Josh Rosen has been the topic of much discusion over the past several weeks. With Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray declaring for the NFL Draft, many think the Arizona Cardinals will draft him. If that happens, Rosen becomes expendable. But, there are many questions about his dreadful rookie season and what kind of potential he has going forward. Fortunately, for Rosen, there is someone that he can look to for comparison’s sake – Jared Goff.
Josh Rosen’s rookie season was a rough one statistically. He threw just 11 touchdowns to 14 interceptions, and only ended up playing 14 out of 16 games. Unsurprisingly, this led to a lack of success for the Cardinal’s offense overall, and they ended the season ranked dead last in the NFL in total offense. According to PFN’s Offensive Share Metric (OSM), which calculates how valuable a player’s contributions were to their offense, Rosen received a grade of 20.91, which was 31st out of 39 measured players. In other words, Rosen was a low impact player in a bad offense.
Comparing Rosen’s rookie season to Jared Goff’s
However, Rosen’s season was remarkably similar to that of another quarterback’s rookie year: Jared Goff. His OSM grade during that 2016 season was 20.24, just slightly lower than Rosen’s 2018 grade. But in 2018 he performed substantially better. His OSM grade was a 24.85, a massive improvement. For reference, the difference between an OSM of 20 and 24 in 2018 was approximately the difference between a Ted Driskel (20.61) or Ryan Tannehill (20.72) and a Baker Mayfield (24.04) or Andrew Luck (24.9). If Rosen can show similar improvements over the next two years, it would be a big step in the right direction for the Cardinals organization as a whole.
There are actually a lot more similarities between Goff’s rookie season and Rosen’s than it might appear at first glance. Goff’s best receiver in 2016 was Kenny Britt, who had 1002 yards and an OSM grade of 30. Rosen’s leading receiver this past season was Larry Fitzgerald, who had 734 yards and the same OSM grade as Britt with 30. Additionally, Rosen will trade a defensive head coach in Steve Wilks for a young, offensive-minded head coach in Kliff Kingsbury in his second season, just as Goff switched from Jeff Fisher to current NFL darling Sean McVay in his second season. McVay’s hiring led to a change in fortunes for both the Rams and Goff, and the Cardinals are obviously hoping that Kingsbury will have a similar effect. The question, then, is whether or not this plan will be successful.
Why Goff improved in 2018
One major factor in Goff’s increased success in 2018 is the fact that he had much more help from his wide receivers. His top two receivers, Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks, were both better than Kenny Britt was in 2016, both in terms of yardage and their OSM grades. Woods had 1219 yards and an OSM score of 35, and Cooks had 1204 and an OSM score of 34. These numbers are representative of both an overall offensive improvement, and an increase specifically in the amount of help Goff and the offense received from their best wide receivers.
So, one route the Cardinals could take to help Rosen would be to pick up a talented wide receiver in the same way that the Rams did. On potential big-name target for the Cardinals would be current Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown, who recently requested a trade. Ignoring, for the moment, Brown’s personal issues, his talent is undeniable. This past season Brown had 1297 receiving yards and an OSM grade of 32. He would be an automatic upgrade to the Cardinals receiving core, and would give Rosen an elite target for his second season.
The primary issue with Brown is not with his play, but with his behavior. He has caused so much trouble in Pittsburgh that they are looking to trade a player who has been incredibly successful for them over the last several years. Whether or not taking on that potential burden would be worth it depends primarily on the exact details of the trade, and on how well the new coaching staff would be able to curb Brown’s distractions.
How a coaching change helped Goff
And this is where the primary reason for Goff’s recent success comes in. Sean McVay orchestrated a massive turnaround in his first season as the Rams head coach, taking a team that had a 4-12 record the prior season and leading them to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth. Expecting Kingsbury to do the same would likely be to set your expectations too high, but, especially if they do trade for Brown, the Cardinals will need a strong head coach to manage the team and Rosen’s development. However, I have some concerns regarding Kingsbury’s ability to be that coach. These concerns arise less because of what he has done, and more because of what he has not.
Concerns regarding Kingsbury’s road to the NFL
Kingsbury’s rise to the position of NFL head coach has been abrupt, to say the least. He was the head coach at Texas Tech from 2013-2018, before being hired by the University of Southern California as their offensive coordinator. However, he resigned after around a month, and was quickly hired by the Cardinals. And even ignoring the unusual circumstances involved in his hiring, becoming an NFL head coach is a massive step up for Kingsbury. The only head coaching position that he has held was at Texas Tech, and he has never coached at the NFL level. This lack of experience could be a significant hindrance.
Transitioning from college football to the NFL as a head coach can be very difficult, as coaches like Chip Kelly have shown. And this is where Kingsbury and McVay differ substantially. McVay worked as a coach in the NFL for seven years before becoming a head coach, including working as the Washington Redskins offensive coordinator from 2014-2016. When the Rams hired McVay, he was eight years younger than Kingsbury is, but he already had much more NFL experience than Kingsbury currently does.
Whether or not Rosen will show the same level of improvement that Goff has will depend primarily on multiple factors that are outside of his control. If everything works out perfectly, then the Cardinals could be in a position to succeed much quicker than expected. However, many factors need to go right for that to happen, and the Cardinals are placing a lot of faith in an inexperienced head coach with the hopes that he will be able to lead them down the right road. The potential is there, but for the moment there appear to be more questions than answers.