FanPost

From Rosen to Kyler: A Personal Perspective

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports



When the Arizona Cardinals finally traded up to get Josh Rosen in the 2018 draft, I (and much of the Red Sea) felt a wave of relief wash over us. In an instant, we saw a glimpse of the promise that a QBOTF can bring. For the first time since 2015 and the franchise-crushing playoff loss to the Panthers, I dared to believe we had a future again.

For the first time I can remember, I actually felt like the Cards had gotten "their guy." I was happy when I snagged an autograph from Josh in a training camp practice last year, salivating over the future that had been encapsulated in a Sharpie squiggle. It was a largely underwhelming interaction, as Rosen silently made his way through only a few signatures before returning to the locker room.

Still, I thought:

"That's my quarterback."

We all know what happened next - the ill-fated hiring of Steve Wilks and Mike McCoy to usher in a new future, the wasted money for a suddenly noodle-armed Bradford, and the utter despair of a lost 3-13 season. In the midst of the chaos, Rosen showed flashes of what could be. In his first professional start after usurping his veteran mentor, Josh made multiple throws that raised expectations. He showed poise behind a patchwork line, took a beating for the rest of the season, and earnestly tried to rearrange the deck chairs on the Red Sea Titanic.

I ardently defended Rosen amidst the chaos. I even wrote a statistically robust fanpost demonstrating that his rookie year wasn't actually all that bad. Surely, the Cardinals wouldn't be so brazen as to give Josh one year in a prehistoric offense. They couldn't possibly move on so soon - right?

Still, even then I felt it - the groundswell rumbling of a diminutive Heisman trophy winning QB that was destined to send Josh packing. Kyler Murray lit the college football world on fire, tore up a multi-million dollar MLB contract, and joined Kliff Kingsbury in the desert in a twist of fate that K2 had foretold when both were still toiling in the ranks of college football.

"Kyler is a freak. I would take him with the first pick of the draft if I could."

Those words, both accurate and prescient, lingered through the duration of the pre-draft process. I watched Kyler's pro day, being equal parts impressed and skeptical of his performance. Certainly, he could throw the ball, but it's hard to look bad in shorts and air conditioning. The ability was there, but I wasn't sure he had eclipsed Josh enough to warrant being the first overall selection.

I remember the anxiety that engulfed me the night of the 2019 draft. Sitting on the couch, faithfully donning my lucky Fitz jersey, I toiled over a future that didn't include Josh. Rarely had I been so nervous, so excited. As the day progressed, certainty began to consume me - the certainty that Kyler Murray would indeed be the number one pick of my Arizona Cardinals. One prevailing thought overwhelmed me when the pick was cemented.

"There goes my quarterback."

I loved every pick the Cardinals made through the duration of the night. The return for Josh was underwhelming, but even the most Rose(n)-colored glasses in the world couldn't prevent me from understanding that he was a diminished commodity. I justified the Isabella for Rosen swap, and began to accept the finality of it all. Just like that, there was a new kid in town.

Kyler's talent never concerned me. He certainly had tools that Josh didn't, and had a winning background nearly unrivaled in pre-professional lore. Still, it hurt. As Jack Sparrow once surmised, "can we in fact pretend that he is anything but a Cardinals fan scorned like which fury hell hath no? We cannot." I shuddered at the thought of crow consumption, knowing that there were plenty of K1 truthers ready to shout "I TOLD YOU SO!" in the aftermath of the 2019 draft.

Hope is a strange thing, though. Murray began to feel like my rebound - maybe not the one, but he could certainly help me forget the one that got away. Through most of the downtime between the draft and training camp, I audaciously wondered if Kyler could indeed be the guy Rosen should have been. Even as my son and I suited up for the first training camp practice of the K1/K2 era, my skepticism persisted.

Upon entering State Farm Stadium, I saw something that had been notably absent the year before - fans. There seemed to be thousands of people, all flocking to see the Kyler Murray era officially begin. Everywhere I looked, freshly purchased #1 jerseys occupied the stands. We all sat and watched as K1 made throw after throw, moved in the pocket effortlessly, and showed off all the tools that made him the belle of the ball.

Just wait, I thought. It'll all vanish into obscurity and despair soon enough.

Fast forward another week to last Saturday, where my son and I made our third trek to see Kyler in action. Excitement continued to build as he made throw after throw, commanding a seemingly complex vanilla offense with relative ease. After practice, we narrowly missed a K1 autograph - one that I found myself longing after in a way few athletes invoke. My son and I watched with sadness as he moved the wrong way along the crowd before trotting across the grass to chants of "Kyler, Kyler, Kyler!" Chandler Jones, Terrell Suggs, and David Johnson all made their way to the spot we were occupying, but even their freshly inked signatures couldn't fully quell the disappointment I felt.

In that moment, I realized that every thought of Rosen had been removed. What once was had given way to what now is, and that familiar Cardinals despair had been replaced anew by dastardly hope. As Murray jogged over to the east side of the field and waved his arms exuberantly to pump up the crowd, one thought occupied my mind.

"There goes my quarterback."

The next day, I practically had to drag my son to practice. Truth be told, I wasn't all that excited to go either. It had become a bit arduous to make the 30+ minute, one-way jaunt after numerous prior trips, and the Phoenix summer has a funny way of making you feel like a Thanksgiving turkey whose timer needs to pop. As our stuffing continued to cook in the Arizona sun, the lines finally started to move and we felt the cold blast of refrigerated air wash over us.

We took up a different set of seats on the east side of the stadium, as I was just too tired to lug my 4-year all the way around to the west side. That Sunday was the first day they let people enter from the west side as well, so many of the "prime seats" were already gone. As soon as we sat down, though, I realized that we made a mistake. After all, Fitz had just signed autographs on the west side of the stadium the day before. Maybe, just maybe, he would return to the scene of the crime and I could snag the elusive #11 that I had been pursuing for over a decade.

As we climbed the stairs and rushed to the other side, I questioned my sanity. My son struggled to keep up, so I had to carry him for what felt like miles to our new seats in the front row in the northwest corner of the stands - about as far from the on-field action that we could be. Still, Kyler had already shown his mettle enough for me, and we were less concerned about getting a good look at practice and more concerned with the chance to snag a premier autograph on our various Cards memorabilia.

When practice ended, Kyler and Larry had on-field interviews to complete. Kurt Warner and NFL network had arrived on scene, and our hopes that either would stick around to sign anything was pretty slim. After a few minutes, though, Murray trotted to the southwest side of the stadium, Sharpie in hand. In what I perceived as a sick twist of fate, it just so happened to be the exact spot where my son and I had missed him the day prior. Still, though, I noticed that he was making his way north along the western wall. Even though he started 50 yards upfield, we hoped he would make his way over.

And then it happened. After what seemed like forever, he had penned his way through hundreds of eager fans to my son. With a mini Cards helmet that was being saved for just the right occasion, I implored my toddler to hand over his prized possession.

"Hey Kyler, welcome to the desert!" While it wasn't my best line, I was surprised when he looked up and responded with a sincere, "thank you."

"Make it a good one! Yours is the only signature going on that helmet," I said.

He looked up again, smiling, this time at my son. "What's your name?"

"Carter," my son replied.

"Hey Carter, nice to meet you. How do you spell that?"

"C-A-R-T-E-R."

As all this unfolded, I realized that Kyler was personalizing this helmet for my boy, unprompted. He handed the helmet back to my son, smiled, and graciously signed a couple more items before trotting back to the locker room. The whole interaction may have lasted 30 seconds, but it felt like a lifetime.

In that moment, he displayed a level of humility that frankly seemed incongruous with a Heisman-trophy winning number one pick. He was gracious, patient, and interacted with us as if a family friend. I was stunned. My son was giddy with happiness, and my decades of autograph chasing had never felt so fulfilled.

With that, Kyler Murray showed me a true glimpse of the future of this franchise. With all the talent in the world, and all the reasons to skimp on fan interactions, he showed us he cared. You sure can't determine the content of someone's character through a single conversation, but I'll be damned if he didn't seal the deal that day.

We could have left right then, overjoyed with our experience - especially given the begrudging leadup to these events. Yet, in a profound moment of dumb luck, Fitz trotted over to our section a few minutes later. He signed my jersey and my son's football as he walked by - on any other day, that triumphant moment when Larry Legend finally put pen to polyester would have been the subject of this story.

Yet, that brief and silent interaction with #11 felt like closure. It was the first time I felt like the Cards would live on after Fitz - and I truly think it's the first time that Larry believes it too.

"This is his team. He'll be the guy here for the next 10-plus years, God willing. I love the way he's kind of taken the reins, is vocal, lets people know exactly what he wants. He wants the best out of everybody."

And you know what? For the first time, I believe it. I believe that there is a future even beyond Fitz - that this Phoenix may just be rising from the ashes. Kyler gave his best for my son that day, and even though it was likely one of hundreds of similar interactions, it left a profound impact on my outlook for this team and its capable rookie leader. Call it sun-baked delirium or overly optimistic hubris, but the future of the Cardinals is in great hands.

There is no longer a doubt in my mind.

"That's my quarterback."

<em>This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Revenge of the Birds' (ROTB) editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of ROTB's editors.</em>