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FAB 1. Is Rosen The Bucs’ QB Of The Future?
When Bucs general manager Jason Licht and former head coach Lovie Smith decided to draft Jameis Winston with the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft they thought they would be drafting Tampa Bay’s quarterback of the future.
Winston spent five years trying to be the future but now he’s in the Bucs’ past, as Licht and head coach Bruce Arians decided to move in a different direction at quarterback after Winston threw a league-leading 30 interceptions, including an NFL-record seven pick-sixes.
Instead of looking to the future, Licht and Arians focused on the present as they successfully lured Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback of all time, to the Bucs in free agency. Brady, who turned 43 in August, spent 20 years in New England winning six Super Bowls. He’ll spend two, perhaps three years in Tampa Bay.
And then Licht and Arians will be looking for the next quarterback of the future – or the present.
Unless they have found one already in newly signed practice squad quarterback Josh Rosen.
Is Rosen, the 10th overall pick of the 2019 NFL Draft by Arizona, the Bucs’ quarterback of the future? Is he Brady’s heir apparent?
It’s much too soon to jump to that conclusion.
Yet the Bucs are hopeful, as Arians and some in the front office were high on him coming out of UCLA three years ago.
Rosen hasn’t been in Tampa Bay for a full week since being released by Miami, the team that traded for him last year after he was jettisoned from Arizona after the Cardinals drafted Kyler Murray with the No. 1 overall pick because he was a better fit in new head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s “Air Raid” offense. The reason why the Dolphins gave up on Rosen is because they drafted Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with the fifth overall pick.
So now Rosen is on his third team in three years due to circumstances that were largely beyond his control. The last two years Rosen has toiled away on really bad football teams with first-year defensive-minded head coaches. Steve Wilks was fired after one season in Arizona. Brian Flores went 5-11 in his first season in Miami.
The Bucs won’t truly know what they have in Rosen until next offseason during OTAs when he can actually operate Arians’ offense rather than running opposing offenses like he will this fall on Tampa Bay’s scout team.
“Yeah, pretty much because he doesn’t get too many of those plays [on scout team],” Arians said. “Blaine Gabbert and Griff (Ryan Griffin) share those – it’s the only reps they get most of the time. There will be days when he runs the scout team, but most of it is going to be individual work and watching him progress during the season fundamentally.”
Arians, who is known as the “Quarterback Whisperer,” will be Rosen’s first offensive-minded head coach, and he loves putting the former first-round pick on the Bucs’ practice squad to learn from the best in the business – Brady.
“I think it was an excellent move,” Arians said. “Josh wanted to be here. We wanted him here. I really liked him coming out [of UCLA]. Byron [Leftwich] had him for eight or nine games as a starter with a really bad football team. He was around Miami, he learned, he’s sharp, he’s big – he’s got everything you’re looking for, so it’s a great guy to groom.”
Sources at One Buccaneer Place tell me that Rosen has the big arm Arians craves, ideal size for a pocket passer at 6-foot-4, 226 pounds, and good intelligence.
Because Rosen is still guaranteed to receive $3.7 million from Miami from his rookie contract, the 23-year old quarterback turned down offers to sign to the 53-man roster from multiple teams in order to reunite with Leftwich, who coached him in Arizona in 2018, and to learn from Arians and Brady.
“I don’t even think he was 23 at the time – we have a history,” Leftwich said. “His past doesn’t really matter at this point. He’s come in to be on our practice squad and somebody that we’ll try to develop. He’s somebody that I do have a relationship with – I know him. But, he’s come in doing the same thing. He’s coming in [and] putting his hand in the pile. He’s going to help us as much as [he] can [and] any way [he] can. Right now he’s on the practice squad, so he can do more to help the defense out, especially during scout team stuff.
“That’s how he has to approach it. He has to approach it every day – ‘I’m going out to get better.’ He’s in the room with a guy that everyone can learn from. Everyone can learn from just the way Tom sees the game [and] the way he plays the game. I think he’ll benefit from that. From that standpoint, everything else is just come in, try to work your tail off, get better and we’ll see what happens.”
Rosen came to the right place to resuscitate his NFL career. He completed 217-of-393 passes (55.2 percent) for 2,278 yards with 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 13 starts as a rookie in Arizona in 2018, and was sacked 45 times. Last year, Rosen saw action in six games last year in Miami with three starts, completing 58-of-109 passes (53.2 percent) for 567 yards with one touchdown and five interceptions.
Pro Football Focus gave the UCLA product a 49.1 overall rating in 2018 while with the Cardinals and a 46 overall rating in 2019 with the Dolphins. The best thing for Rosen and his long-term outlook in the NFL is probably not playing and sitting back and learning from a noted QB guru in Arians and one of the best to ever play the game in Brady – in addition to Leftwich, a former quarterback himself, and quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen.
QB Josh Rosen – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“I had a real long-term view sort of in the past and right now I’m trying to shorten that up a little bit and just try to focus on that each day,” Rosen said. “For me, I just wanted to get better, and with the options that I was given where I could go, I just felt like this was the best situation for me football-wise but also sort of from like a stability prospective if I could be in one offense for more than a year and go into OTAs sort of focusing on defense and football as opposed to flash cards.
“From an emotional perspective, being with guys that I’m comfortable with and enjoying the quarterback room and having good personalities, I was kind of looking for just a place where I could become a better football player and I think this is the best place for that. I mean I’m really young. I’m only 23, so I think that if I take care of that, then everything else will fall into place in the long run.”
Rosen is here for now, and he wants to be in Tampa Bay for the future, too.
“I mean I’m definitely here for the year,” Rosen said, indicating he has no plans of leaving the Bucs’ practice squad. “I’m not going to rule out anything because anything could happen. My plan is definitely to stay here, I think four [teams] in three years would be brutal.”
Convincing Rosen to join the Bucs practice squad is another fantastic move this offseason by Licht, who is on quite a roll after acquiring Brady and running backs LeSean McCoy and Leonard Fournette in free agency, and trading for tight end Rob Gronkowski. If Rosen can end up developing into Brady’s successor in a few years – and that’s a HUGE if – that may wind up becoming one of Licht’s best ever personnel moves in Tampa Bay.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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