Fitzpatrick 'Heartbroken' Over Demotion

Alain Poupart

Veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick has been benched before, but this one really hurt.

The veteran Miami Dolphins quarterback said he was "heartbroken" Tuesday after being told by head coach Brian Flores that the team was benching him in favor of rookie first-round pick Tua Tagovailoa.

“I was shocked by it," Fitzpatrick said in an emotional Zoom media session Wednesday. "It definitely caught me off guard. It was a hard thing for me to hear yesterday, just kind of digesting the news. My heart just hurt all day. It was heartbreaking for me. Flo kind of said what he said and said what he said to you guys as well, and that’s the decision and the direction that the organization is going in.

"Obviously we’ve talked in the past, me and you guys, about how I’m the placeholder and this eventually was going to happen. It was just a matter of kind of when, not if. It’s still just … it broke my heart yesterday. It’s a tough thing for me to hear and to now have to deal with, but I’m going to do my best with it.”

What made the decision so difficult to accept for Fitzpatrick was the odd timing of it.

Fitzpatrick threw three touchdown passes the past two games to lead the Dolphins to 26- and 24-point victories against the San Francisco 49ers and New York Jets, respectively, and he's as big a reason as any that Miami is 3-3 and within one game of first place in the AFC East heading into their bye.

“There was a lot of stuff going through my mind yesterday just from a personal standpoint, not necessarily with the team," Fitzpatrick said. "Is this it? Like, was that my last game as an NFL player in terms of being the starter and going out there and playing? And you just kind of go through all those different scenarios. I’ve been a starter, I’ve been benched all kinds of different ways, but this one just really more so than any of them … this organization and what we’ve been through the last year and a half, this was kind of the first place other than Buffalo where I just felt fully committed and invested and felt like it was my team. To have that, I think that’s a lot of the reason why … my heart was so heavy yesterday. But that’s the direction that the organization and I’ve just got to accept it.”

Fitzpatrick has started 19 games for the Dolphins since signing a two-year contract in March of 2019, giving him 153 starts with eight teams over his 16-year NFL career.

This marks the second consecutive year that Fitzpatrick has been replaced, though this situation is a lot different than what happened last year.

Fitzpatrick was benched last year in favor of Josh Rosen, who the Dolphins acquired in a trade with the Arizona Cardinals for second- and fifth-round picks, but was reinserted into the lineup after Rosen failed to impress in his three starts.

The Dolphins don't figure to be that quick to go back to Fitzpatrick this season considering they invested the fifth overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft on Tagovailoa.

"Last year when Josh went in, that was a different situation," Fitzpatrick said. "He was either going to sink or swim. I ended up back in the lineup. this is a different situation. I mean, you draft a guy fifth overall and put him in, this isn’t a temporary decision. This is a forever decision. This is a long-term decision. Those situations are very different. I’m always ready to go. I could probably come out of the stands and play in five years if I needed to without picking up a football but that’s just again accepting the role I’ve been now been given and trying to do the best I can in that role."

The Dolphins gathered Wednesday before taking the weekend off for their bye, and Fitzpatrick said his first day returning as a backup was different.

"I basically got fired yesterday and then my day of work today consisted of me, in Zoom meetings, listening to the guy that fired me and then locked in a spaced-out room with my replacement for four hours today," Fitzpatrick said. "So there aren’t a whole lot of jobs that are like that.

"But I know how difficult it is to play the quarterback position and I know that that room is so important to the guy that’s playing in terms of everybody having your back and pulling in the same direction. So today’s the day to digest a little bit and we’ll get away for the bye a little bit. But, yeah, once this thing starts up again, I’ve got to do my best for Tua to help him out. Because there’s two separate situations here. One is with Tua, and I want him to do well and I think he’s a great kid and I think he has a really bright future. And the other one is my feelings and just kind of what I’m going through. And that has to be separate from when I walk into this building and help him out. I’ve got to separate those feelings from trying to be a professional and help him out as best I can."

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