What a few weeks ago was a burning question — who will start at quarterback for the Miami Dolphins — is now little more than a quaint curiosity.
The team’s onetime burning question sits under all the rubble of the first two weeks, when the woeful Dolphins were outscored, 102-10, traded two of their best players, and signed 13 players off the discard pile of other teams.
Who’s starting at quarterback Sunday against Dallas? Who really cares?
So the news Thursday, that former UCLA standout Josh Rosen will replace Ryan Fitzpatrick, was met with collective shrug in Miami and beyond. The Dolphins didn’t even make Rosen available for comment, announcing the decision after player availability for the day.
As it was, Rosen turned down all one-on-one interview requests this summer. Surely, the team saw the storm clouds gathering, perhaps figuring it wouldn’t do the franchise any good to have the often-too-candid Rosen the chance to speak his mind.
Regardless, he’s the starting quarterback now. He came off the bench against New England last Sunday and completed seven of 18 passes for 97 yards, with an interception. Two of those incompletions were drops.
“I just wanted to go in and provide some kind of positive for us,” Rosen said after the game. “They put me out there to try and throw touchdowns, so that’s what I tried to do. It’s all a learning experience. I threw some good ones and some bad ones.”
Considering the spate of quarterback injuries around the league, the Dolphins might be looking to trade Fitzpatrick (they already dealt tackle Laremy Tunsil to Houston and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick to Pittsburgh), and probably could get decent value for him. What’s the point of risking him further in a season already down the tubes? Plus, it’s good to know what they have in Rosen, although there has been no indication that he’s the franchise quarterback the Dolphins were seeking since the 2018 first-round pick was acquired from the Arizona Cardinals.
Actually, this is a great opportunity for Rosen, because nobody is expecting anything. He’s playing on house money. If the Cowboys blow them out, well, everybody was anticipating that. If Rosen were to have a good game — especially playing behind that disaster of an offensive line — that would be something of a surprise.
“This could be one of those deals where, `'Hey, let’s go out and whip it around,’ ” said former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel, who didn’t coach Rosen — that was Jim Mora — but followed him closely. “Maybe he’ll take a couple more shots down the field where he might have tucked it away.
“Maybe those things turn into big plays, and people are singing a completely different tune about Josh Rosen.”
After all, what does he have to lose that the Dolphins haven’t lost already?
Like father, like son
The late Mike Bitonio installed flooring for a living.
Little did he know, he’d be pouring the foundation for his son’s career as a Pro Bowl guard for the Cleveland Browns.
“If my dad were here, he’d be the biggest Cleveland fan there is,” said Joel Bitonio, 27, who grew up in Long Beach and lost his father to a heart attack nine years ago.
“I was 18 when he died, and it was before I even played a snap of college football,” continued Bitonio, who attended the University of Nevada and whose Browns play host to the Rams on Sunday night. “I had redshirted and was going to play the next year. He died that summer. It was tough.”
Mike Bitonio, who moonlighted as a bare-knuckle fighter, left quite a legacy in his three children, and perhaps most notably in his middle child, Joel, who now essentially is in a cage match with every snap of the football.
“He tried to teach me karate and all that stuff,” said Joel, who is 6 feet 4 and 320 pounds. “But I was like, `'I want a ball in my hand.’ I always wanted to play basketball or hockey or whatever. He always tried to get me to do some fighting stuff, and it never really caught on with me. But now that I think about it, I’m in a freaking spar every time I step on the field.”
At 6-1 and 215, Mike Bitonio was significantly smaller than his son but had a toughness and grit that allowed him to topple much larger competitors. Grainy video of one of his 1995 fights, in the World Combat Championships, still lives on YouTube.
“I was 4 or 5 when he was doing that stuff, so I didn’t have a chance to watch it,” the younger Bitonio said. “I remember we went to Disneyland after the big one that he did on pay-per-view, and there were actually two guys there who asked for his autograph. I was like, `'My dad’s famous!’ He was all beat up from the fight.”
As hard as it was for Bitonio, finding out at college that his father had died after suffering a heart attack at home, he felt even worse for his younger brother, Lucas, who was 10 at the time.
“That was the hardest part,” Bitonio said. “I had 18 years with my dad. Obviously, I wanted more. But I loved him, he loved me. We had a great relationship. My little brother got some of that, but he missed it growing up and turning into a man.
“My dad was just a hard-working, funny, tough SOB. He’d do anything for his family. I remember he worked multiple jobs, and just do things so we’d have a better life than he had growing up. The No. 1 thing I took away was how much he cared for and loved his family.”
Bitonio imagines that if his dad were here now, he’d be squarely situated in the Dawg Pound for every home game.
“He was a big Nevada fan, even though I hadn’t played for them yet; he became one as soon as I signed with them,” he said. “It would be unbelievable now. Every game, I kind of think before I go out there, '`Man, how pumped would he be right now?’ It would be pretty cool.”