Arizona Cardinals

Why these NFL teams should take a chance on Josh Rosen

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So I believe the Cardinals, should they—as I suspect—choose Kyler Murray number one overall, will be inclined to make the best deal they can for the quarterback they picked last year 10th overall, Josh Rosen. It’s easy to say Rosen’s a big boy and he’s going to have to get over the biggest snub job in recent NFL history. But he heard Kliff Kingsbury take the job and say on several occasions, Josh is our quarterback, or words to that effect. Now you draft a guy number one overall and asked Rosen to be a good soldier and carry the clipboard and help Kyler Murray win games for the team that misled him about being the quarterback under the new coach? Awkward.

I don’t know how the draft is going to fall, but if Miami or Washington or the Giants do not draft a quarterback high in the draft, what seems fair to me is offering a third-rounder (78th overall by Miami, 95th overall by the Giants, 96th overall by Washington) to Arizona for Rosen. And Arizona, I’m assuming, would strongly consider doing the best deal it could at that point.

I’d be really interested if I were Miami. Imagine trading the 78th pick and having a year to see if Rosen has a chance to be the long-term guy. If the Dolphins are unconvinced at the end of 2019, they could use a first-round pick (plus other draft capital if need be) to draft the quarterback of the long-term future in a year when the quarterback crop is better than this year.

There’s also this matter: In the last four-and-a-half years, Rosen has been coached by six offensive architects. At UCLA beginning in the fall of 2015, Rosen had Noel Mazzone, Kennedy Polamalu and Jedd Fisch, followed in Arizona by Mike McCoy and Byron Leftwich last year and Kingsbury this year. Imagine Rosen having the same system and coach for two or three years in a row. It hasn’t happened to him since high school. Seems worth a shot to me.

This is going to be a very interesting week in the history of the Arizona Cardinals, but also in the personal history of Josh Rosen.

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The four teams most likely to trade for Josh Rosen

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Canvassing the league in recent days, I found two teams as favorites to acquire quarterback Josh Rosen, the 10th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, if Arizona chooses to draft Kyler Murray and trade Rosen. I believe if this does happen, Washington is in the best position to do the deal. It could come down to whether Washington is willing to give a second-round pick instead of the third-rounder that obviously it would prefer to trade for Rosen.

Where I think it’s most likely Rosen could go:

1. Washington—Draft picks in top 100: 15, 46, 76, 96. Rosen would be an excellent scheme fit in the offense of coach Jay Gruden and offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell. Gruden liked Rosen coming out of UCLA, as did O’Connell. This is a heavy play-action team that likes to throw from the pocket—both strengths of Rosen—and also likes throwing to the tight end. That’s up Rosen’s alley. Seems like the best match of need and availability. Interesting thing about potential compensation. I doubt the Cardinals will have an offer of a 2019 top-50 pick for Rosen; so close to the draft, teams hate parting with high picks. Mike Lombardi, former front-office exec with several teams, told me the other day that first-round picks are like new cars—once you drive one off the lot and own it even for a short time, it’s not worth nearly what it was when you bought it. That’s why I think Washington could try to hold out and pay Arizona the 76th overall pick instead of the 46th.

2. New York Giants—Draft picks in top 100: 6, 17, 37, 95. Unlikely that GM Dave Gettleman will give the 37th pick for Rosen, in part because of value and in part because the Giants really aren’t sure if all the noise about Rosen being difficult has any merit. But the Giants are an option because coach Pat Shurmur is a play-action devotee and likes his quarterback to throw with timing and rhythm. That’s Rosen’s game. Having Eli Manning for one more season would allow Rosen to learn behind a great preparer and very smart player. So how can the Giants make a deal like this, with no pick between early in the second round and very late in the third round? (I’d be very surprised if Arizona would consider Rosen for the 95th pick.) Well, the Giants could offer a second-round pick in 2020, or try to deal the 17th overall pick in some package that would include high second and third-round picks. But dealing for Rosen could allow the Giants to use three picks in the top 40 this year to do what Gettleman really wants to do: continue to build both lines while addressing the post-Eli QB life.

3. Denver—Draft picks in the top 100: 10, 41, 71. Unlikely. But because the Broncos will take a young quarterback this year or next, you can’t eliminate them from consideration.

4. Miami—Draft picks in the top 100: 13, 48, 78. The Dolphins quarterback plans are shrouded in secrecy; Brian Flores and offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea have learned well from Bill Belichick. But I’m told the only way the Dolphins go for any quarterback is if they’re convinced that he’s going to be the answer for the next 10 years. Hard to imagine feeling that after watching Rosen last year—admittedly under constant duress behind a bad offensive line in Arizona.

I’d eliminate New England; just don’t sense the interest there. I’d all but eliminate the Chargers; Philip Rivers seems primed to play at least two more years, and they just gave Tyrod Taylor $6 million guaranteed over the next two years.

Washington makes the most sense. We’ll see if the former NFC East partners can make this happen.

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Inside scoop on why Packers, Broncos, Bucs and Cards made coaching hires

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Observations, stories, and some inside stuff on the eight coaching openings that now look filled, with six announced and two more (Brian Flores in Miami, Zac Taylor in Cincinnati) that appear to be done:

Kingsbury’s not apologizing for his past. New Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury, who had a losing record in six seasons at Texas Tech, said “there’s no question defense is an area I have to focus on” after his teams were consistent bottom-feeders in the NCAA on defense. But in hiring former Broncos coach Vance Joseph as his defensive coordinator, Kingsbury will likely have a job situation like Sean McVay with the Rams; McVay allows Wade Phillips to be the de facto head coach of the defense. “The mentorship of Josh Rosen will be extremely important,” Kingsbury said. On his jilting of USC after one month: “That is where I wanted to be. But when this opportunity arose, I took it.” I asked Kingsbury if there’s anything he thinks people should know about him after this stretch of a hire by the Cards. “No, I think I’m good,’’ he said. I get the sense Kingsbury understands why there is widespread skepticism about the hiring of a coach whose teams played exciting football but didn’t win enough, and there’s nothing he can say now to erase that. He’s got to coach Rosen and the offense well, and he’s got to win.

In Tampa, Arians knows the job is to get Jameis Winston to play well. “If Jameis is somewhere between 15 and 20 right now [in performance] among NFL quarterbacks,” GM Jason Licht told me, “is it really absurd to pick up his fifth-year option [at $20.9 million], considering what other quarterbacks make? No.” After being yo-yoed with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Winston will get the same coaching treatment Arians has given Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck and Carson Palmer in recent years. He’ll be coached hard. Dirk Koetter tried a version of that. Now Arians gets his turn. “I think we can eliminate some of his mistakes and make him play better,” Arians said. “There’s two things with a quarterback. There has to be trust between the coach and the quarterback. You have to be closer to your quarterback than you are to any of your players, because they mean so much to your team. Two, you’ve got to work with them on fundamentals daily. I call it going to the driving range for 25 to 30 minutes every day. That’s how we’ll work with Jameis.” Arians, by the way, said he didn’t expect to return to coaching; he thought he was finished after last year in Arizona. How many times have you heard a coach who walked away say a year later: “I realized how much I missed it?” Ditto Arians.

Elway wanted a traditional coach, and he got it. Not long after arriving at the Broncos practice facility for the first time last Wednesday, late in the day, and before even getting a tour of the place, Vic Fangio went up to his new office, put on Bronco sweats, and started watching tape of his team. That’s who—and what—the Broncos hired. He didn’t politic for the job (“I didn’t ask one person to reach out to John Elway for me,” he said), or for any job over the years; he first was interviewed for a head-coaching job by GM Bobby Beathard in San Diego … in 1997. It’s also amazing to think that Fangio first was a defensive coordinator with the expansion Carolina Panthers in 1995. He reminds me of Arians getting the Cardinals job six years ago—Arians just assumed at his advanced age, he’s never get a shot, and he was bummed by it, but he could live with it. With Elway, Fangio found a guy who was buying what the coach was selling: discipline, unwavering rules for all, and an emphasis on making even the best players better. Fifteen minutes into their interview, Elway said, Fangio’s “death by inches” ethos swayed him. Fangio explained to the Denver media, and then to me. “Death by inches,” he said. “A player is off in the right technique just a little, and you let it go because he’s playing okay. A player’s late for a meeting by 30 seconds. One act. Meaningless. But if you don’t correct it, then two players walk in a minute late the next day. All these things build on each other. It’s death by inches—or, in our business, it’s losses.”

The Packers hope they got a good coach, and a good Aaron Rodgers partner. New coach Matt LaFleur, who has nine years of experience on the staff of Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay, spoke to Rodgers as part of his process. “You could hear the passion in his voice,” LaFleur said. “I believe him when he says he wants to be coached, and coached hard.” The year he considers the most significant in his development for this job was 2012 in Washington, when he saw head coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan build an offense around the non-traditional skills of Robert Griffin III, and the team went to the playoffs. “That year taught me more about coaching than any other,” he said. “You find out what your players do well, and then you adapt your system to them.” That’s going to be vital in Green Bay, where Mike McCarthy’s system stalled while new offensive coaches around the league became mad scheming scientists. LaFleur is going to have to challenge Rodgers with new play designs, and he’s going to have to do it not only to keep a great quarterback interested. It’s why he was hired, regardless of the quarterback’s resume.

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