The world of pro football hasn’t been exceedingly kind to Josh Rosen in the year and change he has spent in its confines. A new beginning has presented itself in Miami, yet for a quarterback, such constant upheaval early in a career often has dire results.
Rosen may not have been the only quarterback in the 2018 class to be unfairly maligned coming into the draft — Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson can attest to that. The knocks on Rosen, however, were the sort of things that show that the league’s media apparatus saw him as unlikable from the get-go.
Rosen was said to be too much of an independent thinker who didn’t possess the single-minded obsession with the game that football culture has come to not only revere but demand of its quarterbacks. It didn’t help that his former college coach, Jim Mora, made comments almost tailor-made to alienate Rosen from the NFL fandom, which tends to skew older and more culturally conservative than other major sports leagues.
“He needs to be challenged intellectually so he doesn’t get bored. He’s a millennial. He wants to know why,” Mora said last spring. “Millennials, once they know why, they’re good. Josh has a lot of interests in life. If you can hold his concentration level and focus only on football for a few years, he will set the world on fire. He has so much ability, and he’s a really good kid.”
Those weren’t meant to be entirely damning words. Yet in the mind of football people, who often view a detail-obsessed micro-manager like Peyton Manning as the be-all, end-all of quarterbacking, they certainly seemed like it. Obviously, a pro team doesn’t — and shouldn’t — want its most important player to be a complete scatterbrain who can’t focus, but it’s probably not great for anyone to insist that a player not care about anything other than his sport and have no outside interests.
If those criticisms set some fans on edge, they didn’t hurt Rosen’s draft position much. He was taken 10th overall by Arizona, the fourth of five QBs selected in the first round last year. Rosen ended up having a lousy rookie season, posting atrocious figures in critical categories such as completion percentage (55.2), yards per attempt (5.8), and passer rating (66.7), yet one would have a hard time arguing he wasn’t set up for failure. His first offensive coordinator in the pros, Mike McCoy, was fired at mid-season. Arizona’s offensive line was rated the worst pass-blocking unit in the league by Pro Football Focus. His best and most productive weapon was a 35-year-old Larry Fitzgerald, who put up career-worst yardage numbers (734) as retirement creeps closer.
Even if Rosen had stayed in Arizona, he was going to have to learn a new offensive system and deal with new coaches in 2019. So in that sense, going to a new team isn’t that much of a departure. How it happened, though, was a disaster that is likely to unfairly dog Rosen. Just as the Giants recently made assurances they wouldn’t trade Odell Beckham before doing exactly that, Arizona earlier this year brushed off talk of dealing Rosen, which the Cardinals ended up doing 2 1/2 months later.
Much was made of the fact that Rosen unfollowed the Cardinals on various social media platforms after the team made quarterback Kyler Murray the first overall pick in this year’s draft. In terms of pettiness, it’s relatively minor and passive-aggressive, and you could easily argue deserved on the part of Arizona. Yet it was enough in the content-starved expanse of the NFL off-season to become a controversy. NFL Network’s Steve Smith, no stranger to public outbursts in his playing days, lambasted Rosen during live draft coverage about what the former receiver saw as immaturity and a lack of desire to compete.
By: Michael Tunison