Jim Mora kicked a hornet’s nest with just under a month to go before the NFL draft, saying that quarterback Josh Rosen “needs to be challenged intellectually,” a characteristic the coach attributed to Rosen being a “millennial.”
Mora, Rosen’s head coach at UCLA for three years until he was fired last fall, had previously said on NFL Network that he would take Sam Darnold, the quarterback at archrival USC, over Rosen in the draft “because of fit,” describing Darnold as having a “blue-collar, gritty” attitude.
Rosen’s issue, according to Mora? That pesky millennial thing. In an interview with Monday Morning Quarterback’s Peter King, he explained just what he meant.
“Josh, I think, without a doubt, is the number one quarterback in the draft,” Mora said. “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.”
Which is a good thing, right? Maybe, but football coaches aren’t necessarily interested in brainstorming with players.
“He needs to be challenged intellectually so he doesn’t get bored. He’s a millennial,” Mora said. (Rosen, at 21, is on the cusp of millennial-hood; Pew Research Center uses 1996 as the last birth year for millennials, and Rosen was born in 1997.)
“He wants to know why,” Mora went on. “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.”
Mora told King that he had not yet heard from teams that might draft Rosen, who is expected to visit the Browns, Jets, Giants, Cardinals, Broncos, Bills and Chargers soon. And when he does, they’re likely to pepper him with questions about Mora’s comments, which, according to King, surprised Rosen.
He wasn’t the only one left wide-eyed. Ross Tucker, the former NFL player and NBC Sports Network/Sirius XM contributor, pointed out that “right or wrong, the quote “will be a major concern to some NFL people” and tweeted, “truth is, guys like [Tom] Brady, [Drew] Brees, Russell Wilson, Peyton Manning, etc. have other interests as well but there’s never any concern about their primary focus and/or concentration level. Evidently Mora thinks with Rosen there is.” The NFL Network’s Jim Trotter tweeted, “If coaches are afraid of being challenged intellectually, it says more about them than the player,” adding that Mora’s comments sounded a lot like “shut up and dribble.”
So who, exactly, is challenging whom here? And, what’s wrong with challenges flowing both ways? “Give me a player who wants to be challenged and doesn’t get overwhelmed with basic XOs,” former NFL quarterback Sage Rosenfels tweeted. “I like this kid more and more.”
During Super Bowl week, New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels described a quarterback who sounds an awful like a guy who likes to be challenge and be challenged. “[Tom Brady is] a challenging guy to coach because his aptitude is so significant. He’s a tremendous player as far as coming every day ready to
“Here’s a guy, he’ll go down as what he’ll go down as, which is one of the greatest players ever to play in this game, but he still comes into every meeting looking for something that’s going to make him a better player that day,” McDaniels said. “And as a coach yo have to respond accordingly, whether it’s making sure you provide him with that information or you find something to help him improve some aspect of that game.”
Mora’s description also sounds like a quarterback who has twice been an NFL MVP and had that “smart” label slapped on him before the draft. Aaron Rodgers met with Rosen as part of the “Destination Dallas” draft series he is executive producing and described a technique that might be seen by some as challenging for coaches.
“When you come out every day in practice,
Asked by Rosen if he tries “to mess” with himself by creating challenges, Rodgers smiled. “You need a little stimulation out there.”
Read more on the NFL from The Post: