Bucs quarterback Josh Rosen goes from chosen to the chalkboard

In two years, Rosen has gone from first-round pick to the Bucs' scout-team quarterback. But he believes it will be best for his future.
Bucs quarterback Josh Rosen puts on his pads at the start of practice Wednesday at the AdventHealth Training facility in Tampa.
Bucs quarterback Josh Rosen puts on his pads at the start of practice Wednesday at the AdventHealth Training facility in Tampa. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Sept. 10, 2020

TAMPA — Great things were expected from Josh Rosen early in his NFL career. But these days, the 10th overall pick in the 2018 draft prefers life as the Bucs' fourth-string quarterback.

At age 23, Rosen already has seen a lot. The Arizona Cardinals threw him into the fire — and to the wolves — three games into his rookie season. He was gone after just one year, traded to the Dolphins.

He started three games in Miami before he was benched for former Buc Ryan Fitzpatrick. And despite a strong 2020 camp, Rosen was released last week by the Dolphins, who drafted Tua Tagovailoa to be their quarterback of the future.

Rosen had opportunities to join an active roster, maybe compete for playing time. Instead, he chose to come to Tampa Bay — now the NFL’s most popular free-agent destination— to be the team’s practice-squad quarterback. Two years ago, Rosen signed a fully guaranteed, four-year, $17.5 million deal. The Bucs will pay him $142,800.

Like many before him, the opportunity to call Tom Brady a teammate played a big role in Rosen’s decision. Bucs coach Bruce Arians liked him coming out of UCLA, and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich coached him during his rookie season with the Cardinals.

While Brady might be trying to play into his late-40s, Rosen joked that he’s just trying to get to age 24.

“It’s been a whirlwind of a couple years,” he said Thursday. “I just wanted to get better. With the options that I was given, where I could go, I just felt like this was the best situation for me football-wise, but also sort of from a stability perspective. I could be in one offense for more than a year and go into OTAs focusing on defense in football as opposed to flashcards.

"And from an emotional perspective, being with guys that I’m comfortable with and enjoying the quarterback room and having good personalities, and I just was kind of looking for just a place where I could become a better football player. I think that this is the best place for that.”

Rosen said the opportunity offers him a chance to “take a breath” and “really learn some football from … probably one of the best to ever do it” in Brady.

“I think what I’m really looking forward to the most is when it comes to Tom and everything and the Mondays coming in after a game and just sort of hearing his explanation and why he went to certain areas and understanding a little bit about how he sees the game."

After Rosen was benched in Miami following a two-interception, 85-passing yard performance in Week 6 of the 2019 season, he realized that after trying to push forward, he had to take a step back. He committed to learning everything he could from Fitzpatrick, the Ivy Leaguer who has carved out a 15-year NFL career.

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In Miami, Josh Rosen, back left, was the odd man out in a quarterback room that included former Buc Ryan Fitzpatrick and 2020 first-round pick Tua Tagovailoa.
In Miami, Josh Rosen, back left, was the odd man out in a quarterback room that included former Buc Ryan Fitzpatrick and 2020 first-round pick Tua Tagovailoa. [ CHARLES TRAINOR JR | AP ]

“That was like a big look-in-the-mirror situation for me,” Rosen said. “I was like, I’m literally playing behind probably one of the smartest quarterbacks ever to do it, and you’re not really absorbing information like you should. So I was like, I’m just gonna see what this dude does. I’m gonna mirror his schedule. I’m going to try to take every note that I possibly can."

As a member of the Bucs' practice squad, Rosen has the opportunity to sign with another team. But after bouncing around, he doesn’t seem interested in that. He’d prefer to learn and build a foundation in Tampa, then see where it goes from there. The Bucs don’t have a quarterback-in-waiting to succeed Brady, who is signed through 2021.

“I’m definitely here for the year,” Rosen said. “I’m not going to rule out anything, because anything could happen, but my plan is definitely to stay here. I think four and three years would be brutal, but I’m never gonna say never.”

In Leftwich, Rosen has a coach who understands the ups and downs he’s been through. When Leftwich became Arizona’s interim offensive coordinator after Mike McCoy was fired midway through the 2018 season, Rosen had his best game as a pro the following week. He threw for 252 yards and two touchdowns in an upset win over the 49ers.

“His past doesn’t really matter at this point,” Leftwich said. “He’s coming in doing the same thing, he’s coming in putting his hand in the pile. He’s going to help us as much as he can any way that he can. … He’s in the room with a guy that everyone can learn from. Everyone can learn from just the way Tom sees the game, the way he plays the game. So I think you’ll benefit from that. Everything else is just come in, try to work your tail off, get better and we’ll see what happens.”

Notes: WR Mike Evans (hamstring) didn’t practice for the third straight day Thursday but worked out on a side field with a trainer. ... The Bucs signed RB Kenjon Barner, who was a kickoff and punt returner last year in Atlanta, to the practice squad.

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at Follow @EddieInTheYard