Cardinals’ quarterback dynamics offers potential for high drama
Adrift for nearly 75 days, the Cardinals have pulled off an unexpected coup.
Their once-empty quarterback room now includes a hard-luck starter (Sam Bradford), absurdly wealthy and wholly unfulfilled; a $4 million afterthought backup (Mike Glennon); and a brash rookie (Josh Rosen) who is in high demand, too smart to keep his mouth shut.
The dynamics are staggering.
“Everyone can say the right thing, and you’re already starting to hear some of that stuff,” former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner said. “The bottom line is: What does it really mean? And do they really believe it?”
Bradford, 30, can’t be enamored with the situation. Financially, the NFL has been a golden ticket for our latest starting quarterback, an underachiever who has bankrolled $129 million in an unfulfilling career. He must’ve known the Cardinals would hunt for a quarterback in the 2018 draft, but like most of us, he never believed they’d end up with a guy like Rosen.
Bradford texted Rosen shortly after the selection, offering congratulations and claiming to be an open book. That’s nice. He also demanded a trade after the Eagles traded up for the No. 2 pick in the 2016 draft, targeting Carson Wentz as their future.
How will he handle the groundswell around this kid?
Glennon, 28, knows the feeling. He lost his job in Tampa when his bosses drafted Florida State star Jameis Winston. He signed with the Bears, gifted with a three-year contract and $18.5 million in guaranteed money. He lost his future within months, when the team unexpectedly sold the farm for Mitchell Trubisky.
How will the designated backup handle another rookie hotshot showing up in life?
“The first question is this: How does Sam (Bradford) see his role with the Cardinals?” Warner said. “If he sees this as a one-year tryout, it would be easy for him to say, ‘OK, let me teach this young kid as much as possible.’ It was the same when I went to New York, and I just wanted to hold off Eli Manning for 16 games, to show people I can still play. But if Sam wants this job long-term, does he treat it the same way?
“Mike had to assume he’d be in a backup role regardless. If he’s looking for a place to call home for a few years, he’ll understand that he needs to do whatever he can to help himself and the team. If that’s the way he sees himself.”
Rosen’s personality changes the game for everyone. He made bold proclamations after slipping to the 10th overall pick. He’s conducted a series of highly-entertaining interviews in recent weeks, and is one of the most polarizing players to grace the NFL in years.
He recently reached out to Patrick Peterson with a 10-page text, interrupting dinner with his wordiness, but earning admiration from a star cornerback who appreciates bold behavior.
These displays of naked ambition will play well with Cardinals fans, who understand that star quarterbacks should never lack audacity. But how do you think Bradford and Glennon feel when the rookie comes in this hot, unafraid to seize the moment, recruiting the team’s star cornerback?
“Josh has to remain true to who he is, but as a rookie, you can never undermine the big picture or step on the toes of the starter,” Warner said. “Even though you eventually want to be the starter, you have to understand the delicate balance of the two. And as I continue to hear how smart and astute Josh is, this would be my biggest piece of advice:
“Don’t overthink the game. Don’t make it more complicated. Being extremely smart allows you to simplify the game, and the game isn’t that hard if you know what you’re seeing. When that happens, the game becomes simple. I know you’re smart and I know you can take all of this in. Don’t overthink it.”
Warner offers rare context and insight. His mind was his greatest asset, just like Rosen. He also experienced the worst of quarterback camaraderie in Green Bay, where Brett Favre brutalized his underlings, once soaking Aaron Rodger’s uniform in doe urine.
This stuff is not uncommon. Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t happy when the Steelers drafted quarterback Mason Rudolph this year. In Baltimore, Joe Flacco wasn’t exactly overjoyed with the selection of Lamar Jackson.
The Cardinals have been lucky in recent years, only because Drew Stanton never posed a threat to Carson Palmer and never made a ripple when things didn’t go his way.
It will feel much different when the Cardinals report to training camp in this summer. There will be daily evaluations of this new triumvirate of quarterbacks. Casual fans will want to hear about Rosen, and if he’s destined to be the NFL’s next superstar.
“My thoughts haven’t changed on Josh,” Warner said. “I think he has everything it takes. But I cringe when I hear so many of these young players act disrespected, angry at all the teams that didn’t select him first. I don’t think anyone understands how hard it is to be great at this level.
“When I was growing up, I told everyone close to me that I wanted to play in five Super Bowls. But I didn’t go out and tell the world while I was playing Arena Football. And I just worry about these guys when they step out with their mouths first. They should want their actions to write their stories, not the words spoken beforehand.”
Either way, bring it on. The Cardinals spent over two months without a quarterback on their roster. Now they have one of the most compelling position battles in the NFL. Including a rookie who will make things very entertaining and very uncomfortable in the long, hot summer ahead.
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Reach Bickley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.