Kliff Kingsbury has talked to Josh Rosen, but it wasn’t for long.
The new Cardinals coach and the second-year quarterback chatted briefly on the phone Tuesday, after Kingsbury had signed his contract. Rosen had already talked about his plans to get away and get some rest after the season – he has a friend playing in the Australian Open – and besides, the Collective Bargaining Agreement says that players and coaches can’t say much more to each other than hello this time of year. Football conversations, even with a new head coach, are off limits.
Eventually, though, Kingsbury will sit down with Rosen for something substantial. The Cardinals made their coaching hire with that relationship at the top of the priority list. And almost everything done for now will be viewed through that prism.
“I want to get to know Josh, get to understand what makes him tick,” Kingsbury said. “I do think he wants to be a great player in this league.”
In his final press conference, Rosen said he looked forward to “sort of regrouping, regathering and reassessing the situation and attacking next year.” He will have Kingsbury to help with that.
Rosen’s rookie year did not go as planned. His first start was solid, but as the weeks went on and the losses – and injuries to the offensive line – piled up, Rosen’s play degenerated as well. He completed just 55.2 percent of his passes, his passer rating was 66.7 and he had just 11 touchdowns in 13 games to go with his 14 interceptions.
Kingsbury wasn’t about to give instant analysis of his new QB. He couldn’t, despite having watched every one of Rosen’s NFL snaps already.
“It’s hard to tell,” Kingsbury said. “When you are trying to break down a quarterback you don’t know what he was told, what his reads were, where his eyes should be. All you can see is if it is accurate or not and sometimes protection isn’t good and that will be spotty as well. I don’t like to put too many judgments on that. The toughness (is there) and he’s a cerebral young man, and he can really spin it.”
General Manager Steve Keim called Kingsbury’s quarterbacks background “an important piece of the puzzle” in the hire, and everything about Kingsbury has been about that. He not only was a record-setting QB at Texas Tech but was a sixth-round draft pick of the Patriots, spending four years around the NFL as a player.
As a coach, his list of quarterbacks tutored has been strong despite not even turning 40 until August, but two names stand out with the current NFL landscape – Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, who played for Kingsbury as a freshman at Texas Tech before transferring, and Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who threw 50 touchdown passes this season.
Keim was intrigued with Mahomes in the 2017 draft before the Chiefs traded up to choose him, and it was Mahomes’ pro day where Keim first got to talk with Kingsbury. Now, Keim wants Kingsbury to upgrade his current QB.
“(Kingsbury) is smart, creative, passionate, and really understands how to develop and relate to players,” Mahomes said. “I feel like he played a huge role in preparing me for the next step, and I’m grateful for that.”
Kingsbury still needs to know what kind of offensive line he will have, what the receivers room will look like. He said he liked the way Rosen handled a “tough season” in 2018, making a lasting impression on his new coach.
Kingsbury knows quarterbacks. Now he has to get to know Josh Rosen.
“I take a lot of pride in that position,” Kingsbury said. “I played that position. I try to see it from their eyes. I’ve been very fortunate to be around a lot of talented players, and that’s a big part of it. I think that the biggest thing is see it from their perspective.
“I want to customize the offense to what they do best and make sure they understand me as a play caller. I think that’s worked to our benefit so far.”