My research of this year’s QB draft pool began at this time last year when the Cardinals did not draft a QB as the heir apparent to Carson Palmer. Back then I remember thinking that the odds of being able to draft everyone’s darling 2018 QB Sam Darnold were virtually slim to none and none just left the corner of Winslow.
But, something told me I should start with Josh Rosen---that maybe somehow he could be THE guy. Thus, I tuned in with great interest to the college football opener on September 3rd between UCLA and Texas A&M. UCLA was the favorite and I figured that Rosen would put on a show.
You might be slightly amused to know my very first impression of him---as I peered inside of his golden, oddly triangular looking helmet and saw the acute angles of his face, the flat tops of his eyes, the eye black beneath the eyes, the distinctively sharp roundness of his nose and his consistently downward turned mouth---I though that if you added a little more eye black around his eyes, painted his cheeks red and his nose and mouth yellow, you’d have a stunningly accurate looking cardinal.
Plus the sheer blossoming redness of name Rosen…
Then, in the game, nothing was going UCLA’s way in the first half. Rosen’s footwork was sharp and his throws were coming out clean and pretty much on target, but there were key misfires and drops, and the Aggies were getting constant pressure on Rosen. When the Bruins were down 38-10 at halftime, I have to admit I started watching another game.
But, something compelled me to turn back just to see how worse it was getting for Rosen and UCLA---but I was ecstatic to see Rosen come alive in the 4th quarter, like the Phoenix rising from the ashes----throwing pinpointed darts left and right---side-stepping pressure and squaring up to make strikes downfield, some of which were miraculously missed by fractions of inches by Aggie defenders, one even going right through an Aggie’s hands and into the waiting arms of WR Theo Howard in the end zone ---which cut the Aggie’s lead to six points at 44-38. And then straight out the Dan Marino and Tom Brady playbooks, with the game on the line, Rosen faked a spike and spiraled the game-winning 10 yard TD to WR Jordan Lasley.
Rosen passed for 292 yards and four TDs in the 4th quarter in overcoming a 27-point deficit in what has to rank as one of the most epic comebacks in the history of college football.
Fast forward six weeks later to what was most likely the nadir of Rosen’s and the Bruins’ season---following a very disappointing 47-30 loss at Arizona (oh, the irony) wherein Rosen completed only 58% of his passes and threw 0 TDs and 3 interceptions---and then this post game press conference happened:
After watching the press conference, I had had enough of Josh Rosen. There is no way, I thought, I would ever want him to be the QB of my Cardinals. The only thing as egregious I could think of comparing Rosen’s terse, petulant remarks to, was Cam Newton’s debacle of a press conference after Super Bowl L (50).
Except, a few weeks later, I just HAD to watch the UCLA vs. USC game---that’s the thing about Rosen, even though he can infuriate you, you can’t seem to help coming back for more. And this time Rosen was sharp as barnacles. He threw for 421 yards and 3 TD versus 1 interception and clearly outdueled Sam Darnold during a nifty 24-20 win.
Rosen’s press conference that week was starkly different, Of course, winning is often a panacea.
But, having not being able to finish the 2016 season due to soft tissue surgery on his shoulder and then having to miss games late in 2017 due to concussions (and sitting out the Cactus Bowl even though he was cleared of the concussion protocol), Rosen’s draft stock took another significant turn downward.
At that time, I turned all of my fascination, loyalty and attention to Lamar Jackson.
Last night, when Steve Keim made the move with the Raiders to trade up to #10, I was praying the bold move was for Jackson…but I knew the pick was going to be Josh Rosen. I knew this because Keim and the Cardinals had Rosen in to the Cardinals’ facilities for a visit, whereas, for whatever reasons, they did not have such a visit with Jackson. Not sure whether that was the Cardinals’ decision or Lamar’s and his mother’s, or both.
Honestly, when Rosen did not appear to be happy during his interview with Deion Sanders, I felt all the more disillusioned. Sure, I get that you want your QB to believe he’s the best---but---being drafted in the top 10 by a team who traded up to get you isn’t exactly a travesty.
However, as the night wore on and I watched more interviews with Rosen and heard how he vowed not to come in “like an a-hole who thinks his sh--- doesn’t stink” and how highly he thinks of the Cardinals’ talent on both sides of the ball and his respect for Larry Fitzgerald, Sam Bradford, Mike Glennon and David Johnson---and how he can’t wait to get to work and how highly motivated he feels----I started warming up to the guy.
It was then very helpful to hear Steve Keim and Steve Wilks talk about how impressed they were in their meetings with Rosen---how his intelligence (”most intelligent QB in the draft” per Wilks and a reminder of his #1 QB criterion) and Type A personality were well received---how he ‘commanded the rooms” in the meetings and how fiercely competitive he is---and how they embrace his personality (“to be great you have to be different” per Wilks)---I quickly arrived at an epiphany.
What I realized was---pretty much everything the Cardinals have done in the off-season has paved the path for a player like Josh Rosen. The hiring of Steve Wilks, whose own mantra is “born to stand out”---to Wilks’ insistence that he and his staff are going to embrace and relish working with different personalities---Wilks’ vow to sign QBs who are, first and foremost, highly intelligent---to Steve Keim’s determination that a GM to build his legacy on the franchise QB he drafts---to Mike McCoy’s revelation that he patterns his offense on the short to intermediate “attack the middle’ passing game that the Patriots have mastered---and in that regard, there is not a better, more naturally gifted, more fundamental or more pinpoint passer in the draft than Josh Rosen. In terms of McCoy’s system, Rosen is virtually an ideal fit.
Yes, I am still fighting off the feelings of déjà vu----to think that 12 years ago was the last time the Cardinals drafted a QB in the first round, and that player was a hot tub loving California kid who slid down to #10 in the draft---to think that just two years ago as the starting QB in Philly, Sam Bradford had to endure watching his team trade up to draft a franchise QB----twice the same thing for Mike Glennon with the Bucs and Bears---and then Keim’s pattern this off-season of signing players coming off injuries, ironically following the release of Tyrann Mathieu, one of the most beloved Cardinals of the modern era, due to an ill-advised contract and Mathieu’s slower than expected recovery from injuries.
And anther wisp of déjà vu---will Sam Bradford excel and stave off Rosen the way Kurt Warner did with Matt Leinart? Or---will the Cardinals trade Bradford to a QB needy contender the way Philly did after they knew they wanted to start Carson Wentz week one?
Regardless, here is what I am going to do. I have the UCLA vs. USC game saved on my DTV Genie. Thus, I am going to watch it this afternoon and relish in the sheer beauty of Josh Rosen’s art. Like Red said to Andy Dufresne a few weeks before Andy’s escape from Shawshank, “Man, you’re a real Rembrandt!” I am going to feast my eyes on the masterful aspects of Josh Rosen’s footwork and throwing motion. After all, John Keats was on to something very profound when he wrote, “Beauty is truth and truth beauty, that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”
It’s time for me (and hopefully you, as well) to start looking at the world through Rosen colored passes.