On the surface, it makes no sense for any team to publicly limit its draft options. For teams with a young potential franchise quarterback in place, it makes plenty of sense to throw water on speculation that the young potential franchise quarterback could be supplanted by another young potential franchise quarterback.
And so the Arizona Cardinals, amid speculation fueled by their new head coach’s stated interest in making Kyler Murray the first pick in the draft from weeks before he became the coach of the team that earned the first pick in the draft, had no choice but to shout down the notion that Murray could be picked with Josh Rosen on the roster. Even if the Cardinals, as they absolutely should, plan to fully explore whether to draft Murray, they must stand firmly behind Rosen in the event that the Cardinals decide not to take Murray or any other quarterback with the first pick in the draft.
Without a clear and direct “I’m not going to be the Alabama coach”-type statement, Rosen becomes undermined, both during the pre-draft process and after it. Even if the Cardinals decide, after looking into whether Murray should be the first overall pick, to not select someone else to potentially replace Rosen, weeks of guesswork about whether the Cardinals are truly committed to Rosen could impact Rosen’s development, by shaking his confidence or creating questions among teammates, or both.
That’s why owner Michael Bidwell said what he said. It’s why coach Kliff Kingsbury said what he said. It’s why the team’s official Twitter account trumpeted the development with #fake news-style derision. If, for whatever reason, the Cardinals decide not to take Murray or any other quarterback, they can’t afford to let Rosen and the rest of the roster wonder from now until late April whether or not he’s truly the guy.
Still, it would be foolish for the Cardinals to refuse to consider Murray simply because they have Rosen. A year ago, the Cardinals didn’t know that Murray would emerge as a potential franchise quarterback. They now do, and they owe it to the future of the franchise to ask the tough questions about whether Murray has more of an upside than Rosen.
Until they decide to take Murray, however, the Cardinals have no reason to throw Rosen under the bus. If, however, Murray wows the scouts and emerges as the best option to lead the Cardinals in a division that suddenly has become one of the most difficult in the NFL to navigate, the Cardinals need to be ready to make the same kind of dispassionate decision about Rosen that every NFL team makes when determining the contours of its roster and setting its starting lineup.
And if the Cardinals in late April eventually have to eat their own words from mid-February, so be it. The consolation prize will be that they will believe they’ve upgraded at the most important position in football. If the price for doing so is being regarded by some as being untruthful, so be it. Every NFL team is untruthful at some time or another, since the bests interests of the team from time to time demand it.