Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores put an end to an offseason full of speculation on Monday: the Dolphins, despite drafting their future franchise quarterback, are still Ryan Fitzpatrick’s team.
Flores announced that the 37-year-old Fitzpatrick will be the Dolphins opening day starting quarterback when they travel to Foxborough to take on the New England Patriots on Sunday. It’s a responsibility the 16-year veteran takes seriously.
“It means a ton. It’s not something I take for granted,” Fitzpatrick said this week.
“I’ve kind of gone back and forth and been the guy, not been the guy. So I know how difficult it is to earn something like this. I know how difficult it is to accept this responsibility and to go out there and shoulder everything that I’ve got to shoulder as the starting quarterback to get these guys ready to go play. But it’s the reason I still play. It’s why I love the game so much. I’m honored and I’m really excited to lead this team out there on Sunday.”
For much of the 2019 season, the Dolphins seemed to be tanking to secure the No. 1 draft pick and a chance to take Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama. A fractured hip suffered against Mississippi State in November, though, meant that Tagovailoa was still there when the Dolphins were on the clock with the fifth pick.
That they slipped down to No. 5 is a testament to the turnaround Fitzpatrick orchestrated in the second half of last season. The Dolphins capped off the year with a stunning, last-minute win over the Patriots when Fitzpatrick found tight end Mike Gesicki in the end zone to deny their AFC East rivals a bye in the postseason.
With Tom Brady gone from the Patriots, the AFC East is as wide open as it’s been in decades. Flores and general manager Chris Grier did their best to make sure the Dolphins are in the best position to capitalize, going on an offseason spending spree that landed them free agents Byron Jones, Kyle Van Noy, Ereck Flowers, and Shaq Lawson.
This is a team that expects to win now, not wait for the future. Fitzpatrick, not Tagovailoa, gives them their best chance to do that for these three reasons.