Cardinals’ rookie Josh Rosen has been in the news a lot lately, and understandably so. He’s a mega-talented, outspoken, 1st-round pick at the game’s glamour position. In the past few weeks, Rosen has:
- Been mentioned as a candidate for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
- Impressed the team’s best defensive player.
- Received the 3rd-highest rookie QB rating in the newest Madden game.
- Announced his plan to fix the NCAA. (NBD.)
So, unlike some other Valley sports trains, the Josh Rosen hype train has shown no signs of slowing down since the Cards traded up to draft him. Even new head coach Steve Wilks has stoked the coals, saying that Rosen has a chance to start in 2018. What’s next? The way some fans and local sports talking heads have been hyping him up, I wouldn’t be surprised if they claim that Rosen is going to become the new CEO of Papa John’s or hit cleanup for the Diamondbacks.
But let’s pump the brakes a bit. I’m as excited about Rosen’s potential as any Redbirds fan, but I think the hype train has gotten a bit out of control. Here are a few reasons why Cardinals fans should temper their expectations for Rosen in 2018.
There Is Questionable Talent Around Him
Other than Fitz and a recovering DJ, there is nothing but question marks on offense at the skill positions, and the offensive line is a work in progress at best. In fact, according to ESPN’s Bill Barnwell, the Redbirds’ weapons are in the bottom half of the league, and per Pro Football Focus, our o-line is one of the worst in the league. That’s far from an ideal situation to put a rookie QB into. Better to let him learn from the sidelines for a year and upgrade the weapons/blockers in the offseason before handing Rosen the keys to the offense.
He Reminds Me of Carson Palmer—Both Good and Bad
Rosen is a confident gunslinger who put up big numbers at an L.A. school and was one of the top quarterbacks in his draft class. Sound familiar? Of course it does—that’s basically the Carson Palmer story (although he didn’t come to the desert until later in his career, obviously). That alone should inspire confidence in Cardinals fans, as Palmer was one of the most successful QBs in team history.
However, Rosen shares some of the same flaws that hampered Palmer at various points in his career. There is a perceived air of arrogance about Rosen—and a similar hardheadedness (threatening retirement rather than continuing to play for the Bengals) contributed to a younger Palmer being exiled in Oakland before resuscitating his career in the desert. And when he did, Palmer was sometimes over-reliant on his natural talent, leading to forced throws, sacks, and devastating turnovers (I’m specifically thinking of the NFC Championship Game against Carolina and the game in Buffalo in 2016 here). The same could be said of Rosen at UCLA (anyone remember his trip to Tucson last year?).
I think Palmer will always be remembered fondly here in the Valley, and if Rosen is Palmer 2.0, that’d be a good thing—but it’s worth remembering that Palmer had his flaws, too. (And as far as comparisons to a certain other Cardinals QB drafted out of the Pac-12 at #10 overall go... the less said, the better.)
The Cardinals Already Have a Starter
No, it wasn’t as splashy as signing Kirk Cousins, but the Cardinals plugged their hole at starting QB when they signed Sam Bradford to a potential $20 million dollar deal for 2018. Yes, he might not end up earning that much, but you’re not paying a QB—especially one as accurate as Bradford—that much to sit behind a rookie. Health is obviously a risk with Bradford, but if he’s upright, he gives the Redbirds the best chance to win every week. And Fitz sounds excited to play with him, too, which is important.
Now, if (when?) Bradford goes down, the real QB debate would begin. Would Wilks go with the rookie over journeyman backup Mike Glennon (especially now that Glennon no longer needs to focus on his offseason job as Geoffrey the Giraffe)? I suppose it depends on how long Bradford would be out for. If it’s just a week or two, I think we’d be just fine with Daddy Longneck, even if fans would be clamoring for Rosen. Other than last year’s struggles in John Fox’s rinky-dink offense, Glennon has been a perfectly average QB since he came into the league (60% career completion percentage and a QB rating in the 80s). Let the journeyman backup do what you’re paying him to do. But if Bradford were to go down longer than that, all bets are off and I suspect the rookie would see a lot of playing time.
The Cardinals Still Have Playoff Hopes… For Now
Finally, if the Cardinals view themselves as a playoff team—and the signing of Sam Bradford seems to indicate that they do, no matter what the oddsmakers say—playing a rookie QB just isn’t a sound strategy. Only one rookie has started a playoff game in the past 5 seasons (Dak Prescott in 2017), and a rookie hasn’t won a playoff game since (ugh) Russell Wilson in 2012. And in case you’re dreaming big, no rookie QB has ever led his team to a Super Bowl victory.
Of course, second-year QBs have a much better track record—just look at last season when both Jared Goff and Carson Wentz led their teams to the playoffs in their second year. And the Eagles even won the Super Bowl, although a journeyman backup was the Super Bowl MVP due to Wentz’s injury. Hmmm… More evidence in the favor of sitting the rookie.
So, while Rosen is one of the most exciting Cardinals rookies in years, it might be best to slow the hype train for a little bit—the Redbirds’ offense might not be ideal for a rookie, Rosen has some familiar flaws he needs to work on, the team already has a starter in place, and placing playoff hopes in the hands of a rookie hasn’t really worked out historically. It might be best if the team left the train in the station for a bit.
All that said, if the season goes off the rails (Bradford tears a ‘CL, the defense struggles switching to a 4-3, Michael Bidwill decides to hire one of his high school classmates to replace Steve Keim), it might be time to stoke the coals for the Josh Rosen hype train after all… for 2019, as the 2018 season would be effectively over.
So what do you think, Redbirds fans—do you believe the hype for Rosen? Or should we tone it down a bit? Where do you think he should be on the QB depth chart for 2018—starter, backup, or #3? Let us know in the comments!