Heading into the 2018 NFL Draft, Josh Rosen, during an interview with ESPN claimed, “I’m the best QB in the draft. A lot of guys are flashier, but I think I’m the most efficient, monotonously consistent QB in this draft. [Aaron] Rodgers has some flair, but if you watch Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, there’s nothing that’s explosive or Johnny Manziel -like. It’s just quarterbacking.”
“I want to be great -- in everything I do,” Rosen said. “As far as football, I always looked up to Kellen Moore of Boise State. I thought it was the coolest thing that he was the winningest QB of all time. I thought that was a cool word: winningest. So I want to be the winningest QB in NFL history. I want to win the most games and most championships. I’d say six titles, but if Tom Brady gets six, I’ll say seven.”
“Right now, I want to be the best QB that I possibly f---ing can be,” Rosen concluded. “When the NFL decides I suck, I want to be the absolute best at the next thing in my life.”
As we all know, when the draft arrived, five QB needy teams passed on Rosen. The Browns took Baker Mayfield with the #1 pick. The Giants at #2 went with RB Saquan Barkley. The Jets at #3 took Sam Darnold. The Broncos at #4 shunned trade offers to select DE Bradley Chubb. The Bills traded up to #7 to snag Josh Allen. And finally, at #10, the Cardinals traded up 5 spots to take Josh Rosen.
“I thought I should’ve been picked at 1, 2 or 3,” Rosen said, via ESPN. “I dropped, and I was pissed. I was really, really angry. I wasn’t really showing it. I was trying to keep calm, cool, composed. But I thought I was going to get picked, and I thought I was going to have to put on a face and try and fake happiness. But for some reason, right when I got that call, that’s not what happened. I got really happy and really motivated.”
According to Jacob Bogage of The Washington Post, “Rosen pledged not to come into the Cardinals facility ‘and be an a–hole and think that my s— don’t stink,’ which is nice of him. On Twitter, he wrote that he was ‘motivated beyond words.’ And if calling out the teams that passed on him wasn’t enough, he also promised to ‘make sure that over the next decade or so, they will know they made a mistake.’“
My own reaction to all of Rosen’s brash pre and post 2018 NFL Draft pomp was two-fold. On the one hand, I felt like he fit right in the Cardinals’ GM Steve Keim who has a penchant for comparing some of his draft picks to NFL Hall of Famers before they ever set foot on the practice field. On the other hand, having spent 39 years working with student athletes, I have discovered that precocious self-promoters typically are the first ones to quit or blame others when things don't go their way.
Prior to the draft, when i studied Josh Rosen on film, I felt he was about as accurate as a college QB could be on seam passes to his tight ends and slot WRs. I lauded his pocket presence and smooth release. But, the more I watched, the more I became frustrated with Rosen’s inconsistencies and lapses in concentration. I could see why some draft gurus questioned whether Rosen gets bored too easily. There also was the issue of not being patient enough to take what the defense is giving him—-you know—-the scouts call it playing “hero” ball.
It bothered me that Rosen didn't win more games at UCLA—-and to hear him talking about winning six or seven Super Bowls when he had never won a college bowl game—-felt like listening to a naive adolescent who likens winning NFL football games to winning video games on Madden.
It bothered me too that Steve Keim didn’t pave the way for drafting a prospect like Josh Rosen by having a top-notch offensive coach on the staff. It seemed absurd to draft Josh Rosen and basically put him in bubble wrap during the pre-season, in favor of promoting a two year “retooling” campaign with Sam Bradford as QB and Mike McCoy as OC. Notice that both Bradford and McCoy were signed to two year contracts.
Basically, what this meant was that Rosen was to hold a clipboard and wait until year three when Bradford was gone and when McCoy was replaced by a new OC who could be a stronger fit for Rosen.
By week 3 of the regular season, in light of astronomical offensive ineptitude on the part of Bradford and McCoy, late in the 4th quarter of a close game versus the Bears, the Cardinals took a box cutter to Rosen’s bubble wrap, greased him up from head to toe, sprinkled him with panko and tossed him into a scalding hot frying pan.
And despite not having taken a game snap since week 2 of the pre-season and now playing in an archaic offense that was not suited to his strengths, Rosen handled the situation pretty well. He was unable to provide last minute heroics, but he showed that the moment wasn’t too big for him.
Since becoming the starter and enduring the switch from McCoy to Byron Leftwich as OC, Rosen has won three games, the most stunning of which came in the upset of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in Green Bay. His best play has come at the beginnings and ends of games—-he has led the offense to several first drive TDs and led the Cardinals to a come from behind win at Green Bay by virtue of a fantastic 23 yard completion to Larry Fitzgerald on a broken play on 3rd and 22.
Rosen has been impeccable on his word that he was going to be a good, humble and appreciative teammate. During his press conferences he has been engaging and highly accountable to the point of perhaps being overly self-critical.
But in recent days, Rosen now admits to hitting a “rookie wall” most specifically in Atlanta where the Cardinals were trounced 40-14 and then during last week’s dispiriting 31-9 loss to the Rams in the team’s final home game—-which now saddles the Cardinal withs a 3-12 record and a whopping -197 ipoint differential.
The most redeeming aspect of Rosen’s play versus the Rams was when the pocket broke down, as it did on almost every play, Rosen scrambled for 49 yards. Rosen is a better athlete than he gets credit for—-and moving forward, his mobility could be one of the main keys to his success, as it was when he connected with Fitzgerald on that 23 yard 3rd down conversion in Green Bay.
Yes, Rosen has been turnover prone, as so many rookie QBs thrown into the fire are in their first year. His play in quarters 2 and 3 has been the major problem—-as it was at times at UCLA where Rosen appeared to lose focus, patience and rhythm.
To be honest, I have never seen that “monotonous efficiency” from Rosen that he ascribed to himself prior to the draft.
This week, in speaking to the media, Rosen talked candidly about hitting the rookie wall, and said that at UCLA he welcomed the “little breaks” from football by going to classes or hanging out with friends—-but that now with the Cardinals—-his entire day is all about football.
At this point in his development, these comments made me bristle. No matter what job anyone works in his first year out of college, the focus needs to be entirely on the job. That’s just the way it is. Secondly, a franchise QB should love to devote each day to football. Sure, like any job it’s a grind at times. But, as Larry Fitzgerald said this week, “I feel blessed to be making millions of dollars playing a kid’s game.”
Rosen is planning to return to UCLA in January in order to take three more classes toward his degree in economics. Recently, he sounds more excited about that than playing versus the Seahawks for the very first time at CenturyLink Field.
Thus—Rosen’s recent comments may have added credence to the scouts’ concern of Rosen becoming bored or tired with the game.
One would imagine—-what Cardinals’ fans really want to hear from Rosen is how he is going to dedicate this off-season to becoming physically stronger—-to coming into camp with his arm and feet in tip-top shape. Plus—-how he going to study as much game tape as possible in order to accelerate his growth and his understanding of NFL defenses.
Rosen’s recent rhetoric feels like a far cry from “I am motivated beyond words.”
When I was doing a little added research on Rosen this morning I discovered that while a freshman at UCLA, he ordered an inflatable hot tub for his dorm room—-and he refused to apologize to the deans when they told him remove it because it was a violation of dorm rules. Rosen claimed the rule only talked about water beds.
Of course, this hot tub story harkened back bad memories about the other highly publicized SoCal QB the Cardinals drafted at #10 in the 2006 NFL Draft.
While on the surface it would seem Matt Leinart and Josh Rosen are very different personas—-as a long-time Cardinals’ fan—-it’s very difficult to avoid drowning in the hot water of skepticism and broken promises.