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Amid a flurry of trades and other roster moves over Labor Day weekend, the Miami Dolphins found themselves under widespread scrutiny. Despite the fervent denials of head coach Brian Flores, many media outlets and fans have accused the Dolphins of tanking their 2019 season. Days after the trades of household names left tackle Laremy Tunsil and wide receiver Kenny Stills, the internet was abound with rumors and accusations of the Dolphins intending to lose this season in order to improve its future position. It would be hard to deny that the front office has the future in mind, as it acquired multiple future draft picks in these trades and gave up players that would likely help the team win this season. Whether the “Fish Tank” theory is correct or not, there is one man on the Dolphins roster that will undoubtedly not be playing to lose: new starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Before the Dolphin’s first regular season matchup against rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens, Fitzpatrick was named the team’s starting quarterback. Fitzpatrick ‘05 has had a long and tried career in the NFL. The 36-year-old journeyman quarterback finds himself preparing to start a game for his eighth team in a roller coaster of a 15-year career. In his many seasons of service, Fitzpatrick has found himself on a number of struggling teams. He has never appeared in a playoff game despite playing in 141 career contests. In 2015, after setting career highs in wins, passing yards, and passing touchdowns, his 10-6 New York Jets missed the playoffs by a tiebreaker to the Pittsburgh Steelers. This coming season, the Dolphins offer little hope that the aging quarterback will finally find his way to the promised land.
Due to Miami’s current state and future plans, many currently see Fitzpatrick as a placeholder for newly acquired second-year quarterback Josh Rosen. The 22-year-old struggled in his first season for the Arizona Cardinals, and it is widely expected that Fitzpatrick was brought in to give Rosen direction and time to develop as a more accurate passer. His abysmal rookie completion rate of 55.4 percent is lower than any mark that Fitzpatrick has posted in his entire career.
With the seemingly ageless Tom Brady still playing for the division rival New England Patriots, the Dolphins are hardly alone in thinking about their quarterback of the future. While it is unlikely that they consider Fitzpatrick that answer, the Harvard product has recently shown that he still has the ability to excel in the league.
Last season, in a run dubbed “Fitzmagic,” the 2004 Ivy League Player of the Year started the season on as high of a note as possible. With Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ starting quarterback Jameis Winston suspended for the first four contests, Fitzpatrick was enlisted to step in. Despite his penchant for running, the first Harvard quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards started to sling the ball in a historic stretch that paced the NFL. Over the first three games of the season, Fitzpatrick threw for over 400 yards in each contest, totalling a mind-boggling 1,230 yards and a whopping 11 touchdowns. Following a poor showing in week four and a bye in week five, however, Fitzpatrick was quickly replaced with the Buccaneer’s current franchise quarterback, Jameis Winston.
Even though his magical ride occurred nearly an entire calendar year ago, Fitzpatrick still showed throughout the entire season that he deserved to be under center. He played in four more games over the course of the season, totalling a respectable 2,366 yards and 17 touchdowns with 11 interceptions for a rate that would have shattered his previous career-highs in yards and touchdowns. Even at the age of 35, the gunslinger posted career highs in completion percentage, touchdown percentage, yards per attempt, and yards per completion.
Analysts have been quick to point out that the Dolphins are focused on the future, writing off Fitzpatrick before the season has even started. He is not without his own accuracy issues: Fitzpatrick has thrown at least 8 interceptions in every season except for 2016 in which he has started at least one game, reaching the double digits in picks in eight of 15 campaigns. However, his penchant for interceptions has always been a concern, and his age seems to stay out of the way. Fitzpatrick’s best season occurred at the age of 33, and last year he showed that age has not taken its tear.
Even Fitzpatrick’s legs have not slowed down, as the quarterback totalled 4.2 yards per carry and scrambled for two touchdowns last season. This preseason, Fitzpatrick excited the internet by trucking through a defender on the Buccaneers, one of his many former teams, to gain a first down. Briefly, the internet stirred of Fitzmagic hopes. Even if the Dolphins season proves to be as disastrous as expected, the former Harvard quarterback will surely hope to create some more magic for his team.
—Staff writer Joseph W. Minatel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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