It is Impossible to Judge Rosen Fairly from 2018
The Arizona Cardinals 2018 team is likely one of the worst teams in their storied history. However, this notion has baffled analysts, because on paper the team had plenty of talent to win more games than they did. Finishing 3-13, the ’18 team tied with the 2000 Arizona Cardinals for the worst record in team history since moving to Arizona. In fact, you have to go all the way back to the Chicago Cardinals team from 1959 to find a Cardinals team with fewer wins.
The ’59 Cardinals finished with a 2-10 record playing in the NFL Eastern Conference. It is pretty hard for any QB to succeed without a “team” behind him, but it was especially difficult for Rosen considering the Cardinals biggest problems were protecting their quarterback and scoring points.
Protecting the Quarterback. What’s That?
Let’s start with the obvious: four out of the five projected starting offensive linemen spent most of the season injured. If that wasn’t bad enough, the Cardinals started ten variations of the offensive line during the season, ten! In case you don’t have that in perspective, winning football games happen through consistency, routine, and comfort. How can a quarterback be comfortable when the front line he trusts to protect him changes virtually every game?
No consistency, no comfort, and no protection equal no confidence. “Yeah, but Rosen was still confident throughout, confidence wasn’t an issue!” Really?
Let me remind you just how bad the quarterback protection really was. Rosen was sacked a total of 45 times in 2018. You may say that was only the seventh most in the league, that’s not horrible, but remember that Rosen started in just13 games. When you do the projection on the sack numbers, had Rosen played in a full 16 games, he likely would have been sacked more than any other QB in the NFL.
The offensive line was so bad that Arizona was ranked 28 out of 32 for protecting their quarterback with a sack rating of 9.51%. The worst in the league was less than 1% away from that. Take into consideration how few offensive plays Arizona had during the season and projecting forward, they may have actually been the worst.
So how do you judge a quarterback who spent his entire season being hurried or on his back? Well, it isn’t easy. The few stats we have point to Rosen actually being darn good, considering he only threw 14 interceptions for the season. Only?!?! Remember, for the entire year he basically had zero time to get rid of the ball, and the 3-13 Cardinals were so often behind by big margins that there were a lot of risky plays; hail-marys, etc, resulting in picks.
As far as legitimately bad throws, Rosen didn’t have a lot for a rookie. Don’t even get me started on the awesome coaching of Steve Wilks or the amazing play calling of Mike McCoy.
The Cardinals were also last in the league with pass yards per game (157.7) and first downs via passing (8.6), yet Rosen kept fighting. Analysts like to cite his unimpressive 66.7 quarterback rating for the year, but you have to look beyond that number. After his first 31 attempts in the league, his rating climbed to 73.3. His rating in the 4th quarter climbed even further to 78.5. Most impressive, the few times the Cardinals were within seven points, the rating climbed to 84.5.
So with almost any offensive weapons, Rosen showed he’s a fighter. He also showed that he has even more discipline when the game is on the line or within reach… something not all quarterbacks can say. Would Murray be the same? We don’t know, but we do know this about the 2018 Rosen: