Don't look now, but the Dolphins' most valuable player might not even start next year, which hints at how much the team hopes to upgrade in the offseason.
It also explains why Ryan Fitzpatrick
might take that MVP award and head into retirement.
Not that he would exactly be quitting on top; the Dolphins are 4-11 entering Sunday's season finale at New England. Fitzpatrick has started all four victories and eight defeats, dropping his record over 15 seasons to 54-83-1.
But to the Dolphins, the 37-year-old Fitzpatrick would be going out a winner — not that he has said whether he wants to call it quits or play another season.
“I don’t know that it will be a difficult decision,” he said Thursday. “I’ll go through the due process and figure things out. ... Part of it for me is just sitting down with my family. That’s something I owe to them and my wife, and figuring out that end of it.”
Another factor is whether there's a starting job for him. This week Fitzpatrick was chosen the Dolphins' MVP by the media, and also won the leadership award in a vote by his teammates. Even so, owner Stephen Ross has said the top priority in the offseason will be to acquire a franchise quarterback.
That would send Fitzpatrick to the bench. He's under contract for $5.5 million in 2020 but wants to start.
“I love being out there and playing and being part of the solution,” he said.
That was Fitzpatrick's role for most of 2019, and he's the biggest reason the rebuilding Dolphins aren't on the verge of an 0-16 finish.
Fitzpatrick lost the No. 1 job to Josh Rosen
in Week 3, regained it in Week 7 and led the turnaround from an 0-7 start. Miami has won four of its past eight games, and in the past six weeks Fitzpatrick has thrown for 1,845 yards, which ranks second in
the NFL during that span.
In last week's overtime win against Cincinnati, he threw for 419 yards, the highest total of his 155-game career.
Fitzpatrick even leads the Dolphins in rushing.
“He plays with so much joy,” center and captain Daniel Kilgore said. “For him to be as old as he is and still going out and running around making throws and doing things that normal people can’t do, it’s pretty exciting. I love to play for him.”
Rookie coach Brian Flores stuck with Fitzpatrick down the stretch rather than give Rosen another tryout, saying the veteran gave Miami the best chance to win.
“He has done a great job for us this year,” Flores said. "I love that he’s our quarterback.”
But at some point, the Dolphins will want to move on. And Fitzpatrick's not keen to carry a clipboard, especially when it means missing more time with family.
As for tomorrow's game, there's reason for concern -- at least from a fantasy perspective.
Miami stuck with what is essentially a two-man backfield committee against the Bengals on Sunday. Patrick Laird
led the unit by playing 55 percent of the snaps, but he was held to 18 yards on nine touches. Myles Gaskin
played 38 percent of the snaps and was much more productive with 17 touches for 58 yards and one touchdown.
But Gaskin hurt his ankle and was placed on IR. Samaje Perine
was signed of the Bengals' practice squad to fill the void.
, who carried the ball on four of his five snaps last week, is also in the mix.
None of these backs are recommended fantasy plays in New England, though, with Laird the best flex dart of the group.
Meanwhile, ESPN's Mike Clay notes that Stephon Gilmore didn't shadow Devante Parker
when these teams faced off in Week 2, but Parker had yet to hit his stride in what has evolved into a breakout season.
Parker was held without a catch on six targets in that game, but he figures to be shadowed by Gilmore in Week 17.
Note that prior to 2019, Parker had been active for three of the four meetings between these teams since Gilmore signed with New England in 2017. Gilmore shadowed him in all three of those games, with Parker totaling 13 targets, six receptions, 60 yards and zero touchdowns on 101 routes. He failed to clear 40 yards in any of the three games.
Remember: The touchdown Gilmore gave up to John Brown
last week was the first Gilmore has allowed all season. ...
If you're in a pinch, tight end Mike Gesicki
sees plenty of volume in a pass-happy Dolphins offense, scoring twice on six catches in Week 16. His athletic ability is apparent week to week.
Worth noting: Allen Hurns
(ankle, neck) is listed as questionable
for this one. His status bears watching.