TORONTO — Historic, tempting, and challenging. Those are words that match properly with the Arizona Cardinals’ decision to select Kyler Murray with the first overall pick of the 2019 NFL Draft only one year after taken Josh Rosen 10th overall.
In April 2018, the Cardinals thought they had found their franchise quarterback in Rosen, who was selected as a result of a three-pick trade by the team.
However, even though it’s still early to say that taking Rosen was a mistake, Arizona decided to move on from the quarterback by selecting another first-round play caller in 2019.
By doing so, Arizona became only the second team in the Super Bowl era to select first-round quarterbacks in back-to-back years. That also happened in 1982 and 1983 when the Baltimore Colts called Art Schlichter and John Elway, respectively.
Curiously, neither the Colts nor the Cardinals really kept both QBs in the roster at the same time. While Baltimore departed Elway right after the selection in a trade to the Denver Broncos, Arizona traded Rosen away to the Miami Dolphins hours after picking Murray.
Rosen’s tenure in Phoenix lasted just 13 starts (3-10 record), 2,271 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. Despite disappointing numbers, it’s unfair to judge his rookie season without pondering the tough circumstances he faced.
First of all, Rosen played under first-year defensive-minded head coach Steve Wilks, who was fired right after the end of the season. His offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, too, lost the job during the regular season — it was the third time in three years that McCoy was fired. Their offense average only 14.1 points per game, the worst in the NFL.
On the field, Rosen was surrounded by a struggling offensive line (52 sacks allowed, 45 of those on Rosen) and a versatility-less receiving corp. Even David Johnson, one of the most solid running backs in football, didn’t look good for the Cardinals in 2018.
As expected, the Cardinals lost draft value by trading Rosen to the Dolphins. After all, they received only a second-round (2019) and a fifth-round (2020) pick to let the former UCLA go. But the only active rule in trying to find a franchise quarterback might be “The ends justify the means”.
Trying the ultimate goal of finding a franchise quarterback, the Cardinals hired coach Kliff Kingsbury, who will also serve as team’s offensive coordinator in 2019.
For Rosen, however, the same coaching staff changes that relatively support his rookie struggles and could have given him hope for a better second pro year, ended up being a direct factor in his departure from Arizona after just one season.
Because of Kingsbury’s intelligence organizing and calling plays, the Cardinals want to make him a “new Sean McVay”.
McVay, who is both head coach and offensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams since 2017, also joined the team when it had the league’s worst offense. Three seasons later, the McVay-led Rams have one of the most solid offensive systems in football.
Such ambition made the Cardinals historically change plans under center and give up on Rosen selecting Kingsbury’s dream prospect instead. The temptation of having an offense with Kingsbury orchestrating Murray was stronger than the fact of losing Draft value.
It’s not hard to understand why Kingsbury once said he would select Murray first overall if ever get the chance (like he basically just did).
The dual-threat Oklahoma stud totalled 4,361 passing yards and 42 passing touchdowns, while rushing for 1,001 yards and 12 TDs in 2018. His athleticism was one of the reasons why the Oakland Athletics also drafted him ninth overall in the 2018 MLB Draft, and along with his leadership ability made him a top prospect in the NFL.
At 5’10” and 207 lbs, Murray might be undersized at quarterback, but history shows that it’s a matter of being inserted in the right system, which is exactly what the Cardinals believe to have found.
If Rosen had stayed, he could’ve had a bounce-back season just like Jared Goff in his first year with McVay after struggling as a rookie under Jeff Fisher’s command. But all the scout analyzes pointed for Murray, who the Cardinals expect to have a better chance of becoming their franchise quarterback than Rosen at this point.
A franchise quarterback worths more than the Draft-value idea. That’s not even a debate and the Cardinals just reminded all the NFL fans about that.
This isn’t the last time an organization will have to choose between either stick with a plan or change everything suddenly to do what it seems to be the best at football’s most important position.
There’s no exact science in this case.