Some scouts declared Josh Rosen, the UCLA product with the big arm and prostyle experience, the most NFL-ready of the 2018 draft’s quarterback prospects. But others suggested that Rosen’s tongue, and its proclivity to grab headlines, might push him down in the draft.
As it turned out, Rosen was the fourth quarterback selected in Thursday’s first round — behind Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold and Josh Allen — which meant he dropped all the way to the Arizona Cardinals, who traded up into the 10th slot to select Rosen. So, did the 6-foot-4 Southern California kid soften his sometimes brash persona on his first night with his new team? He did not.
“There were nine mistakes ahead of me,” Rosen said, referring to the nine picks made before his name was called.
Nine mistakes? The Chicago Bears passed on Rosen, but they just drafted their franchise quarterback with the No. 2 pick in the 2017 draft. The Indianapolis Colts passed on Rosen, but they still employ a certain Andrew Luck. The San Francisco 49ers passed on Rosen, too, but they just handed Jimmy Garoppolo a nine-figure contract. The Cleveland Browns didn’t take Rosen with the No. 4 pick, but they had just drafted Baker Mayfield at No. 1.
It’s possible, then, that Rosen let his mouth get ahead of him.
“I thought I should’ve been picked at 1, 2 or 3,” Rosen said, via ESPN. “I dropped, and I was pissed. I was really, really angry. I wasn’t really showing it. I was trying to keep calm, cool, composed. But I thought I was going to get picked, and I thought I was going to have to put on a face and try and fake happiness. But for some reason, right when I got that call, that’s not what happened. I got really happy and really motivated.”
Rosen also pledged not to come into the Cardinals facility “and be an a–hole and think that my s— don’t stink,” which is nice of him. On Twitter, he wrote that he was “motivated beyond words.” And if calling out the teams that passed on him wasn’t enough, he also promised to “make sure that over the next decade or so, they will know they made a mistake.”
This is all part of the Josh Rosen experience. He leaned into the media attention as a freshman starter for the Bruins after embracing the nicknames “Chosen Rosen” and “J Chosen.” Soon after, he brought an inflatable hot tub into his dorm room and made provocative comments about the $280 million deal UCLA signed with Under Armour.
Here’s a guide to the many times Rosen’s mouth has landed him on SportsCenter — or at least raised some eyebrows:
On his background
“I come from a wealthy, affluent, educated family. I mean, not like get-a-Lambo-for-my-16th-birthday- wealthy, but like, affluent.” (Sports Illustrated, Aug. 2016)
SI did a pretty wide-ranging profile of Rosen entering his sophomore season and brought up his family’s economic status in terms of Rosen’s likability. His mother is a former journalist and the great-great-granddaughter of Joseph Wharton of Penn’s business school. His father is a renowned surgeon and was on Barack Obama’s shortlist to be named surgeon general. Yes, Josh Rosen comes from money.
“Everyone hates me.” (NFL.com, April 23, 2018)
Except it’s not everyone. Rosen’s teammates at UCLA constantly rave about him. His old high school coach at St. John Bosco Prep, a Southern California quarterback factory, called him a “unifying force” on the team. Even Jim Mora, his old coach at UCLA who prompted some of the stories questioning Rosen’s NFL fitness, hosts the quarterback and his family for Christmas dinner. He invited walk-ons to his 21st birthday party. The people who hate Josh Rosen happen to the be the people who don’t know Josh Rosen.
“It just kind of sucks — my friends having to defend me to their friends,” he also told NFL.com’s Michael Silver. “I mean, you can go around the UCLA campus and ask someone, ‘What do you think of Josh Rosen?’ and you can put your money on the fact that you’re gonna get a bad response. That kind of stinks. I mean, it sucks.”
On the hot tub
“I enrolled early as a freshman and I was in a single and then I got an apartment with a little bit of a living room and we were just trying to think of funny things to do with it or what to put in there. We just thought of putting a little inflatable hot tub in there. And I actually messed up because my preset address on Amazon was to my mom’s house, so she actually called me and goes, ‘Did you just buy a hot tub?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, you know what, I actually did.’ She actually ended up driving it up, and I thought that was permission right there. So put it in the room, had it for a little bit, and yeah. Basically, it was in there for a couple weeks. And then I played really well at the Cal game and got a couple followers pretty quickly and I think someone noticed it. But it’s probably good that it got found because it was pretty humid. It probably would have fried all the electronics anyways.” (Twitter video, April 24, 2018)
This is the story of the hot tub, which for the record, looks like this:
So, yeah. Josh Rosen got a hot tub as a freshman in college, and at some point it was discovered on social media. UCLA asked him to write an apology letter for bringing the thing into his dorm, something Rosen objected to because university regulations never mentioned anything about hot tubs, only water beds (which were prohibited). Rosen’s lone regret about the incident: hosting a woman in the tub, he told ESPN.
On the NCAA
“We’re still amateurs, though . . . . Gotta love non-profits. #NCAA.” (Instagram post, since deleted, May 2016)
Earlier in the day, UCLA signed a $280 million shoe and apparel deal with Under Armour, at the time, the largest monetary agreement between a university and athletic wear provider. It was a huge contract both for the university, which saw the value of its partnership jump ahead of competitors like Ohio State and Texas, and for Under Armour, which established a major West Coast outpost for its brand. But Rosen lamented that student athletes couldn’t get a piece of the action, even though they are the ones supplying the on-field talent to back up the partnership’s cash value.
“Look, football and school don’t go together. They just don’t. Trying to do both is like trying to do two full-time jobs. There are guys who have no business being in school, but they’re here because this is the path to the NFL. There’s no other way. Then there’s the other side that says raise the SAT eligibility requirements. OK, raise the SAT requirement at Alabama and see what kind of team they have. You lose athletes and then the product on the field suffers.” (Bleacher Report, Aug. 2017)
Rosen, he explained later, was trying to make the point that it’s very difficult to be a serious student while playing Division I college football, and that universities owe it to football players to provide more academic support, so athletes can get an education and not simply remain eligible. In the process, though, he took a shot at Alabama, made the case that some football players weren’t fit for college and generally sounded pretty whiny. And then Rosen kept going.
“If I wanted to graduate in three years, I’d just get a sociology degree. I want to get my MBA. I want to create my own business. When I’m finished with football, I want a seamless transition to life and work and what I’ve dreamed about doing all my life. I want to own the world. Every young person should be able to have that dream and the ability to access it. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.” (Bleacher Report, Aug. 2017)
Now, he’s thrown sociology majors under the bus, too. His “when I’m finished with football” remark threw some scouts for a loop because it sounded like Rosen doesn’t love the game as much as other quarterbacks. When he says, “what I’ve dreamed about doing all my life,” for many college football players, that’s winning a Super Bowl, not owning the world. And yes, to some people, owning the world is too much to ask.
On his politics
“I actually remember the very first day my dad brought me to vote, in 2004. My mom, I knew, had voted for John Kerry. We went to this local elementary school where they had a voting station set up, and my dad brought me into the booth with him, and I was fully expecting him to punch Kerry … and then he punched [George W.] Bush. I was like, ‘Wait … what?’ And he says, ‘Son, I’m a Republican.'” (NFL.com, April 23, 2018)
This comes from the guy who wore a “F— Trump” bandanna while golfing on a Trump golf course while the then-candidate was about to lock up the GOP presidential nomination. It’s not a surprise, then, that the quarterback skews liberal.
“My dad voted for Donald Trump and contributed to his campaign. My mom is a strong feminist liberal. That’s how I’m learning compromise. I’m not going to be political; I’m just going to do what I believe is right, and if that happens to fall on the political spectrum, so be it. But there’s a time and a place for it. You might not want to speak against the president in the playoffs or before you have a starting job on a team and actually have a voice.” (ESPN, April 10, 2018)
Rosen says here that he will not be political, though he has continually pledged to use his platform for social causes, including student athletes’ rights. Also, he said later in the ESPN interview that he will always advocate for environmental issues.
“One cause I’ll champion is the environment. It touches everything. I mean, the war in Syria started because of the drought and famine that destabilized the country and led the population to revolt against the government. I know global warming is a partisan issue for some stupid reason, but it touches everything.” (ESPN, April 10, 2018)
The take on Syria is one not every foreign policy expert would agree with, but, yes, global warming is a partisan issue. If Rosen wants to talk about what’s good for the environment, it’s going to be hard to avoid political fault lines.
And then, there’s also this:
“I want to be great — in everything I do. As far as football, I always looked up to Kellen Moore of Boise State. I thought it was the coolest thing that he was the winningest QB of all time. I thought that was a cool word: winningest. So I want to be the winningest QB in NFL history. I want to win the most games and most championships. I’d say six titles, but if Tom Brady gets six, I’ll say seven.” (ESPN, April 10, 2018)
Somehow, this ambition to be the best has been used against Rosen since his interview with ESPN. Pundits have called it cocky that Rosen would compare himself to one of the best quarterbacks of all time or dare say out lout that he wants to be successful. For those who doubt Rosen’s love of football, answers like this don’t seem to matter a ton.
“I’ve always kind of been the No. 2 guy. That kind of sounds victimizing, I know. But I’ll never forget, Austin Kafentzis from Utah was the Gatorade [National] Freshman of the Year in high school, and then we went to Utah and beat him; I threw the game-winner, actually. And then Ricky Town was like the big thing. And then Blake Barnett won the Elite 11; I was No. 11. And now Sam’s like ‘the guy,’ and Josh Allen’s got the ‘it factor,’ and Baker’s got the ‘it factor.’ … But I’m very confident I will persevere.” (NFL.com, April 23, 2018)
It’s clear now how much Rosen pays attention to his competition and how aware he must be of the questions that are being asked of him during the draft process, but not of the other passing prospects: Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma, Josh Allen of Wyoming and Sam Darnold of Southern California.
“Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, these dudes that are these exotic, cool, flashy quarterbacks — that No. 1 pick, all this stuff, and I’m No. 2. And you know what, I’m going to sit here, and in a couple years, when all is said and done, I’m confident that I’ll still be standing.”
For someone who grew up with — and readily acknowledges — his privilege, those remarks have inevitably rubbed some the wrong way. Maybe it would be nice if Rosen were a tad bit more humble, but that’s just not who he is. At least he’s honest about it.
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