Cardinals showed there are no rules trying to find a franchise QB

TORONTO — Historic, tempting, and challenging. Those are words that match properly with the Arizona Cardinals’ decision to select Kyler Murray in 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 in the top 10 of the class as a result of an Arizona’s trade that cost the team three picks.  

However, even though it’s still early to say that taking Rosen was a mistake, the Cardinals 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 (since 1967) 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 this season 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.

That means, for the second consecutive season, that the Cardinals will begin another campaign with the rebuilding-mode feeling. Times have changed in the NFL, but the ultimate goal of finding a franchise quarterback remains pretty much the same.

As expected, the Cardinals lost draft value by trading Rosen to the Dolphins. After all, the team received only a second-round (2019) and a fifth-round (2020) pick to let the former UCLA go. 

Rosen’s tenure in Phoenix lasted 13 starts (3-10 record), 393 passes attempted (55.2 percent completed), 2,271 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. Indeed, his rookie season was awful, but it’s unfair to judge his unimpressive numbers without pondering the tough circumstances he was facing. 

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 offence average only 14.1 points per game, the worst in the NFL.

On the field, Rosen was surrounded by a struggling offensive line (ranked 28th in the league with 52 sacks allowed, 45 of those in the 13 games Rosen was under center) and a versatility-less receiving corp (there’s a reason why Arizona selected four receivers in this year’s Draft). Even David Johnson, an All-Pro in 2016 and one of the most solid running backs in football, looked bad in the Cardinals’ offence in 2018. 

Consequentially, the Cardinals hired head coach Kliff Kingsbury, who will also serve as team’s offensive coordinator. 

For Rosen, however, the same changes in the coaching staff that relatively support his struggles as a rookie were the same that ended up being a direct factor in his departure from Arizona after just one year.

Kingsbury, who worked as the head coach for Texas Tech between 2013 and 2018, is considered an offensive genius. He coached Patrick Mahomes in college and was the offensive coordinator for Texas A&M when Johnny Manziel won the Heisman Trophy in 2012. 

Because of Kingsbury’s intelligence organizing and calling plays, the Cardinals want to turn him into a “new Sean McVay”. 

McVay, who is both head coach and offensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams, entered the NFL in 2016 to work with league’s worst offence at the time. Three seasons later, he has been changing pro football after installed a new offensive system for the Rams led by Jared Goff under center. 

While McVay didn’t “ask for” Goff in Los Angeles beforehand, Arizona has been in an All-In mode for Kingsbury in this case. 

Even though Kingsbury has praised Rosen, the coach always followed and loved Murray’s game. That’s why he scouted the reigning Heisman Trophy winner since he was in high school. And that’s why he said that he would select Murray first overall if ever get the chance. 

Well, that’s basically what just happened. 

It’s hard not to fall in love with Murray. He totalled 4,361 passing yards and 42 passing touchdowns, while rushing for 1,001 yds. and 12 TDs in the 2018 season. His athleticism was one of the reasons why the Oakland Athletics drafted him ninth overall in the 2018 MLB Draft (but he chose football over baseball), 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.

The temptation of having an offence with Kingsbury orchestrating Murray was stronger than the fact of losing Draft value. In other words, the Cardinals could’ve had stuck with the Rosen’s plan, then upgraded what would be surrounding the QB in 2019. But Arizona evaluated Murray higher than Rosen, persuaded, of course, by a dream scenario under Kingsbury. 

If Rosen had stayed, he could’ve had a bounce-back season just like Goff did in his first year with McVay for the Rams after struggled as a rookie under Jeff Fisher’s command. But all the analyzes by the scouts pointed for Murray, who the Cardinals believe has a better chance of becoming their franchise quarterback than Rosen at this point.

A franchise quarterback worths more than pick-value losses in the Draft. That’s not even a debate and the Cardinals just reminded all the NFL fans about that.

Arizona was boosted by a new offensive trend in the league and perhaps will be responsible to mark a turning point for some franchises when selecting quarterbacks in the future. 

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. 

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