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Murray V. Rosen on trial

What are the arguments in a court of law for either option for the Arizona Cardinals? Time to get your Perry Mason on...

NFL: Denver Broncos at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The court remains still and silent. The judge sits high atop overlooking the court room as the prosecutor begins the proceeding of a trial.

This is a trial, an experiment in the creative. Summing up the two opposing factions of arguments for quarterbacks by Cardinals fans (with as much legal know-how as I’ve absorbed from movies and TV that is) Murray v. Rosen. Let’s get our Perry Mason on, now.

“Today’s case is a curious one in the court of public opinion, Your Honor. As the prosecutor I represent Mr. Kyler Murray, who is stating his claim to be the next quarterback of the Arizona Cardinals and drafted #1 overall. On the other side of the court as you can see is the defendant, Mr. Josh Rosen, the incumbent quarterback and man defending his right to be here as the team’s quarterback.”

The judge nods his head.


The prosecutor puts his hand down, rapping his knuckles twice upon the stand.

“I’d like to bring forth evidence on behalf of Mr. Kingsbury and Mr. Murray and would like to present the following evidence to the judge. First off all, if you’ll take a look at the Arizona Cardinals record in the year 2018. Despite promises of “taking the over” with their 5 12 win total, the team went 3-13 and fired Coach Wilks at the end of the year after one season.”

“I’m quite aware of last season, sir” said the judge.

“Of course, Your Honor. I merely wanted to set the stage. Following that 3-13 season, the Arizona Cardinals factually had the 32nd ranked offense following a collapse by Sam Bradford and an ineffective Josh Rosen, who averaged only 162 passing yards per game with under a touchdown and at least 1 interception per game.”

“OBJECTION, Your Honor” the defendant butted in. “Did you see that offensive line and Mike McCoy?”

“Your Honor...” the prosecutor said. “If I may be allowed to finish that will be part of my argument.”

The judge looked at the prosecutor.

“Very well, Objection overruled, please continue.”

“Thank you, sir. As I was saying, the statistics were not great. The talent was not either, but there were definitely issues. The team gave up 52 sacks total and the wide receivers were plagued by drops and separation.

I know, it does sound like I am arguing against my own case but pay attention here, because it is those very struggles in the pass and run game that LED the Cardinals to hire Kliff Kingsbury out of college, a QB guru with a knack for creating offense and developing NFL pro-ready quarterbacks and receivers.

He was hired, as many have believed, to help the offense as a whole and to bring in more Air Raid concepts into the NFL following the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Baker Mayfield and more.

So, then, in this case sir, I’d like to present my first argument: if you hired one Kliff Kingsbury to effectively “fix” your offense, why would you hire him, trust him, but not find the right quarterback fit to improve with him such as them taking Kyler Murray?

The defendent again lept up.

“Objection, Your Honor, there’s no evidence that Kingsbury’s NFL plan included a quarterback that wasn’t Josh Rosen.”

The judge’s interest was suddenly piqued.

“Hmmm, I’m curious now. Objection sustained.”

“Thank you, Your Honor.” The defendant began his own frequent pace.

“If I may, Your Honor, the evidence I would present here in support of my client, Josh Rosen, is not only his own talent and qualifications but also the idea that Kliff Kingsbury, in essence, took this job in part due to Josh Rosen and his own interviewing skills. With the testimony of one Michael Bidwill as you might recall from the radio, he broke down video footage of Josh Rosen and demonstrated how he could improve him.

How could one think that Kingsbury could take this job and NOT be building around a talent in Rosen, who he called a tremendous thrower of the football?

The stats, Your Honor, are not good but look at the team around him and see how Jared Goff with the Rams responded. Goff’s entire body of work was reshaped and he played in the Super Bowl this year, and moreover, the team traded up for Rosen. What reason could there be to abandon him despite having MIKE McCOY fired as the offensive coordinator, a bad line and no weapons after Fitz and Kirk? After seeing David Johnson misused?

To do so would effectively blame Rosen for the lack of production and changing out the quarterback, Your Honor, won’t fix the problem!

What reason do we need to shift the attention to a different quarterback when the one we have currently could be just fine with more talent around him?”

The judge looked back at the prosecutor.

“Do you deny this?” The prosecutor sighed.

“No, Your Honor, what he says is true. The team was bad last year. And, as I’m sure the defendant will agree, Rosen was poor as well outside of the San Francisco and Packers games and a few quarters. He didn’t have help but did have struggles of his own in the offense and even as far back as training camp when he didn’t seize the job.”

“He was a rookie.” the defendent, exasperated, exclaimed.

“He didn’t beat out Sam Bradford, who was worse than Ryan Lindley at the position??”

The judge banged his gavel.

“Order! Order in this court!” He sighed. “Let’s go back now, I can agree with the defendent here that much is clear. Josh Rosen had it rough but very few could survive and thrive after 6 offensive coordinators in four years, correct? Or is the prosecution determining that the only thing that matters in the NFL is the position of quarterback?”

The prosecutor shook his head.

“Not at all, Your Honor. In fact it’s some of those very reasons why I believe that the Cardinals, Keim and Kingsbury are weighing all options when it comes to offense. This team has been devoid of talent but that point remains true whether or not Rosen is the quarterback.

My argument is far more built around Kyler Murray and his specific ability to mesh with Kliff Kingsbury at the next level to truly run his air raid scheme and concepts proper.

The defendant groaned. “Are you going to argue that Kyler “fits his scheme” better, sir?

“I don’t think I could and I won’t. We know that Kliff is adaptable. Sure I could try to argue the point that Kyler’s been in the system for much longer so it’s a “natural” fit compared to Rosen being in a pro-style and west coast. Josh is even an aggressive quarterback.

But if Kliff Kingsbury won’t or can’t adjust his offense to Rosen’s skillset, he wouldn’t have been hired.”

The judge peered down.

“Then what are you trying to argue?”

The prosecutor said, “I am making the case that Kyler Murray is a better quarterback than Josh Rosen, sir and that Kliff Kingsbury would want him more, even being willing to move on from Rosen.”

At this, the courtroom erupted and the judge banged his gavel for order. Following such, the prosecutor began pacing himself, laying out his case.

“I have three main points, Your Honor, as to why my client in Kyler Murray is the best option, even an option worth trading away Rosen for to select at number one.

The first point here is accuracy. While completion percentages can at times be deceiving, they and grades are worthwhile to note. And it can’t be denied that Josh Rosen in college was not as accurate as Kyler Murray.

The metrics support it, and sure, Rosen if he was at Oklahoma would have had a much higher completion percentage but that doesn’t replace the fact that he did have overthrows, especially if you watch the tape from the San Francisco game and others. He completed just over half of his passes and while the level of difficulty was quite high, Murray’s accuracy was sensational, with a 67% overall rate and sky-high grades. Coming out of college both the film and numbers support that on an even playing field, Murray’s more accurate.

Secondly, the athleticism. Josh Rosen took almost 40 sacks last year and a lot of that was due to the fact that he simply couldn’t escape the pocket and, while his offensive line was bad, he struggled to extend plays up until late in the season. Murray’s electric and isn’t just a runner—he looks downfield to extend the play and throw and avoids contact as well, in a way that RG3 couldn’t.

That line, Your Honor, probably isn’t getting much better this year, even if pieces are shifting and added to for some improvement and better coaching.

And finally, Your Honor, the last step is that I’d argue that Kyler Murray is a better decision-maker than Josh Rosen. Last year we saw Rosen double-clutch, be late on throws and turn the ball over with over-aggressiveness. Kyler Murray’s been far better in his decisions, such as when to run and turned the ball over at a much lower rate.

When talking about decision-making, I think that Rosen’s got that as a ceiling and he’ll always have a few of those “oof” plays just like we saw in college like Jameis or Eli Manning.

Kyler threw with confidence and timing and didn’t turn the ball over as much under pressure. That’s how you win in the NFL.”

The judge peered back over at the defendant.

“Your rebuttal?”

“With pleasure, Your Honor” the defendant began. “What the prosecutor has avoided thus far is talking about how my client in Josh Rosen is 6’3, 220 lbs compared to a 5’9, 190 lb. (playing weight) Hobbit who’ll be running around back there getting hit by 300 lb. men. Surely the hits will be a concern at that size? If he can’t last in the NFL, then it’s a wasted pick that sets the franchise back WORSE than Kevin Kolb.

In addition, let’s talk about that “athleticism” because it has led to some concerning results over a few years. We’ve seen as mentioned the RG3s, the Michael Vicks, the Colin Kaepernicks and even a Tyrod Taylor and now none of them are anything more than a backup quarterback. It’s not a running league like college but a passing league. And for that a pocket quarterback is the ONE thing that wins in the NFL and you have one in Josh Rosen who fits that prototype perfectly.

“Don’t mind Russell, Watson or Mahomes, I guess.”

“In short, your honor, I’m afraid that the advanced mobility and earning yards on the ground is a fad and it can’t last. You HAVE to dissect teams from the pocket. And that takes a tough quarterback who can take those hits, and take them over the course of more than one season starting.

To that matter, we’ve seen Josh Rosen’s toughness. We’ve seen that terrible season he went through and came out of it standing, earning the respect of his teammates. He earned that and to quit on him would be a disservice to all he’s done. He’ll grow and improve and get better this year and honestly, there’s no concern about him potentially leaving the NFL cause he gets hurt or hit and baseball teams come ‘a-calling.”

At this, the courtroom erupted once again. The judge banged his gavel.

“Order! Order!”

Once silenced, he motioned back to the prosecution for a rebuttal.

“I’ll acknowledge the toughness and earning the respect of the fans and his team, sir, no one is questioning his leadership skills but for anyone questioning if my client in Kyler Murray is committed to football needs to watch the kid play at OU and how he gave back nearly $4.5 million, and reportedly gave up even $14 million more recently according to an SI article.

But as for the size, what’s his injury history? Have we seen smaller quarterbacks like Russell Wilson miss games or starts given the escapability? I think the size concerns are overblown.

It comes down to the three things that are difficult to argue sir and that’s the play on the field. Josh Rosen was in a bad situation last year and played poorly, while Kyler Murray has demonstrated better accuracy, mobility and decision-making to work BETTER in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense. And if Kliff Kingsbury, the trusted QB guru that he is, wants Murray, who’s to argue with him?”

The judge held up a hand: “Could it be a smokescreen?”

The prosecution pondered. “Even if it was a deep one, doesn’t it just make sense that an athletic Big12 quarterback that Kingsbury knows and recruited over 6 years might fit better or be who you want more than a quarterback you never had in Josh Rosen?”

The judge sat back. “I’m unsure but will allow you to continue. From what I can see there are two arguments. For Rosen it’s his traditional size and ability as a pocket passer and his toughness. For Murray it’s that he’s more accurate, athletic enough to escape the rush and better decision-making.

But that’s not all that there is with the #1 pick, is there?”

Rosen’s defendant piped up.

“No, Your Honor. To draft Kyler Murray at 1 would mean passing on Nick Bosa or Quinnen Williams, two elite talents who are BETTER prospects honestly overall than Kyler Murray and would be tremendously wasteful to pass on. And I know that I would rather have an elite talent like that to build my team than to start over AGAIN at quarterback. You’ll watch a guy like Bosa go to the Niners to hunt down your QB for years and years when you could have him?

Passing on a talent like that for an outlier at quarterback is brutal as the argument for Rosen needs to focus on the fact that it’s not just him. It’s Rosen + Bosa/WIlliams. And that’s a selling point you can build around and the fans should back that up. To add in a second layer, let’s say it’s not just a single player. What if it’s a HOST of players to build a team? If a quarterback needs talent to succeed, a trade back with a team (cough Raiders) would benefit the Cardinals with an influx of young talent.

That leads to a winning team, faster.”

The judge nodded.

“An excellent point. I, myself, would think that Rosen + Bosa or a tradedown could be better than, well Kyler and whatever potentially. Do you have a response to that good point?”

The prosecutor brought up a schedule and presented it in front of the courtroom.

“Do you see this, everyone? This is a copy of the Cleveland Browns schedule in the year 2015. They had a 3-13 record and a top 2 pick in the 2016 NFL draft. I’ll now give two great examples as to why I think the quarterback is most important.

First of all, in the 2016 NFL draft, the Browns passed on Carson Wentz, traded down and took a HUGE amount of draft picks. Do you know what happened with Wentz? He became a franchise quarterback. The 2016 Browns rolled with McCown and RG3 and went 1-15. Worst record in the NFL. They ended up with multiple picks from the trade backs, however but there was NOT a winning product on the field.

Let’s examine the 2017 NFL draft now, as it paints a similar picture. The Browns could have taken Trubisky or even Watson or Mahomes at 1.

Imagine if they had. Instead, the Browns took the best player on the board and an ELITE pass-rusher at #1 and with the 12th pick in that draft...they traded back again and added more and more talent.

And while some of that talent’s turned out well and some of it hasn’t, they picked Deshone Kizer to lead the team and...went WORSE. 0-16.

Now what happened in 2018?”

The judge sighed. “They took Mayfield at 1.”

“They took Mayfield at 1” the prosecutor repeated. And they finally, FINALLY turned it around and had a competitive team. Not with a pass rusher or a bundle of picks but it’s about the quarterback being able to come in and change the course of a franchise and that’s the most important thing that an NFL team needs. We saw it with Russell Wilson taking over for Tavaris Jackson in Seattle, we saw it with Wentz with the Eagles and more. I think you can find a Jared Goff or a Mitch Trubisky and win games, sure. But to turn into a winning franchise you need something special.

And I’d argue that, despite the poor situation, that special quality is something that we didn’t see from Josh Rosen last year. And even if we do see it next year, I think there’s a limit.”

The judge leaned back in his chair.

“Your point is, honestly, also compelling. The core thing I know that’s desired is to win football games. You’ve presented a decent case that the quarterback leads to wins. Wins are all that matters in the NFL and there’s past evidence that the right quarterback is THE biggest difference in going from a bad team to a winning one, but you’re not saying the quarterback is the ONLY reason, correct?”

“No sir, I think it’s the most important one to get right, and if Kliff Kingsbury believes that Murray is one of those quarterbacks, even ahead of Josh Rosen, the team shouldn’t hesitate.”

The judge nodded again, but then frowned.

“But, the cost given up for Josh Rosen, it’s not just a sunk cost but also the cost of missing out on Bosa/Quinnen or picks. That’s difficult to justify and I can agree and side with the perspective of the defendant. BUT if the goal is to win games then I have to say that your evidence presented, if it does mean that Kyler Murray is a superior option, might mean that he could be the best option for the Cardinals.

Do you have a rebuttal as to being able to win with Rosen, Defendant?”

The defendant moved back and forth. “I already spoke about the Jared Goff situation, sir. I think with the right talent around they could be an excellent team given the new coach. And Rosen’s won state championships in college and did well in the fourth quarter with the Cardinals overall.”

The judge peered further. “Is he a winner? I see that his collegiate and pro record overall is...not very impressive.

“He didn’t have a lot of talent...”

The judge cut him off. “Oh, no doubt, but again if the goal is to win games while I see Rosen did well in high school at the collegiate level his overall record in college was 17 wins, 13 losses...just over 500 and adding in his 3-10 record I have to say a 30-23 record isn’t half bad overall. But it’s only half wins. How about Murray?

The judge looked over.

The prosecutor said: “Well he won MULTIPLE state championships with an 83-0 record and while he didn’t get a chance to start behind Baker Mayfield, his 14-3 record as a starter speaks for itself. He elevates his team and pulls it out to win the game in the clutch and I think that’s the core focus here is that I think Murray will win more games. Special talent while Rosen as we’ve seen, might just be average and never great. Sucks but.....that’s what I think.”

The judge took some time and thought for a while.

“Alright, Prosecutor. I’m still not sold yet, but let’s say I follow along with your plan to find the best option for Kliff, a winner with a higher ceiling who MIGHT be a better quarterback overall. What do you do with Josh Rosen?”

The prosecutor shrugged. “You trade him, I’m sorry to say. He can still win but I think Arizona needs to do what’s best for them rather than for Josh.”

The judge looked at the defendant. “His value?”

The defendant said “Fans are right in that he could potentially be worth a first far there’s only been reports of a 2nd or 3rd.”

The judge sighed, contemplated and then banged the gavel twice.

“I have come to the following conclusion. I can see both sides and both arguments, particularly Kingsbury finding his own right guy at the position who can be a better option. But I don’t think that’s completely worth passing up on also adding in an elite talent. Therefore, here is my ruling.

I will accept the Cardinals drafting Kyler Murray at #1 overall in the hopes that he and Kliff could see a Mahomes-like impact on the league BUT will not desire the team to do so unless they can get a first-round pick for Josh Rosen. Or, potentially, should the Raiders offer you THREE first-round picks. Then they will be able to offset the loss of talent of Bosa or Williams at least somewhat if you want to argue that they should move on from their quarterback in hopes of an upgrade. I will trust Kliff Kingsbury if that is his decision given his proficiency in evaluating quarterbacks.”

The prosecutor hesitated.

“And what if they can’t fetch a first for Josh Rosen?”

The defendant nodded.

The judge, however, just sighed.

“Then, my boy, I’m sorry but I will not be able to make a ruling on this case. I will have to turn it over to the court of Public Opinion. If they determine that it’s not worth passing on or that it isn’t enough for a player of Rosen’s caliber, I’m not sure what the right approach will be. Can you procure a first for Josh Rosen?

The prosecutor shook his head. “Not at this time to my awareness, Your Honor.”

“Shame, then. I suppose I’ll have to take it to a higher court then in the court of Public Opinion and they will have to debate the merits and ultimately make a decision that alters the fate of their franchise.

He looked out at the pair.

“For both your sakes, I hope that they make the right one.” The judge banged his gavel twice.


You can follow @blakemurphy7 on Twitter and on the Revenge of the Birds podcast.