Planning ahead: Josh Rosen's future, Dolphins' 2020 QB picture

DAVIE, Fla. -- Josh Rosen's first two NFL seasons fall somewhere between disastrous and inauspicious. As his second campaign winds down with him on the Miami Dolphins' bench, the young quarterback with the big arm appears to be at a crossroads.

Rosen's future as a starting quarterback looks uncertain, and his chances of being the Dolphins' long-term answer seem to be growing more bleak by the day.

Through it all, Rosen is publicly maintaining confidence while learning behind beloved veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick and waiting for his next opportunity to play -- even if that has to come on his third NFL team in as many seasons.

"I'm still only 22 years old. It's not really [thinking] like the window opens and closes like that," Rosen said last week. "But there is a sense of sort of understanding timing and opportunity. I'm aware of it, but it's all for you guys more to write about than it is for me to worry about."

Rosen believes he will be some team's franchise quarterback. He doesn't think the unique path he has taken over his first two NFL seasons has negatively affected that pursuit, but this offseason will loom large for Rosen's future.

The Dolphins (4-11) head into the 2020 offseason with eager eyes on a long-term answer at quarterback. Fitzpatrick has performed admirably and should continue his role as a bridge quarterback in 2020 -- barring retirement.

For nearly a year, the 2020 draft has been the target for Miami to find its first franchise quarterback since Dan Marino.

With QB Joe Burrow seemingly headed to Cincinnati with the No. 1 pick, connections between the Dolphins and injured Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa will increase as the draft draws near.

That leaves Rosen in limbo for a second straight offseason.

Wild ride for Rosen

It has been eight months since the Arizona Cardinals shipped Rosen to the Dolphins in a draft weekend trade for a late second-round pick and a 2020 fifth-rounder. Miami's initial return on investment has been a disappointment.

Coach Brian Flores hasn't given Rosen another start after returning to Fitzpatrick in Week 6. Even after the Dolphins' loss total hit 10 in December, the decision at QB1 was straightforward for Flores.

"Fitz gives us the best chance to win. It's easy for people to sit and say, 'You should do this or that, or this or that.' I don't think those same people will stand in front of that group and say, 'This is in the best interest of the team, for us to win this week,'" Flores said. "That's no knock on Josh. Maybe you think that's in the best interest, but you're not in front of this team every day. You're not in the trenches and a lot of people aren't."

Flores believes he could lose the respect of his locker room by telling his players Rosen gives them the best chance to win instead of Fitzpatrick.

Despite Flores' attempt to protect Rosen, it appears to be a knock on the young QB that after several months of practice and three regular-season starts, the Dolphins believe they don't need to see any more to evaluate him. They seem to view him as a young quarterback who isn't good enough to beat out the 37-year-old Fitzpatrick at this point.

Rosen has been dealt a bad hand since being drafted No. 10 overall by Arizona in 2018: He has been on two rebuilding teams with constant change, subpar offensive lines and complex schemes -- and each has had an escape plan if it didn't go well with him. Rosen said he doesn't spend much time wishing he could have landed in a more stable situation, such as those of fellow 2018 quarterbacks Lamar Jackson (Baltimore Ravens) and Josh Allen (Buffalo Bills).

"Having wishful thinking is very counterproductive. I try not to really have any expectations and then you'll never be disappointed," Rosen said. "I have my long-term goals and what I want to accomplish throughout the course of my career, and how I get there is at least for the moment now kind of irrelevant."

The Dolphins could explore cutting their losses and trading Rosen for a Day 3 selection this offseason or he could get a full offseason back in Miami with better knowledge of the scheme to compete with a rookie quarterback and possibly Fitzpatrick.

Flores said he has given Rosen a private list of things the QB needs to improve on. And yes, Rosen said he wants to be back in Miami next season.

"Yeah, absolutely. I like it here a lot," Rosen said. "There's a really steep learning curve, and I'm really glad I got over it because I'll have that knowledge in the back of my head for the rest of my career."

Fitzpatrick, Rosen and a rookie part of 2020 plan?

Fitzpatrick is the Dolphins' MVP this season -- the player most responsible for lifting them from becoming one of the worst teams in NFL history after an 0-7 start to a group that has gone 4-4 over their past eight games.

In Sunday's win against the Bengals, Fitzpatrick began the first Dolphins quarterback to throw for 400-plus yards and four touchdowns since Marino. Fitzpatrick also ranks ninth in QBR this season.

Ask Dolphins players about Fitzpatrick and he remains "one of the guys" to everyone in the locker room and his free-flowing energy ignites the team.

"A lot of it is innate. It has to be genuine. Can you learn how to become a better leader? Yes. But if it's not genuine, if it comes across as phony, if it comes across as rehearsed, then everyone in the locker room notices," Fitzpatrick said. "It's not, 'These are the three steps to leadership.'"

Fitzpatrick has it figured out. He sounds like the perfect guy to help usher the Dolphins into their new quarterback era in 2020. So, will he?

"I don't have a crystal ball here. I'll tell you that I love Fitz," Flores said. "He's done a great job for us this year. I love that he's our quarterback."

Dolphins offensive coordinator Chad O'Shea pointed directly to Fitzpatrick's intangibles when asked what he wants in his quarterbacks going forward: "Earned respect of team and staff, work ethic, consistency, high-energy leadership and being the flag-bearer of the offense."

Fitzpatrick has an $8 million salary for 2020 after reaching some incentives, and $4 million of that is guaranteed.

He should be welcomed back next season -- that is if Fitzpatrick, who is wrapping up Year 15 in the league with seven kids at home, wants to return. He has sidestepped questions about his future, deferring them to the offseason, but admits the fire to play is still there.

Fitzpatrick seems like the perfect bridge for the rebuilding Dolphins. He can keep them competitive with a better roster as well as mentor the rookie quarterback Miami is expected to select in the 2020 draft.

There could be a scenario where the Dolphins keep three quarterbacks -- perhaps if the team drafts Tagovailoa and wants to be cautious with him as he rehabs his hip injury. That could present a situation in which Fitzpatrick and Rosen again compete for the starting job until Tagovailoa is ready.

The Dolphins might have the NFL's most interesting quarterback situation this offseason because of the uncertainty of Rosen's future, the surprising success of Fitzpatrick and the impending arrival of a franchise quarterback.