We Need to Talk About Josh Rosen
It would appear that the Arizona Cardinals are looking to move on from Josh Rosen after only one year. NFL analysts seem to agree that the Cardinals will select Oklahoma Quarterback Kyler Murray with the first overall pick of the 2019 draft. There’s no denying that Kyler Murray is a talented young player and he is certainly the top QB option in this year’s draft but Arizona only acquired Rosen a year ago with the 10th pick of the 2018 draft. Has he really performed so badly that the Cardinals should move on so soon? And if Rosen is released, where would he go? Let’s find out.
Coming into (and, indeed, out of) last year’s draft I was not at all shy in proclaiming Josh Rosen to be the most talented option from what was a strong QB draft class. That’s not to say that I thought he was the most ready or the most rounded or the most polished or the most likeable but on a pure talent level I felt he was ahead of the other guys. One year later and all five of the QBs taken in the first round of the 2018 draft have ended up becoming starters for their respective teams. Baker Mayfield has shone as the leader of the Cleveland Browns, far brighter than I ever expected and Lamar Jackson has defied all expectations and shaken up the Baltimore offence since taking over from Joe Flacco. These two guys are outliers in terms of both expectations and performance over the course of last season. The other three QBs from that class - Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen - are markedly closer in terms of performance. The table below shows how close these guys were in several key metrics.
So if Rosen has performed as well as his draft classmates on paper then what is the issue? Well, since Rosen took over from Sam Bradford as starting QB in week 4, there is a fair amount of tape we can call upon to judge his performance. It’s worth bearing in mind that the Cardinals had one of the worst Offensive Lines in the NFL last year - eleven different guys played over 100 snaps for the Cardinals at O-Line positions and they all sucked. The Cardinals coaching staff have also come under fire for a lack of creativity in the play calling. But, when it comes to Rosen, the biggest issue for me is timing - he takes far too long to release the ball. In a lot of situations, he appears to make the correct read eventually but takes so long getting there that the window has closed and he is unable to make a completion, much less a big play. This is a big issue for an NFL quarterback, especially when it happens on almost every play. Of course, this isn’t necessarily all his fault - he’s a young, inexperienced QB and the NFL is a very different game to College ball - a learning curve is to be expected. Unfortunately, Josh Rosen just looked overwhelmed and tentative. Reading and listening to analysis by people who’ve followed Josh’s career it’s clear that this is not typical of him. These symptoms have developed since he made the jump to the NFL.
On a similar note was the number of times Josh Rosen actually missed the read. There are numerous situations where he has guys open but he misses the read. There’s also the numerous tipped passes - most of which were avoidable. Again these are not traits that he has displayed in college or high school - it seems that he is just utterly overwhelmed in the moment. As previously mentioned, his O-line is terrible and he doesn’t get anywhere near enough protection so we can’t lay all the blame at his door. Of course, there are some things that we can lay solely with Rosen - a lack of mobility being the most obvious example. We knew this coming in - he has never been a mobile QB and it would be unreasonable to expect him to have developed this skill overnight.
Overall, there are a lot of things that Josh Rosen can and should work on this offseason but there were also positives - when everything came together, when the line held, when he released the ball on time - he made some beautiful throws and, despite the lack of protection, he stayed healthy all season. Rosen is not the lost cause that some Cardinals fans seem determined to paint him as. If he works hard he can overcome most of what hindered his performance this season. Unfortunately, it looks as if the Cardinals have made their decision and will look to replace Rosen with the oft-lauded Kyler Murray. If that does indeed happen, where will Josh Rosen end up? There are several teams in the league that need a QB but most of these needs will be met through either Free Agency or the draft. There are, however, two teams that I think could end up being Rosen’s destination. Firstly, the New England Patriots. With Tom Brady 20th season in the NFL (he will be 42 in week 1) the Pats will almost certainly be needing a new QB in the next few years and a couple of years behind Brady should be enough for Rosen to hone his craft and reach his full potential.
The second, and in my opinion most likely, option is the New York Giants. Eli Manning is way past his prime and his days in the league are surely numbered. The Giants have so far chosen not to draft a suitable replacement and Rosen gives them a great option with some obvious similarities to Manning - both are solid, reliable pocket passers with low mobility but great throwing talent. Rosen is also the type of guy you can stick on the podium at a presser and he will do the organisation proud - a trait that the Giants seem very keen on. On a personal level, I was expecting the Giants to take Rosen in last year’s draft so this would be a strange delayed justice for me. Those are my thoughts, let me know down in the comments what you think - how did Josh Rosen do this season? Will the Cardinals draft Kyler Murray? If so, where will Rosen end up?
The 2019 NFL Draft begins on 25th April. All action will be available live on NFL Network.