Cardinals' inability to deal Josh Rosen before drafting Kyler Murray is a spectacular fail

Charles RobinsonNFL columnist

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – This is why Josh Rosen should’ve been dealt before Kyler Murray was selected first in the NFL draft. The whole quarterback trade gambit just went completely sideways for the Arizona Cardinals. And barring a trade in the next 48 hours, it gets only worse from here.

The patient mode was last week. It cost Arizona a pair of suitors in the New York Giants and Washington RedskinsMissouri’s Drew Lock will thin that field even further on Friday. That means if NFL teams came into this selection process playing lowball, well, just wait. Now they really have something to work with in negotiations.

Desperation mode is coming. That’s all it takes with a pair of top-10 quarterback draft picks. Only one can get on the field, which means something — or someone — has to give. And more often than not, it’s the organization as a whole that suffers most – not just one of the two players.

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The Cardinals are already spinning it, of course. In reality, that’s been happening for weeks. That’s why you saw leaks to the media over the past month saying the organization would be OK keeping both players if it came to that. Lo and behold, guess what general manager Steve Keim said Thursday night? That Arizona would be comfortable keeping Rosen and Murray — and that Rosen was handling this whole thing like a pro. It’s what a club would say when it cornered itself into a long game that doesn’t make sense for the players or the team.

But take the spin out of it and use logic. First, it’s clear nobody came knocking down the door for Rosen. That’s an indictment of his tape from the 2018 season and a bad look for Keim, who engineered a trade-up in 2018 for a player he now can’t move on a trade market only one year later. Second, the Cardinals just slapped that same player in the face. And he knows that, regardless of whether he’s handling it like a pro or not. Third, Arizona now has two chippy quarterback picks in back-to-back seasons who are geared toward believing they are the right choice as the starter.

The Cardinals added another first-round quarterback to their roster after drafting Kyler Murray. (Getty Images)
The Cardinals added another first-round quarterback to their roster after drafting Kyler Murray. (Getty Images)

That’s not ideal, no matter how many ways the Cardinals sell it as a positive.

Just from a baseline standpoint, a team can’t spend two top-10 picks in back-to-back years at a position where only one of those guys can get onto the field. It’s completely illogical. It’s why even the worst franchises don’t do it because it renders a prime asset unusable. Suggesting otherwise — like saying, “Hey, starting quarterbacks get banged up” — is insulting and goes against decades of league history. Even a general manager with the recent failings of Keim has to know that.

But that won’t stop Keim from trying to put window dressing on this. That’s all he has right now. He had to know Murray was going to be a potentially great moment for the franchise — while also carrying some warts. So he’ll say it’s good to stockpile talent at quarterback, which is true when it doesn’t cost a pair of high first-round picks in consecutive seasons. What he really means is: “We’re stuck with both guys right now, and this is the only positive I can think of until some team either saves me from this situation or we eat it and move on.”

And make no mistake, that’s what has to happen here. Either Arizona has to hope something happens that makes Rosen more valuable to another team than he was one month ago, or the Cardinals have to take what they can get and move on. Anything else is inviting problems and handing new head coach Kliff Kingsbury the league’s most awkward quarterback room since Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins. If you don’t remember that one, I’ll summarize it like this: Two guys stared daggers into each other for years with the Washington Redskins, inspired a divided locker room and didn’t really win many games while they did it. And when it was over, both ended up having a problem with how some elements of management handled the entire situation.

This was the scene last year at Cardinals headquarters with QB Josh Rosen, the 10th overall draft pick. (AP)
This was the scene last year at Cardinals headquarters with QB Josh Rosen, the 10th overall draft pick. (AP)

Is that what the Cardinals want? Two frenemies sharing the quarterbacks room? Ammunition for a problem if Murray struggles as the starter? A divided locker room if both players have their ups and downs in the future (like RG3 and Cousins)?

The obvious answer is no. And the next progression is resolving it. That’s what Arizona is going to have to do sooner rather than later. Whether that’s trying to engage the Los Angeles Chargers or Miami Dolphins or New England Patriots over the next 48 hours, or even waiting for some kind of Teddy Bridgewater-type of injury to some other quarterback, the Cardinals are going to have to plan for a resolution. This surely isn’t what Rosen signed up for. And it’s not what they drafted Murray for. You don’t take two guys, indicate to them that they’re the guy, then expect one of them to be OK with it when that’s not the case.

And don’t expect Rosen to suddenly become the eager and supportive understudy to Murray. Especially when he could be developing himself with another team that plans on building around him rather than making him a hostage to the management’s mistakes.

Arizona screwed this up. It stacked assets in consecutive years at a position where it makes no sense. Now it has to find a way out. For Murray, for Rosen, for Kingsbury and most definitely for a team and fan base that doesn’t need the kind of dramatic circus that is waiting around the corner.

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