First-round pick Josh Rosen (right) tours the Cardinals facility with president Michael Bidwill.
Josh Rosen copped to being “a little emotional” on Thursday night, as he expected to go within the top three picks of the NFL draft and instead slipped to No. 10.
The Cardinals’ first-round pick was not shy about his feelings afterward, wondering how nine other prospects were chosen ahead of him. That honesty made headlines, and with the benefit of a night’s sleep, Rosen amended those comments at his introductory press conference on Friday in Tempe.
“I would actually say that I’m not as angry that there were nine guys ahead of me,” Rosen said.
But true to his nature, Rosen didn’t stop there.
“Just the three quarterbacks,” Rosen said. “That’s kind of what gets to me. There were three big mistakes ahead of me.”
Throughout his life, the UCLA product has not shied from speaking his mind, and there is speculation it was viewed negatively by NFL evaluators.
General Manager Steve Keim and team president Michael Bidwill spent several hours with Rosen in recent weeks to better gauge if he would be a fit with the Cardinals. Keim came away impressed, not concerned, by Rosen’s personality.
“(It was) getting to know what makes Josh Rosen tick,” Keim said. “The three things to me that really stood out were football IQ – his ability to process information – secondly was his passion for the game, which is so important for that position, and thirdly to me was his natural leadership skills. His ability to put the team on his back and have guys fight for him.”
Those comments were music to the ears of Rosen’s mom, Liz Lippincott, who said her son’s strong personality has been evident since childhood.
“He was always dying to blurt out the answer in school or ask the question at the wrong time,” Lippincott said. “He wrestled with that, because he was always noticed. He was a big personality who walked in the room and wanted to know.”
Many people find the honesty refreshing. Others call Rosen cocky or entitled. He’s received negative attention several times in recent years, for incidents ranging from wearing a profane anti-Donald Trump hat to putting a hot tub in his dorm room to calling into question college football amateurism.
“I’m very real,” Rosen said. “I am who I am, and I think that’s why I’m very grateful to be an Arizona Cardinal, because the team that picked me, they picked me. I didn’t try to put on a face. I didn’t try to put on a show, which is why I think I’m a perfect fit here.”
Lippincott is hoping Rosen strikes the perfect balance as he begins his NFL career. Playing time and adulation came quickly at UCLA. So, too, did the scrutiny.
“He had to really obviously dial it back because he got in a little trouble,” Lippincott said. “But that didn’t feel right. And that’s when it really had to become refined. He had to work on it, but he worked on it so he knew how he could be himself. When you are like that genetically, you can’t fake it. You can’t not be that. He had to find a gracious way, a respectful way, an intelligent way of being him.”
Rosen seemed at ease on Friday at the Cardinals’ facility, about 1,000 miles removed from the “game-show atmosphere” of the draft.
If the past is any indication, he will inevitably ruffle feathers again. But it had to be refreshing to hear Keim’s answer when, a short time after choosing Rosen, a reporter wondered if the hot tub in the dorm room was bothersome.
“Nope,” Keim said. “I wish I had one.”
Rosen’s personality may not have been a fit on every NFL team. All parties hope it will be a harmonious match here.
“It’s very nice to know he’s wanted, and I don’t think it’s by accident it’s a Western team that has him, because they’ve been exposed to him more through the Pac-12,” Lippincott said. “The East Coast doesn’t really understand him. It just shows that the deeper the relationship, the better the outcome is going to be. They’re going to work great together.”