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Josh Rosen: The Distance Between Potential and Reality

A look at where Josh Rosen is and where he can go.

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

By: Ryan Michael
Pro Football Analyst
Published: August 10th, 2018

Ryan Michael is a Pro Football Analyst who specializes in quarterback statistics, analytics, film-study and interviews with NFL veterans. He has used his own era-adjusted metric, QBS2, to grade every qualifying starting quarterback since 1937. For more information, visit his website: and follow him on Twitter: @theryanmichael


The distance between potential and reality is however long, or short, the player and organization enable it to be. Moving up from No. 15 to No. 10 in the 2018 NFL Draft cost the Arizona Cardinals a stick of Big Red and a bag of chips. They also moved up from Carson Palmer’s empty chair, to the $20,000,000 version of Sam Bradford and Josh Rosen.

He’ll have to wait of course. “I don’t waver that Sam is our starter. It’s his job to lose.” Wilks said. “Competition across the board makes you better and I wouldn’t have it any other way...I want Josh with the mentality he wants to start.”

If I didn’t know any better, I’d say things are going according to plan. If I wanted to spin this faster than Rosen’s deep balls, I could tell you that the Cardinals filled Palmer’s shoes with a capable veteran who has proven he could succeed in this league. I could tell you that Bradford gives the Cardinals a chance today, and “The Rosen One” will give them a chance down the road, when the time is right.

I believe in calling at cat, a cat. With 32 teams, there aren’t enough great quarterbacks to go around. Bradford was a solid, albeit brittle and expensive signing for a team that was left with nothing. If there’s any truth to the chatter that they were eyeing the wrong Josh early on draft day, my apprehension would linger beyond training camp. Rosen falling to No. 10 was like hitting $10,000 on a scratch off after buying a cracked diamond and eyeing a cubic zirconia.

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

Studying quarterbacks is what I do: watch tape, crunch numbers, rinse, wash, repeat. At this stage, speculation is all we’re left with. So lets hedge some bets. Both history and common sense tell me that Rosen is more likely to be a bust, or an injury-bug than he is to be what I expect his potential could be.

On paper, Rosen is the best pure passing prospect I’ve seen since Peyton Manning left the University of Tennessee 20 years ago. Manning was more accomplished, came from a vastly superior football college and was said to be born to play the position.

The same cannot be said for Rosen, a former Tennis player, straight out of the half-empty Rose Bowl, passionate about more than pigskin and primed to be a film-room irritant. Ignoring the fact that many of these criticisms are walking contradictions, some are simply nonsensical.

Coming from a family of wealth means that he doesn’t need the game? Okay. Why not question the $20,000,000 man too? He’s earned $129,000,000 in his NFL career to-date, so if he sees limited snaps vs. the Chargers on Saturday, could it be because he doesn’t need the game or the contract-money?

I would argue that playing a contact-sport through High School, then for 3 years at UCLA at ages 18-20 when he didn’t need to make a career of it is a very good example of passion for the game. But hey, what do I know?

We’ll know a lot more once the preseason gets rolling. Rewarding Bradford with the label of “starter” before he’s taken a single Cardinals snap, to me, is a sign of insecurity. If he were as far ahead of Rosen as some have been led to believe, he’d earn that role with a dominant camp and a shower of preseason touchdown passes.

Rosen can throw picks in practice. He wasn’t drafted to dink-and-dunk his way to “11 of 11” training camp #QBWINZ.

With a rookie defensive-minded head coach and an offensive coordinator who coached an offense that ranked 31st in passer rating in 2017, Rosen’s gets to play behind an offensive line that ranked 31st in 2017 (via PFF), now down their starting center.

The work starts now. Saturday night kicks off the preface.


Having read through the comment section, it’s obvious that I wasn’t clear regarding my stance. My apologies for that.

Rosen is the best pure passing prospect I’ve seen since Peyton Manning. I believe he should have been the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft and I think the majority of knocks against him are unwarranted.

His thin frame and tendency to play “hero ball”, taking unnecessary hits, are greater concerns to me than any of the alleged “character” issues. I actually believe Rosen’s character is a major strength.

I’m also higher on Sam Bradford than the tone of the article must have indicated. I think Rosen is likely to be the better Week 1 choice, but that doesn’t mean that I feel Bradford can’t do well.

Thank you all for the feedback—both good and bad.