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Heads Up for Rosen

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How Fate Brings Rosen to Arizona

NFL: Arizona Cardinals-Josh Rosen Press Conference Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps the most talked about player of this year’s NFL Draft is the brash, cocky, outspoken UCLA QB from Manhattan Beach, California named Joshua Ballinger Lippincott Rosen.

When Rosen was the fourth QB taken in the draft, he was indignant. Moments after being traded up for and selected by the Arizona Cardinals at #10, the focus of Rosen’s remarks were what he called “the nine mistakes” made prior to his selection.

On the phone with Steve Keim, moments before his selection was announced, Rosen was so thankful and relieved to be picked that he was promising Keim that the Cardinals will never regret the decision to draft him and that the team will win multiple Super Bowls with him as QB.

The scrutiny surrounding “J Chosen” is such that even his recent “Hugs for Holly” inspired $300 random act of kindness gratuity on a $95 sushi tab is drawing the ire of the leery media.

If one pulls away the curtain---here is the reality. Josh Rosen is a naïve, intensely ambitious, yet extraordinarily talented 21 year old college student who is programmed to believe that he can and should be the best at everything he does. And he craves the spotlight---whether it paints a golden or a tainted image of himself.

Rosen believes that the heat of the spotlight will incubate the hatching of the next great NFL QB.

On the flip side, the spotlight could also melt the wax on Rosen’s wings, a la the ill-fated, overly ambitious Icarus.

The only real chance Rosen has to be great will very likely depend on whether he can learn the inevitable lessons of humility that come with daring to be the best.

As Teddy Roosevelt said so aptly, “Keep your eyes on the stars…and your feet on the ground.”

Fortunately for Rosen, his fateful landing spot with Cardinals may have been the most fortuitous bounce of his career.

First, in head coach Steve Wilks, Rosen can learn that daring to be different is a boon only when it is paired with hard work and humble applications.

Steve Wilks has commanded to his Cardinals’ players that there shall be no talk about winning Super Bowls. To Wilks the path to winning anything starts with “winning the day.”

When this type of mentality runs off on Rosen, he will better understand why talk is cheap.

Secondly, in offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and quarterback coach Byron Leftwich, Rosen has two diligent and humble mentors to help him assimilate into the NFL.

Mike McCoy understands how important it is to cater his offense to the strengths of the personnel. Some scouts and GMs predict that Rosen, because of his high IQ, is going to get bored with the mundane grind of NFL routines.

Not so fast. The reason why Rosen won’t get bored working with McCoy is that McCoy will give his QBs ownership of the position. McCoy saw first-hand how vital that was to Peyton Manning’s success. And any great teacher knows that the ultimate goal of the classroom is to transfer the ownership of the curriculum to the students themselves.

When the time is right and Rosen has earned his stripes and the trust of the coaches and players, this will be Rosen’s offense and he will have the ownership of it.

Thirdly, Rosen now finds himself in a QB room that is chock-full of high IQs (Intelligence Quotient) and level-headed EQs (Emotional Quotient). Thanks to an array of untimely setbacks, playing on losing teams and watching their teams draft QBOFs while they were the starters, Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon have devoured ample portions of humble pie---and yet, it has made them wiser and all the more determined to sip of the ambrosia that comes with success. It also should be pointed out that two Ivy League QBs are in the room with Alec Torgersen (Penn) and Chad Kanoff (Princeton). This QB room is the equivalent of an NFL AP class.

In studying Josh Rosen’s technique, what jumps out is how fundamentally strong his ballhandling, footwork, and passing motion are. They are about as textbook as one has seen from any QB prospect in years. If you want to feast your eyes on Rosen’s skills, go watch the 2017 UCLA vs. USC game. Rosen put on a display of precision passing that was stunning, particularly on the road versus a highly talented arch-rival.

What Rosen has immediately going for him when heading to the NFL is that he is masterful at using a TE as his security blanket. The good news is that Mike McCoy’s passing game begins and ends with the TE.

Versus USC, Rosen was without his top TE so he flipped his attention to WR Jordan Lasley---and check this out---Rosen targeted Lasley 11 times, 10 of which were completed on passes thrown to perfect spots. Lasley amassed 204 yards and caught 3 TDs. Rosen threw three perfect deep post passes to Lasley over the top of the USC defense, dropping the ball into a bucket 40 yards downfield---and one of those 45 yard passes was called back due to a lineman downfield penalty. The one time Rosen threw deep to Lasley into double coverage, the ball caromed off the CB’s hand into the FS’s helmet and still wound up in Lasley’s hands for a 43 yard gain.

On the field, Rosen is highly dialed in and focused. Very business-like. Tom Brady-esque. He plays with a crisp tempo and does his very best to maintain a sense of poise. He looks NFL ready in virtually all aspects but one.

Rosen, like many talented QBs, has mastered plays that follow the script, but he’s not yet a consistently good improviser. Rosen has the feet and short-area shuffle ability to extend plays---his tennis background was an ideal way to develop the nifty footwork (front, back, side) it takes to be an NFL QB---plus tennis helped develop Rosen’s sensational eye for ball placement, particularly to his left (backhand) where most right handed QBs struggle to be consistently accurate---furthermore, thanks in part to tennis, Rosen knows when to power the ball, finesse it or lob it, depending on the situation.

Under UCLA’s offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch, Rosen played in a pro-style offense which required a mix of snaps from center and from shotgun. But, because Rosen is so dialed in downfield, when the pocket breaks down he tends to take a little too long to shift his vision into the checkdown mode.

With more experience and a clearer understanding of coverages and progressions, when Rosen’s instincts catch up to his football intelligence, he could develop into a bona-fide star.

It feels like fate has a lot to do with why Josh Rosen is now an Arizona Cardinal. In fact, in all likelihood, it came down to the flip of a coin. Had the Raiders won the pre-draft coin flip with the 49ers, they would have stayed at #9 and drafted their top target T Mike McGlinchey. When the 49ers took McGlinchey right in front of the Raiders’ noses, the Raiders were willing to trade out, thus Steve Keim was on the phone and the deal was made.

Interestingly, in scene one of Tom Stoppard’s satirical tragicomedy Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Rosencrantz is flipping coins and the coins come up heads 99 times in a row, thus astounding Guildenstern and defying all the laws of probability.

Clearly, the Cardinals are hoping that everything keeps coming up heads for them and Rosen.