Last week, former UCLA coach Jim Mora suggested that former USC quarterback Sam Darnold, not former UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen, would be a better choice for the Browns “because of fit.” The comment made waves, even though Mora also said that the Giants and the Jets should each want Rosen at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively.
So Mora scraped up some toothpaste and jammed into the funnel in comments to Peter King of SI.com.
Strongly emphasizing, per King, the word “fit” as it relates to the Cleveland comments, Mora praised his former pupil: “Josh, I think, without a doubt, is the number one quarterback in the draft. He’s a franchise-changer. He’s got the ability to have an immediate impact. His arm talent, intelligence, and his ability to see the game and diagnose the game is rare. He’d come to the sidelines after a play and it was uncanny — he could right away say exactly why he made every decision.”
So what’s the issue as it relates to Rosen and the team that holds the No. 1 overall pick?
“He needs to be challenged intellectually so he doesn’t get bored,” Mora said. “He’s a millennial. He wants to know why. Millennials, once they know why, they’re good. Josh has a lot of interests in life. If you can hold his concentration level and focus only on football for a few years, he will set the world on fire. He has so much ability, and he’s a really good kid.”
Here’s my two cents, which may be worth a little less than that: Rosen doesn’t want to play for the Browns, Mora knows it, and Mora’s comments were his way of saying it without saying it.
Remember the Week 16 Sunday Splash! report that Rosen would hesitate leaving UCLA if he knew the Browns would take him at No. 1? The report emerged before Rosen declared for the draft or hired an agent, so the universe of potential sources was small: Rosen, a close family member, a close friend, or Mora, the two-time former NFL coach whose number surely resides in the phone of the ESPN reporter who published the impractical claim that nevertheless may have had the same practical impact that Mora’s on-the-record comments were intended to have: To scare the Browns away from taking Rosen.
Also, remember this from Rosen, which also came in late December of 2017? “I’d rather be a lower pick at the right team than a higher at the wrong team.” Those remarks came when it was far more clear that the Browns would be holding the pick that every player typically aspires to be: The first one. So it was, and still is, fair to interpret Rosen’s comments as another message regarding his lack of interest in playing for the Browns.
Considering the full range and scope of the developments in recent months, it’s definitely fair to conclude that Rosen: (1) doesn’t want to play for the Browns; and (2) wants to send that message more subtly, without having to make a “don’t draft me” power play. If the Browns don’t draft him, he gets what he wants. If they do draft him, Rosen then will need to consider whether to initiate the “trade me” ploy, or whether to just deal with the hand he’s been dealt.
Either way, it’s safe to assume Rosen doesn’t want to play for the Browns, but that he doesn’t want the public ridicule and criticism that would come if a guy who already is perceived to be a certain way acts precisely that way as it relates to the Browns or any other NFL team.
Thus, the premise of King’s item — that Rosen may be dismayed with Mora’s comments from last week — presumes that, in reality, Rosen isn’t delighted by them. The truth may be that he is.
So why is Rosen visiting the Browns this week, you ask? Again, he’s sufficiently self aware to know how others regard him, and he doesn’t want to be regarded as a guy who is trying to engineer the draft process in his favor. Even if he is.
My guess: He is.