The No. 10 overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, Josh Rosen was looked upon as the next Pac-12-bred signal-caller to make waves early and often in his NFL career. From Aaron Rodgers to Andrew Luck to Jared Goff to Marcus Mariota, the former UCLA Bruin in Rosen entered the Cardinals off an average collegiate career, but it was scouts’ projections for Rosen’s future that skyrocketed his overall draft stock prior to draft day. With 59 touchdowns compared to 26 interceptions during his three seasons at UCLA, Rosen by no means lit up the stat sheet, but his 6-foot-4 frame and elite football IQ had scouts drooling over his potential as a future face of their franchise during the draft circuit.
Now three years removed from draft night, Rosen has found himself unemployed after his release from the San Francisco 49ers last week. A dramatic flip in paths, Rosen has gone from a once heralded collegiate gun-slinger to now unemployed, as a deeper dive into Rosen’s past, present, and potential future, reveals a glitch in the Matrix as to what has gone so drastically wrong for Rosen at just 24 years of age.
In Arizona, Rosen entered as the idealistic successor to Carson Palmer, even with Sam Bradford in town. Following an abysmal three weeks of offense behind Bradford, the Cardinals turned to Rosen, who earned his first professional start in a Week 4 matchup against the defensively elite Seattle Seahawks. Albeit in a loss, Rosen proved functional, amassing 180 yards and a touchdown through the air. With both Bradford and Mike Glennon challenging Rosen for snaps, there was never an established leash presented to Rosen as the de facto QB1 despite his draft allotment.
The situation ultimately remained muddy, and in the 2019 draft, with a new head coach calling the shots, Arizona selected Kyler Murray No. 1 overall, ending any hope of a future in the desert for Rosen. Rosen was then traded to the Miami Dolphins the following night.
In Miami, much was the same for the Torrance, CA native, as he recorded just three starts—losing each, dropping his starting record to 3-13—bouncing back and forth under center with Ryan Fitzpatrick in a year filled with turmoil for a Dolphins team that went onto to win just five games, its fewest as a franchise since 2007. Like Arizona the year prior, the Dolphins ended the season slotted with a top-five pick and in a position to select one of the premier gun-slinging talents in the class. Despite acquiring Rosen for a second-round selection in 2019 and a fifth in 2020 just months prior, the Dolphins took Alabama dual-threat talent Tua Tagovailoa as the newfound leader under center, resulting once again in Rosen looking for a home.
With quick visits to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and 49ers, where Rosen’s most recent chance to play came following injuries to Jimmy Garoppolo and Nick Mullens last fall, Rosen was active for the final two games of the 2020 season, yet failed to earn any playing time. With Garoppolo now back to full strength and Trey Lance expected to run the show for the next decade, Rosen was released just six months after signing a one-year contract extension.
Now just weeks away from the start of the 2021 campaign, a future once destined for years behind an NFL line has now floundered into one of “what ifs?” While Rosen is still just 24 years old, and circumstances haven’t gone his way thus far, talent has always earned snaps, and Rosen has found himself on the opposite end of the spectrum compared to the level of play competing on Sunday. While the carousel at the quarterback position will continue to turn around the league, Rosen has been presented a distant path back if he eyes a ticket destined for an NFL roster spot in the years to come.