among others.
The Dolphins' franchise quarterback might not be playing this Sunday, but he's likely playing somewhere on Saturdays and he's got an organization waiting for him to take it to the next level.