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Dan Bickley

Cardinals have already played dangerous game with Rosen too long

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen (3) is sacked by Atlanta Falcons defensive end Bruce Irvin (52) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik)

“Three mistakes” is no longer his mantra. Three victories now define Josh Rosen.

He is proof that talk is cheap in the NFL, and the only thing that comes easy. He’s proof that rookie quarterbacks are as only as good as the culture and the coaches they inherit.

In this regard, Rosen couldn’t have fared worse.

Rosen spent most of Sunday’s 40-14 loss to the Falcons in a state of agitation and perpetual harassment. He was mercifully lifted from the game late in the fourth quarter. He should be shut down for the season, with a nod of appreciation for his moxie and pocket courage.

Rookie head coach Steve Wilks has done many uninspiring things since taking over in Arizona. Leaving Rosen on the field during the second half of Sunday’s blowout loss, subjected to potential injury and a stat-hungry Falcons defense, was about the worst.

Rosen was under so much pressure that he twice ran backward in the pocket, toward his own goal line. He flinched. He saw ghosts. With another pick-six on Sunday, he’s now thrown 10 touchdown passes for the Cardinals and four for the other team. Most of this is not his fault.

But Rosen hit the tipping point on Sunday. His frustration was evident. So was his regression.

During one sideline outburst, he threw his helmet to the ground, watching it bounce off the turf and into the hands of David Johnson. It was one of their cleanest completions of the season.

Rosen’s temperament was in stark contrast to how he started Week 15, showing up to work on Monday with Christmas wreaths and a menorah, a happy kid full of holiday cheer. Maybe it was finally beaten out of him on Sunday.

This roadkill performance in Atlanta should seal Wilks’ fate in the Valley. The foundation is a mudslide. There is simply nothing to build upon. Injuries are a factor but not an alibi. You can’t blame Mike McCoy or rookie offensive linemen for a defense that quit against the Falcons.

You can’t appear that incompetent against a bad team, where only one win separated the Cardinals and Falcons at kickoff, and the teams seemed worlds apart.

That’s why nothing matters more than Rosen’s development, and the Cardinals are playing a dangerous game with their most important asset. He should’ve been shut down before Sunday’s loss in Atlanta. He should watch the rest of the season while wearing a baseball cap, especially since Mike Glennon moved the team in garbage time and brings an element of experience this entire organization sorely needs.

Instead, Wilks said Rosen will start against the Rams. Stupid idea. There’s already great dissatisfaction growing inside the fan base. Imagine if Rosen goes down with a serious injury, forced to spend a momentous offseason in rehabilitation. Or suffers a nasty concussion.

Of course, Rosen wants to keep playing. He values his reputation as a fearless leader, durable and unflappable in the pocket. Ducking out with two weeks remaining in the season wouldn’t help his reputation in the locker room. It would impact how football observers frame his rookie season, ending on a day when he was yanked from the game in Atlanta. And it can’t be easy for Rosen to watch Baker Mayfield shining in Cleveland, or failing to prove his draft-night prediction that he was the best rookie quarterback entering the NFL.

But somebody has to look at the big picture. Rosen has been gifted a terrible offensive line, dealt with two offensive coordinators and a substandard set of wide receivers. It’s one thing to remain unwavering in the face of chaos, which is Wilks’ greatest strength. But it’s shortsighted and daffy to believe this experience is helping Rosen.

Yet Wilks stubbornly insists that Rosen needs to see more looks and coverages. Except all he’s seeing are salivating defenders blowing by hopeless linemen, looking to pulverize a rookie quarterback. At this point, nothing good can come from this season, unless you want to saddle Rosen with a case of happy feet for the rest of his career.

Problem is, the optics matter to the head coach and the general manager. I’m guessing one is safe and the other is gone after the season, but you never know in this business. And the pressure to win meaningless games and impress the owner can easily cloud sound judgment.

The Cardinals need to get out of this season with no further attrition. It’s a season that should’ve ended for their rookie quarterback a while ago. And now they need to do something their offensive line can’t do:

Protect Rosen from himself.

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Dan Bickley bio
Dan Bickley is the most influential sports media member in Arizona sports history, having spent over 20 years as the award-winning lead sports columnist for The Arizona Republic and AZCentral.com and almost two decades as a Valley sports radio talk show host. In spring 2018, Bickley made the decision to leave the newspaper to join the Arizona Sports team as host of the entertaining and informative midday show Bickley and Marotta, as well as bring his opinionated and provocative column exclusively to ArizonaSports.com.
Bickley’s journalism career began in his hometown of Chicago, where he was part of a star-studded staff at the Chicago Sun-Times. He chronicled Michael Jordan’s six NBA championships; covered the Olympics in eight different countries and attended 14 Super Bowls; spent three weeks in an Indianapolis courthouse writing about Mike Tyson’s rape trial; and once left his laptop in an Edmonton bar after the Blackhawks reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
He has won multiple awards, written two books, formed a rock band, fathered three children, and once turned down an offer to work at the New York Times.  His passions include sports, music, the alphabet, good beer and great radio. After joining Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, he couldn’t be happier