Thursday, September 10th, 2020

Late Bloomer Or Already Withered?

Gridiron

Late Bloomer Or Already Withered?

Gridiron NFL

This article originally appeared in Issue XXXVIII of Gridiron magazine back in 2018 – for individual editions or subscriptions, click HERE



It is ironic that, as Josh Rosen battles to become the first quarterback taken in the 2018 NFL Draft, a man whose spectre may determine the outcome of his efforts is undertaking a similar quest to woo evaluators. For when you analyse Rosen’s standing in this quarterback derby, it is impossible not to consider Johnny Manziel’s brief dalliance with the professional ranks.

There are, of course, huge differences between the two cases; Rosen has had no brushes with the law, nor the behavioural issues that plagued Manziel’s time at Texas A&M and, ultimately, the hapless Cleveland Browns. In fact, some teams are reportedly worried that a passion for humanitarian endeavours may prove the biggest distraction.

But, in an evaluation process as intense as a murder investigation, it’s the key similarity nervous personnel men may choose to focus on: how both are from extremely privileged backgrounds. Just as Manziel – who has spent much of the last few weeks in the media and at pro days undertaking what he has dubbed ComebackSZN (trademarked) – entered the league amid questions of whether a rich adolescent really had the innate need and desire to succeed under the spotlight, so too does Rosen – the California kid whose parents installed a hot tub in his dorm room.

His father, Charles Rosen, was a nationally-ranked ice skater turned spinal surgeon, while his mother, Liz Lippincott, was a well-respected journalist. By growing up in such comfortable circumstances, Rosen now has the task of proving to teams that he really does love football, and that his upbringing has created the intestinal fortitude required in the ultimate pressure cooker.

This all sound ridiculous? Welcome to the NFL Draft process.
 


“I love his talent and I believe he shows flashes of the ability to be an elite quarterback in the NFL”


 
The reality is that, provided sanity prevails, it will be Rosen’s on-field exploits that determine his outcome in May. And, when scouts turn on the tape, they will see arguably the best pure passer in this class. In his three seasons with UCLA, he put up completion percentages of 60, 59.3 and 62.5. While others have lacked consistency throughout their college careers, Rosen has actually proven himself to be a steady performer.

At 6ft 4ins, he possesses optimal size and, unlike other prospects, his excellent mechanics jump off the screen. Former Rams scouting administrator Russell Lande tells Gridiron: “Rosen has excellent upper-body mechanics, as well as solid lower-body mechanics. I love his talent and I believe he shows flashes of the ability to be an elite quarterback in the NFL.”

That viewpoint is backed up by former scout Daniel Hatman, who labels Rosen’s skillset as the “most immediately transferable to the broadest number of NFL teams”. “Scouts are very high on him and I can see why,” he adds. “There is great film on him and nothing in that film gives me reason to believe he can’t succeed.”

Yet, as with the other signal-callers in this class, you don’t need to dig too far to find conflicting opinions. “Kirk Cousins aside, free agency wasn’t the answer, it was just a stop-gap for teams who need a quarterback [because they don’t trust the draft class],” former Bears scouting director Greg Gabriel told Gridiron. And even Lande, for all he raved about Rosen’s mechanics, isn’t completely sold. “Good quarterbacks are hard to find. While Rosen has ability, I don’t feel he’s a first-round worthy player,” he adds to Gridiron.
 


“He needs to be challenged intellectually so he doesn’t get bored. He’s a millennial. He wants to know why.”


 
Given the evident uncertainties at play, it might help if Rosen’s corner was being fought by those closest to him. Instead, he has seen his former head coach Jim Mora Jr undertake a mini-media tour inadvertently propagating many of the concerns outlined by various scouts. “He needs to be challenged intellectually so he doesn’t get bored. He’s a millennial. He wants to know why. Millennials, once they know why, they’re good,” Mora told Sports Illustrated. “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.”

That this came on the coattails of Mora suggesting he’d take Sam Darnold over his former charge if he were the Cleveland Browns was damning – and only further raised questions of Rosen’s ‘love’ for football. “We all work our butts off,” the quarterback said at the combine. “If we didn’t like football, no matter how talented we are, we wouldn’t be in this position. Using the point that I don’t need to play football is an indication as to why I love the game so much.”

Mora, in fairness, subsequently clarified his claims suggesting Darnold fits Cleveland’s scheme better, but Rosen is a better prospect. “Josh, I think, without a doubt, is the No. 1 quarterback in the draft. He’s a franchise-changer. He’s got the ability to have an immediate impact,” added the recently-fired Mora. “His arm talent, intelligence, and his ability to see the game and diagnose the game is rare. He’d come to the sidelines after a play and it was uncanny — he could right away say exactly why he made every decision.”

But what do the men who have sat in draft rooms think of the furore? “While not having interviewed him myself, what I know about the kid doesn’t scare me at all,” adds Hatman. Lande concurs, suggesting he is confident “despite on-field inconsistencies” that that the 21-year-old is “mentally ready”. “How well he handles being the leader of a team of paid professionals is something he’ll need to develop,” he adds. “I believe he would be an ideal fit with a team like the Chargers, where he can learn from a veteran for a season or two.”

That the majority of questions Rosen has had to answer surround factors outside of his control is unfair and, truth be told, a little ridiculous. It’s not like the Manning brothers, with their NFL quarterback father, were brought up in shanty towns. But it is clearly on the minds of evaluators for whom draft day will come down to deciding if Rosen is a rich kid obsessed with the game a la Peyton Manning, or just another Johnny Manziel.



This article originally appeared in Issue XXXVIII of Gridiron magazine back in 2018 – for individual editions or subscriptions, click HERE

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