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Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024
The Observer

O'Boyle: Criticism against Rosen unjustified

With the NFL draft getting ever-closer, we’ve already talked about a couple of prospects in one of the most interesting quarterback classes in recent memory.

In February I wrote about Josh Allen, a prospect with elite upside that could make him a superstar in the right situation, but the kind of accuracy concerns that make him too big a risk for a top-5 pick by a team without a clear plan for him.

My colleague, Mia Berry, wrote about Lamar Jackson, a player with some accuracy concerns of his own but still far too talented as a passer to be treated as anything other than a quarterback prospect.

But how about a prospect who should be a bit more ready to start Day One? It’s time we talked about Josh Rosen.

Rosen was a top-rated quarterback coming right out of high school. Like Allen, he has what scouts consider a prototypical height at 6-foot-4, and while he doesn’t possess Allen’s elite arm strength, he does possess the ability to complete an above-average number of passes. He played in a pro-style system at UCLA, has been a starter for three years and has succeeded despite a huge lack of talent on his offensive line and a defense that constantly puts him behind and asks him to throw often.

So what’s his problem?

He’s — let me just check my notes here — ah yes, he’s too smart.

Rosen’s former head coach Jim Mora said last week that he thinks the Cleveland Browns should pick USC quarterback Sam Darnold over Rosen. Because apparently Rosen likes to ask, “Why?” too much.

It’s the latest in a line of criticism of Rosen along a similar line. He wore a hat that said “F--- Trump,” so maybe he has too many interests outside of football. He spoke out against the lack of compensation for student-athletes, so apparently he isn’t respectful enough of authority. And according to Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, many NFL executives think he’s too smart.

Traits like intelligence and critical thinking should be celebrated in a quarterback. If Rosen doesn’t think a play will work, he should let the coach know. If a coach can’t explain to his quarterback why they’re doing something, they’re in the wrong profession.

And as for what Mora thinks? Well maybe there’s a reason why Rosen was asking “Why?” so much. “Why did I have three offensive coordinators in three years?”, “Why can’t a five-star quarterback and a five-star running back get some decent players to block for them?”, “Why did I throw for 400 yards and three touchdowns and still lose on three separate occasions last year?”

Now there is maybe one legitimate concern linked to Rosen’s critical thinking ability. Rosen’s history of concussions and willingness to speak about the issue as well as his family wealth, when combined with the apparent questioning, could lead teams to be concerned about Rosen quitting the sport early out of fear of the effects of CTE.

But if that’s the concern, people should say it. Using this kind of language to skirt around the most important issue in this sport helps nobody: Either address the concussion issue directly and have a serious conversation about what it means if top QB prospect might consider quitting football within a few years or else admit that Rosen’s attitude with authority shouldn’t be a problem.

Rosen isn’t Johnny Manziel, whose alcoholism ruined any hope of success he might have had. He’s not JaMarcus Russell, who refused to make any effort to learn the Raiders’ playbook. He’s a talented passer who just wants to understand what his team’s doing.

If a coach doesn’t want that in a quarterback, maybe what they’re doing isn’t working.