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In defense of Monti Ossenfort: A different perspective

Is there already controversy brewing around new GM Monti Ossenfort? There’s been a ton of chatter about his recent roster moves lately here on RotB. Here is another perspective from one RotB writer.

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Denver Broncos v Arizona Cardinals
Is Monti Ossenfort already a divisive figure in his first year as GM?
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Earlier this week, Walter’s impassioned article excoriating some of new Arizona Cardinals GM Monti Ossenfort’s recent roster moves stirred up an incredibly lively debate in the comments section — one that’s ongoing as I write this. It’s been a while since a piece seemed to touch that many nerves here on RotB. Kudos, Walter!

Walter’s bone to pick with Monti revolves around the trades that sent Josh Jones and Isaiah Simmons out of town and brought Josh Dobbs in. Folks on both sides of the debate came out of the woodwork in the comments section, and the opinions, conjectures, and PFF grades were a-flyin’.

I thought I’d take some time today to offer my own perspective. This isn’t meant as a rebuttal to Walter’s piece or any of the… shall we say strong opinions of RotB members. It’s just one alternative view on the roster moves in question.

Before we get to the QB question that was the crux of the debate, let’s start with the Jones/Simmons trades.

Josh Jones Trade

It was hardly a surprise that Ossenfort traded a tackle before the season. With a top four of D.J. Humphries, Paris Johnson Jr., Kelvin Beachum, and Jones, tackle was probably one of the deepest positions on the team. Trading one of the backups for value seemed like a no-brainer. But… which one? And what is a good return?

At just 26, Jones was clearly the more desirable trade asset, so it shouldn’t be a shock that he was the one traded—especially since he’s an unrestricted free agent after this season. He clearly didn’t fit into the team’s plans in 2023 or beyond. Despite Walter’s contention that we don’t have a “respectable backup option at left tackle,” Beachum has 94 career starts at left tackle and could fill in just fine for Hump if needed (although Walter is definitely correct that Hump isn’t exactly a picture of reliability). Now, if *shudder* our top two tackles were to go down, our O-line is screwed anyway and Jones wouldn’t make that much of a difference. So I’m fine with trading our fourth tackle. But did we get adequate value in return?

We moved Jones and a 7th-rounder to the Texans for a 5th-rounder. That may not seem like much for a 26-year-old versatile O-lineman with 22 career starts... but, again, he was our fourth tackle and is an UFA at the end of the year. And if the Texans are going to be as bad as everyone thinks, that pick may be more like a late 4th-rounder. I think that’s absolutely solid value for a guy who we didn’t anticipate playing much, if at all, this year and was gone after the season anyway. And note that the Texans’ attempt to move him to guard again is predictably going poorly. I just don’t see this as some sort of indefensible trade—we got a decent mid-round pick for a backup lineman. It used to be that our bench players weren’t even worth a crate of Aaron Rodgers natural Achilles supplements, so that Ossenfort actually got something of value here seems like a win to me.

Isaiah Simmons Trade

I’ll admit it was a bummer to see Isaiah Simmons’s Cardinals tenure come to such an ignominious end—especially because it started with such promise. I remember dearly hoping the standout college defender would “fall” to us on draft night. And fall to us he did. But all he really did in his time in the desert is fall out of favor with the team. He never found a position he could excel at in the NFL, never really found a role where he could use his considerable athleticism. Some of that can be blamed on Vance Joseph, some of that can be blamed on Steve Keim (who always loved a jack of all/master of none defender), and some of that can be blamed on Simmons himself.

But the nail in his Cardinals coffin came when the team decided—correctly—to decline his 5th-year option. From that point on, the options became 1) have him play out the season with the motivation of trying to earn a decent second contract, or 2) trade him. It became pretty clear early on after hiring Jonathan Gannon and Nick Rallis that the former wasn’t going to be an option. Simmons said point-blank that he “didn’t want to play linebacker” and he struggled at safety in (limited, to be fair) preseason action.

It just seems like Simmons didn’t fit into what Gannon and Rallis had in mind for the defense this season. Keeping him on board for a few more weeks to try to showcase him for a better trade return (I guess there was this third option) would have risked sacrificing some of the cohesiveness and attitude that has the defense looking much better than expected (after just one game, to be fair). Better to cut your losses and get what you can than try to fit a peg shaped like an exceptional college athlete into a hole shaped like an actual NFL-caliber defender.

We only got a 7th-rounder from the Giants for Simmons (a 2020 1st-rounder), which means we got less for him than we got for Jones (who was a 3rd-rounder in that same draft). That’s basically giving the former Butkus Award winner away. Could we have gotten more at the time? Maybe—who knows what conversations happened behind the scenes. One national writer gave the Cardinals a C+ for the trade (albeit with much of that attributed to the sunk cost fallacy). Could we have gotten more if we had held onto him a bit longer? I just don’t see the point giving snaps to a player you intend to move on from when he’s clearly not a fit for your defense, especially when it’s a brand-new defense. Trying to hold onto him into the regular season just seems like it would have been a bad idea. And stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but note that the Giants’ attempt to move him back to linebacker is predictably going poorly. Don’t love the return here, but the trade looks like addition by subtraction. The defense seems better off without him.

The QB Conundrum

That brings us to the third and final preseason trade Ossenfort executed: a 5th-rounder for Dobbs and a 7th-rounder. One important detail about this trade that’s been overlooked is that the 5th-rounder we traded comes via the Eagles, which means it’s likely to be near the end of the round. It’s not our own or the one we got from the Texans, which figure to be much higher in the round. So that’s possibly 20-25 draft slots of value that’s being overlooked. That’s not nothing. Dobbs also has familiarity with OC Drew Petzing from their time together in Cleveland, and he has some starting experience (although not as much as David Blough or Jeff Driskel, as some astute commenters have pointed out). But was he worth that 5th-rounder?

The answer is looking like a NO after—and this goes for every trade mentioned in this column—one week. We all saw Dobbs struggle against the Commanders last weekend, and metrics bear those struggles out. He ranks #26 in ESPN’s QBR (21.6) and #29 in PFF’s grading system (44.4). That’s obviously not good, but those rankings are still ahead of some notable names that include the top two picks in this year’s draft. Dobbs was one of the worst starting QBs in the league last week, but it wasn’t any kind of legendarily bad performance a la Ryan Leaf or Nathan Peterman.

But the point that many people have been making is that we already had several comparably bad QBs on our roster: Jeff Driskel, David Blough, Clayton Tune, even Colt McCoy. Why did we trade a 5th-rounder for a JAG when we had JAGs-a-plenty on our roster already? Well, three of them weren’t realistic options to start Week 1, so let’s start there.

  • McCoy: He was released after floundering through the a preseason in which he was barely able to throw the ball. He would have been my choice to start had he not been washed, but he clearly was. Moving on.
  • Driskel: He didn’t play a single snap in the preseason and never seemed to be a serious option for Gannon and Petzing. Next.
  • Blough: He looked fairly decent in the preseason (albeit against backups) and might have made some sense as the Week 1 starter. But, alas, he was scooped up by the Lions (whom he played for from 2019-2021), so Blough is a moot point.

That leaves us with the weirdly mythologized around here Clayton Tune. (Seriously, y’all love this dude.) He’s a 5th-round rookie coming from the AAC where he mostly played against teams like Temple, Tulane, and Tulsa (lotta T-schools, apparently). Remember: Houston didn’t officially join the Big 12 until this season. He’s got talent, sure, and give him props for not completely sh**ting his pants in the preseason, but asking him to start in Week 1 on the road against a formidable Commanders defense is asking A LOT. Too much, if you ask me. QBs of his ilk have typically fared poorly as rookies. (I’ve been trying to warn y’all!)

Another point: I’ve seen a lot of comments about playing Tune a ton this season to let him “develop.” My question would be: “Develop him into what?” When Kyler Murray returns from the PUP, he will be the team’s starting QB—and we need him to play this season so we can determine whether to keep or trade him in the offseason. And next season, we’ll have either a healthy Kyler or one of the top rookies. There’s no scenario where Tune is the “QB of the future” or some such. I don’t think we need to give snaps to a rookie to “develop” him into… a backup. He can learn in practice and from the sidelines like… basically every other backup in history. And, besides, player development isn’t always about wantonly giving players snaps. Sometimes, it’s about knowing when to *not* play someone. Week 1 at Washington sure sounds like one of those times. We were going to struggle mightily in that game no matter who played QB, so why toss a rookie to the wolves?

That brings us to the much-maligned Josh Dobbs. Like just about everyone else, I was frustrated watching Dobbs and his 4.4 YPA on the day. It just wasn’t good QB play, no two ways about it. (That said, I did have the Commanders in my survivor pool, so I wasn’t *too* mad about it.) So why was he on the field two weeks after we traded for him?

Side note: I don’t at all disagree with where Walter is coming from in his piece, but I do take umbrage with his comments about when Dobbs joined the team: “Dobbs could have been with the Cardinals team Friday and Saturday (game day) and flown back with team. In my opinion, that was very valuable time missed.” We don’t know why Dobbs didn’t join the team in Minnesota, but logistical arrangements are usually handled by the team, not the individual player, so placing blame on Dobbs and turning it into some kind of commentary on his character seems unwarranted to me.

Anyway, per Jonathan Gannon, the reason for starting Dobbs was basically what I said above: he was more experienced than Tune and Washington on the road was a hostile environment. Gannon and Petzing just seemed more comfortable with Dobbs than Tune. As I mentioned above, the offense was going to struggle no matter who was under center, but the comfort level with Dobbs shouldn’t be ignored.

And that brings me to my main point: Are we maybe making a mountain out of a molehill here a little bit? If the question is “Which placeholder QB should be starting while Kyler recovers?” does it really matter what the answer is? We’re rebuilding, remember! If the team had to give up a (late) 5th-round pick to bring in a QB they were more comfortable with during this Kyler-less stretch, I’m okay with that.

Leadership had all offseason to evaluate whether Tune (and Jones, and Simmons) could help us win games this season. In their judgment, no, those players weren’t going to help the team in 2023. I choose to trust that judgment. Again: The players we’re talking about are a 5th-round rookie QB, a backup O-lineman, and a former college star who has been an unequivocal bust through three seasons.

We didn’t get a ton in return—as Walter pointed out, the balance was Jones/Simmons for Dobbs and a 7th-rounder—but we didn’t need Jones this year anyway and Simmons just wasn’t a fit in the new defense. Now, we can let Dobbs start until Kyler is ready to return instead of relying on a fledgling rookie. And if we have to bench Dobbs in a week or two anyway, we can still insert Tune after a bit more seasoning and all we gave up was the 5th-rounder from the Eagles.

GMs don’t win every trade, and if Ossenfort winds up clearly losing a low-stakes trade like the Dobbs trade, I’m not going to lambaste him for it. And if the Texans or Giants can turn Jones or Simmons into viable, multiyear NFL starters, kudos to them. It clearly wasn’t happening here in the desert, and Ossenfort finagled a little draft value out of them on their way out. To me, our new GM built up a ton of goodwill with his performance at the draft in April, and I’m still confident we have the right guy in charge of the front office. All this recent hullaballoo hasn’t changed that.

Your Turn

But are you still confident, RotBers? Or is your faith shaken? Vote in the poll and let’s continue this fascinating conversation in the comments.


After Week 1 and the Jones/Simmons/Dobbs trades, how has your confidence in new GM Monti Ossenfort changed?

This poll is closed

  • 23%
    More confident in him as GM
    (112 votes)
  • 46%
    No change in confidence
    (226 votes)
  • 30%
    Less confident in him as GM
    (146 votes)
484 votes total Vote Now