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Josh Rosen getting away from the Cardinals can be his best revenge

Rosen’s time in Arizona was a bust — but it’s much too soon to give up on him.

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Welcome to Revenge Week at SB Nation NFL, where we are celebrating the dish that’s best served cold. You can keep up with all our latest revenge content here.

No one expected a football love story when the Arizona Cardinals hired Kliff Kingsbury as their new coach. Soon after, though, Kyler Murray announced his intention to spurn MLB in favor of the NFL — and the college football cognoscenti immediately knew where this train was headed, unearthing a video from months earlier that wasn’t just prescient. It was fate.

In October, Kingsbury was coaching Texas Tech and Murray was in the middle of his Heisman-winning season. In an interview before the Red Raiders lost in a shootout to the Sooners, Kinsgbury heaped praise on the Oklahoma quarterback he once tried to recruit, saying “I would take him with the first pick of the draft if I could.”

At the time, you could simply dismiss it as a coach talking up his opponent. Once January rolled around, it became something more. Suddenly, Kingsbury, somewhat improbably after his 35-40 record at Texas Tech led to his ouster, was the new coach of the team that had the No. 1 pick. And Murray was firmly committed to his football career.

Kliff and Kyler — Klier? Kyliff? Sheesh, their names do not lend themselves to a fun-to-say portmanteau — were meant to be. The coach could finally mold the quarterback he had tried to land for years in his new job in the NFL, ready to implement his air raid system that fit both of them perfectly.

There was only one problem: Josh Rosen.

In 2018, the Cardinals had traded up to draft Rosen No. 10 overall, a clear sign they were willing to commit to him for at least the next four years. Less than a year later, he was merely an annoying obstacle keeping Kingsbury and Murray from finally getting to work together.

After all, Rosen was coming off a wet fart of a rookie year and consistently invoked feelings of, at best, “meh, that guy.” It was easy to view him as the Roy standing in the way of a Jim and Pam coupling.

Rosen isn’t the villain in this story, however. And he deserves a chance to be the hero of his own.

The Cardinals deserve the blame for bungling the Rosen situation

You can’t really fault Kingsbury, a first-time NFL coach, for trying to get not just his quarterback, but the quarterback of his dreams. Why shouldn’t Kingsbury and Murray have their happily ever after?

I mean, they even wear matching outfits. It’s total adorbs:

Arizona Cardinals Introduce Kyler Murray
I’m swooning
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

That doesn’t excuse how the Cardinals strung Rosen along.

The simplest, and most easily digestible way to look at Rosen’s yearlong roller coaster with the Cardinals is in timeline form. Who doesn’t love a good timeline?

April 26, 2018: The Cardinals give up a third-round pick and fifth-round pick to draft Rosen at No. 10.
Sept. 23, 2018: Rosen makes his NFL debut in Week 3, taking over for the — redundancy alert — ineffective Sam Bradford in a 16-14 loss to the Bears. He’d go on to start every game the rest of the season.
Oct. 19, 2018: Cardinals offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is fired following a 45-10 loss to the Broncos in Week 7. Byron Leftwich is elevated from QBs coach to OC. Dating back to his UCLA career, this is the fifth play caller for Rosen in four years.
Dec. 30, 2018: Rosen’s rookie year ends with a 3-10 record as a starter, an NFL-low 66.7 QB rating, and an 11:14 TD: INT ratio. The next day, Steve Wilks is fired as head coach and Leftwich is not retained.
Jan. 8, 2019: Kingsbury is poached away from his brief tenure as USC offensive coordinator for his first coaching gig in the NFL.
Feb. 11, 2019: Murray officially declares for the 2019 NFL Draft.
Feb. 12, 2019: Kingsbury says “Josh is our guy,” which the Cardinals’ Twitter account decides to immortalize in a graphic.
Feb. 27, 2019: Cardinals GM Steve Keim says Rosen is their quarterback “right now.
March 26, 2019: Kingsbury talks up Rosen and how he fits in their new system.
April 5, 2019: Adam Schefter reports that the Cardinals haven’t had any active trade talks about Rosen.
April 8, 2019: Rosen not only shows up for the first day of offseason training, but he’s the first one in the building.
April 17, 2019: Rosen isn’t included in the Cardinals’ 2019 hype video ...
April 18, 2019: ... and then they go back and add him the next day.
April 25, 2019, 8 p.m. (ish) ET: Keim just begins talking to other teams about Rosen.
April 25, 2019, 8:21 p.m. ET: Kingsbury calls Rosen to let him know that they’re drafting Murray.
April 25, 2019, 8:22 p.m. ET: The Cardinals take Murray with the top pick, becoming the first team to draft quarterbacks in back-to-back first rounds in more than 35 years.
April 26, 2019: Exactly one year after drafting him in the first round, the Cardinals trade Rosen to the Miami Dolphins for a 2019 second-round pick and a 2020 fifth-round pick.

All the Cardinals could get in return for a 22-year-old quarterback who was worth trading up for just a year before was a late pick in the second round and a future fifth-rounder. Not that many teams needed a starting quarterback this offseason, but Rosen’s value was better before the draft when a few teams didn’t have a firm plan at quarterback yet — and still, the Cards didn’t even seriously try to trade him until it had started.

And why? Out of secrecy? EVERYONE KNEW YOU WERE GOING TO DRAFT MURRAY.

Except for, maybe, Rosen himself.

“My heart really didn’t believe it was going to happen until a couple minutes before it happened,” Rosen told The MMQB’s Robert Klemko.

During that time, and since, Keim has not reached out to Rosen:

No one wants to feel unwanted, or to be given up on. Rosen’s immediate reaction to getting replaced should move even the most stoic of us, especially because his past year was a whirlwind, and mostly not of his own making.

The Cardinals didn’t put Rosen in a position to succeed, either

Rosen’s rookie season is a lot like Super Bowl 53: It happened, we acknowledge it happened, but we don’t really remember much about what transpired on the field — and that’s exactly how we’d prefer it.

But to give his career in Arizona the proper context, let’s go over the very basics (and nothing more):

  1. Rosen lacked any coaching stability. Wilks was a novice head coach, and defensive specialist at that, and after two different OCs, the Cardinals still finished last in the league in scoring and total yards.
  2. Rosen did not have much help outside of 35-year-old Larry Fitzgerald, fellow rookie Christian Kirk, and coming-off-injury David Johnson.
  3. The Cardinals in general had a severe lack of talent. Veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson was the team’s lone Pro Bowler last season.
  4. This was Rosen’s offensive line:

Unsurprisingly, Rosen was sacked on 10.3 percent of his dropbacks thanks to PFF’s worst-rated OL of 2018.

5. He was 21 years old the entire season.

Any rookie quarterback — a lot of non-rookie quarterbacks — would’ve struggled in Rosen’s place. It’s much too early to judge him as an NFL quarterback based on that year.

He’s not walking into a situation all that much better in Miami, but make no mistake, it is better.

As of right now, Rosen hasn’t earned the Dolphins’ starting job yet. The Miami Herald reported that he’s been fine so far in offseason workouts, but he’s been outplayed by Ryan Fitzpatrick. It’s worth remembering, though, that Fitzmagic is like a middle school crush: as unpredictable as it is exhilarating and can come and go without warning.

So Rosen still has a good shot of starting at some point this year. He’ll get a real chance — something that wasn’t going to happen in Arizona. Even if the Dolphins give him the worst case of deja vu and draft another quarterback next year, his career has barely gotten started. He’ll have other opportunities to prove himself, to the Cardinals, to the league, and to his many detractors.

Rosen sure can bring out the haters — but don’t count his teammates among them

There’s no real reason that Rosen’s personality should rub anyone the wrong way. Yet, he faces the kind of likability questions usually reserved for women running for president, even if those questions are rooted in unfairness like ... women running for president.

He’s outspoken? Inquisitive? Has other passions besides football? Cares about the environment?!

That narrative is one he’s battled since his days at UCLA, even as former teammates, college and NFL alike, have sung his praises.

“It’s BS because of the type of guy that he is and the type of standup human being that he is and the type of pro that he’s going to be,” former UCLA lineman Scott Quessenberry said at last year’s combine.

Soon after Rosen was traded to the Dolphins, the Cardinals’ elder statesman spoke highly of his former quarterback.

“I just have a lot of respect for him as a young man, the way he’s conducted himself, how he prepares, his mental approach to football and life in general,” Fitzgerald said on Mad Dog Sports Radio.

A few coaches, including his new one, also defended Rosen against the notion that he lacks leadership or camaraderie with his teammates.

“Coaches unsolicited have called us that know him, that have worked with him, and say a lot of the stuff is BS,” Dolphins general manager Chris Grier told ESPN after the trade.

His new coach, Brian Flores, called him “smart and personable.

No matter how many times those who know Rosen are quick to bring up bovine feces, it hasn’t stopped critics from weighing in on the quarterback’s supposed attitude.

Like when Rosen unfollowed the Cardinals’ accounts on social media after they drafted Murray, leading to Steve Smith of all people to sound off about Rosen’s maturity:

You know, Steve Smith: so godlike in his trash talk that even Jalen Ramsey would bow down to him, the guy who said there’d be “blood and guts everywhere” if he got the chance to play the Panthers after they released him.

Hours after Smith’s rant, Rosen was traded to Miami. A day later, he posted a heartfelt goodbye video to the Cardinals and their fans:

The word “classy” should never be used in about 99.3 percent of conversations, but that might be one of the rare, rare times when it’s allowed.

He stayed an extra night in Arizona to keep a commitment he made to Fitzgerald’s First Down Fund to play in a charity softball game. Rosen’s swan song was perhaps the peak of his experience in Arizona; he won the home run derby, MVP honors, and a standing ovation from fans.

”I don’t think anybody could have handled it more professionally than he has,” Fitzgerald told the Arizona Republic. “And I know all of us are rooting for him in his next stop.”

That next stop is the fresh start — far away from the Cardinals — that he needs.


Now Rosen has a second chance to make the right impression.

He might never win an NFL popularity contest. He might not be the next Brett Favre, another quarterback who was traded after a forgettable rookie season.

He might not get the opportunity to beat his former team head-to-head, either. It’s not like the Dolphins and Cardinals are meeting up in the Super Bowl anytime soon (maaaaybe a Thursday Night Football game in October?).

None of that matters, though. He doesn’t have to have the best-selling jersey, be a Hall of Famer like Favre, or hope the Kingsbury-Murray duo flames out spectacularly to get The Cask of Amontillado-style revenge.

He just needs to be himself: a still-developing quarterback who loves football and wants to make the world a better place.

“It’s not like I’m some child soldier in Darfur. I’ve had it pretty good,” Rosen said in his MMQB interview after this year’s draft.

Even if the rest of his NFL career doesn’t go as planned, we probably shouldn’t worry about Josh Rosen either way.