To: Miami Dolphin Fans
From: Walter Mitchell, Deputy Editor of Revenge of the Birds
Re: QB Josh Rosen
Dear Dolphin Fans,
I am writing you this message from the perspective of a life-long (64 years) Cardinals fan and a former high school English teacher (40 years) and varsity football head coach.
I have to confess that a year ago, after having watched many of Josh Rosen’s games and post game press conferences at UCLA, I had very mixed feelings about the QB and the person.
As a QB, I saw an immensely talented passer who would dazzle at times, but fizzle out at other times because of what I perceived to be a lack of patience in taking what the defense was giving him. From my point of view, I was particularly impressed with his ability to connect up the seams and over the middle with his tight ends---and there are few QBs who throw as sharp and as pretty post passes in the red zone. I also was impressed at his outward composure---very cool---and seemingly always ready to dial in on the next play.
In watching and listening to his press conferences, I found him to be (most of the time) very articulate, insightful and self-reflective. However, there was one occasion after a bad loss where Josh was almost Cam Newton-esque (post Super Bowl loss) as Josh was refusing to answer the questions. He basically moped and scowled and snapped at the reporters throughout the entire interview. I believe it was the same weekend in 2017 when Oklahoma was upset by Iowa St. and yet Baker Mayfield, on the other hand, gave an inspired post game commentary where he vowed the team would bounce back in a big way.
When the Cardinals traded up to draft Josh Rosen in the 2018 NFL Draft, I was hoping they were trading up for Lamar Jackson. Then, I cringed when Josh said he was going to make the previous 9 teams pay by winning multiple Super Bowls---and I kept saying in my head, “No Josh, you have no idea how difficult it is to win a single NFL game, let alone a Super Bowl.”
I live five minutes from Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA. Around these parts, you will never hear a Patriots’ coach or player talk about making the Super Bowl until they have won the right to play in the Super Bowl. I must admit, as a former coach, I appreciate that kind of self-discipline.
Thus, after the Cardinals drafted Josh Rosen I was feeling leery and was bracing myself for disappointment.
Then, once Josh arrived in Arizona, Josh was about as engaging and mature and professional as I could have ever imagined. I began to relish listening to his press conferences. I often thought of how I would have loved to have had Josh in my class as a student or on my team as a player. He’s highly intelligent, thoughtful and innately curious. His outlooks on life are outward. If he could save the planet, he would.
Obviously, Josh was thrown into a bonfire this season, thanks to coaching issues, an offensive game plan that was as vanilla as the extract itself and an avalanche of injuries, particularly on the offensive line.
To make matters worse, for whatever reasons, the coaches decided to keep Josh in bubble wrap on the sidelines for the last two pre-season games. Yes, he banged up a finger in practice, but Josh said it was fine (which it was) and he was champing at the bit to play as much as possible. Those two games could have really helped Josh’s development.
Well, Josh would make his debut well before anyone would have ever expected. It was in Week 3 late in the 4th quarter of a close game against the Bears. Sam Bradford had fumbled on the Cardinals’ previous possession and Josh was sent in with a chance to win the game in the two minute drill. He got off to a good start, but couldn’t finish off the drive. The best news was that Josh did not look overwhelmed by the task.
His starting streak of 13 games began at home the next week versus the Seahawks and Josh played well enough to set the team up for a game winning field goal with the game tied 17-17 and under two minutes. Alas, the coaches played the situation way too conservatively. One could tell that Josh wanted to keep taking his shots downfield. But the coaches tied his hands. As it turned out, Phil Dawson missed the potential game winner, the Seahawks got the ball back in great field position and if course Russell Wilson got them quickly into FG range where Sebastian Janikowski nailed the game winner. Ugh.
The next week the Cardinals and Josh Rosen got their first win, a nice 28-18 victory on the road versus the 49ers, thanks in good measure to a perfectly executed 75 yard bomb from Rosen to Christian Kirk on the first offensive play from scrimmage, which put the Cardinals ahead 7-6.
Rather than take you through the rest of the losses and the two other wins versus the 49ers at home and the Packers at Lambeau Stadium in the snow, here are the plusses and minuses of Josh Rosen’s performances.
What Josh proved:
* He is excellent at following the early 12-14 scripted plays. He engineered first possession scoring drives in several games, like in LA versus the Chargers where he marched the team right down the field for the game’s first TD.
* His footwork and passing mechanics are near textbook. He sets his feet well and the ball comes off his hand cleanly and with tight, wind piercing spirals.
* He is much more mobile than you might think. Late in the season, he ran a bootleg to his right an threw a perfect TD strike to Larry Fitzgerald right inside the pylon. That play was a work of art. As was the skinny post TD he threw to Christian Kirk versus the Lions. But his best play on the move was converting a 3rd and 23 in the 4th quarter of the upset win versus the Packers when he was flushed from the pocket to his right and then found Larry Fitzgerald for a 24 yard gain. This allowed the offense to go down and kick the game winning FG (20-15) with 1:41 left.
* He can take a pounding and he gets right back up---and he never complains or points fingers.
* Very good rhythm, footwork and timing on play action passes. Works very well from under center.
What Josh needs to improve:
If i were coaching Josh, I would focus on three things: (1) stop trying to score 14 points at once (a.k.a. “hero ball”). In other words, be patient. Take what the defense is giving you and keep chipping away; (2) on intermediate timing routes do a better job looking off the safety and driving the ball in there on time (as a rookie Josh tended to hold it a half a second too long and in the NFL, as we all know, a half a second is the difference between a completion and a possible interception); (3) he needs to take a page out of Carson Palmer’s book. After getting sacked or making an ill-advised mistake, Palmer had a penchant for hitting the defense back with a good play on his next throw or possession. That’s what the best QBs do. They respond by hitting back.
I have read all of the scouting reports that question the person more than the player---and I have to tell you, that I grew very fond of Josh during his short time here in Arizona. When I watched Josh’s farewell to the Cardinals video, I felt genuinely sad. Josh may be quirky and somewhat nerdy (in a good way), but he is charismatic in his own inimitable fashion. It did not surprise me that a couple of hours after the video aired, he won the Home Run Derby at Larry Fitzgerald’s charity softball event and received a standing ovation from the fans.
The pairing of Kliff Kingsbury with Kyler Murray was inevitable and 100% a system match. When Kingsbury called Josh minutes before the Cardinals selected Murray at #1, Kingbsury said, “It’s not you, Josh. It’s me.”
However, if the Cardinals had hired Brian Flores as head coach and Chad O’Shea as offensive coordinator with Jim Caldwell as QB coach, I believe Josh Rosen would have been the right fit at QB in your Patriots’-style offense. First of all, if you go back and watch Josh’s tapes at UCLA, Josh thrives when he has a security blanket at TE. He did not have a good, productive TE in Arizona. In fact the Cardinals’ TEs were unreliable. Now, I know TE Mike Gesicki didn’t have as promising a rookie year as he and the team had hoped, but that could change dramatically with Rosen on board. Rosen will love having Nick O’Leary and Dwayne Allen to throw to as well.
At WR, your quartet of Kenny Stills, Albert Wilson, DeVante Parker and Jakeem Grant, should be very happy catching Josh’s tight spirals and the fact that Josh is very cognizant of protecting his WRs by leading them into open areas of the field rather than crowded ones.
You have a number of good playmakers on your offense and if you can mix chunk yard rushes in with the passing game the way the Patriots’ do, you are very likely going to have a high scoring offense.
While I can imagine many of you are drooling over the prospects of drafting Tua Tagavailoa, Justin Herbert or Jake Fromm in 2020, and I don’t blame you---and, because of that, maybe you would just as rather have Josh Rosen fail.
But, I think you will be surprised by what you see in Josh. Chad O’Shea’s system favors Rosen’s strengths---which is why your GM, Chris Grier, stuck his neck out to trade for him. At a little over $2M a year for the next 3 years---Josh Rosen is a flat-out steal.
I am Boston College grad and have always held the highest regard for Brian Flores, as a linebacker, as a scout and as a coach. I think your Dolphins are in superb hands. I just wanted you to know that my initial reactions to the Cardinals drafting Josh Rosen were wrong. He surprised me. And I believe he won the full respect of everyone in the Cardinals’ organization from Larry Fitzgerald to the food service attendants. Josh comes to you with a giant chip on his shoulder and I believe he is in a great spot to win your confidence in South Beach.
I will be rooting for you...and shhhh...don’t tell anyone in my Foxboro neighborhood....but ‘d be happy to see you be the team that finally wins back the AFC East title over the Pats! There days, I wonder who will fall first---the Pats or Jeopardy’s James Holzhauser. Wishing you the best this season and beyond.