Atlanta Falcons Contract a Jewish Player

Atlanta Falcons Contract a Jewish Player

Josh Rosen comes from a Jewish family in Southern California. He was recently contracted by the Falcons as a back-up quarter for Matt Ryan.

While playing time has been sparse, Rosen has taken advantage of playing behind one of the league’s most dependable veterans in Matt Ryan.
While playing time has been sparse, Rosen has taken advantage of playing behind one of the league’s most dependable veterans in Matt Ryan.

Two years ago, during a meaningless game in early December against the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins second-string quarterback Josh Rosen, sporting a teal-and-orange snow hat, stood on the sidelines at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., watching his team lose 22-21 on a last-second field goal. Rosen was a backup to journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick, who, on this seasonably cool pre-pandemic afternoon, couldn’t manage to lead his 3-10 team into the end zone once.

This couldn’t have been what Rosen had in mind when, not even two years earlier, the Arizona Cardinals made him the 10th selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, following his brilliant career at UCLA. (It was while playing at UCLA that Rosen, who grew up in a Jewish household in Southern California, repeatedly heard anti-Semitic slurs from opponents, something he confided to Michael Silver of days before the draft.) But that’s life in the NFL (“Not For Long”) where success, at least for many players, remains ever transient.

Still, Rosen’s was a unique situation. Teams drafting quarterbacks in the first round (Arizona chose Rosen over eventual league MVP Lamar Jackson) traditionally wait at least a few years before deciding to move on. But after nosediving to a 3-13 finish in ’18, the Cardinals had the top pick in the upcoming draft and subsequently couldn’t pass up an opportunity to select University of Oklahoma sensation Kyler Murray. All of which meant Rosen was now the proverbial odd man out, who, after being a West Coast kid his entire life (he grew up outside of L.A.), was traded to Miami. After spending most of the ’19 season behind Fitzpatrick on the depth chart, Rosen was waived the following September, quickly becoming a journeyman himself. After stops in Tampa Bay and San Francisco during the following year — four teams in three years is no way to start an NFL career — Rosen entered the current season searching for a new backup gig.

He didn’t have to search for long. Four days after he got released from San Francisco, Atlanta Falcons backup QB AJ McCarron suffered a season-ending knee injury during a preseason game against Miami. Two days later, Rosen was brought in for a workout before signing with his fifth team.

But he still hadn’t officially landed a roster spot. It wasn’t until following the team’s final preseason game against Cleveland — after only three days of practice — that Rosen, by virtue of completing nine of 18 passes for 118 yards and tossing a touchdown, was able to secure a one-year, $850,000 contract.

Josh Rosen takes over for Matt Ryan during the waning moments of a 43-3 loss to the Dallas Cowboys last month. // Photos Courtesy of the Atlanta Falcons

Following the preseason finale, Falcons head coach Arthur Smith sounded confident in Rosen being the heir apparent to McCarron as Matt Ryan’s understudy.

“I thought Josh handled it pretty well. He’s been in several systems, a very smart football player. I thought he showed his arm talent tonight. Again, I thought he did a nice job overall.”

As expected, once the games started counting, with Ryan at the helm, Rosen has seen very limited action, attempting merely 11 passes during three mop-up appearances. Granted, it’s been a tiny sample, but Rosen has as many interceptions (two) as he has completions.

But oddly, when he sat down for a rare interview with ESPN last month, Rosen came across as upbeat more than anything.

“I’m more at peace with who I am and how I think about myself probably than I have ever been in my career,” said Rosen, whose father, Dr. Charles Rosen, is a globally renowned spine surgeon, founding director of the University of California-Irvine Spine Center and former candidate to be the U.S. surgeon general during the Barack Obama administration.

“So, I wake up in the morning with maybe a little bit more pep in my step than I’ve had the past couple years. It’s all really exciting and it’s all right in front of me to just keep pushing on.”

Mind you, these comments came less than a week after a brutal 25-0 loss to the New England Patriots, in which Rosen threw a pick-six to linebacker Kyle Van Noy before getting pulled for the following series.

Still, it’s not too late for Rosen to figure things out. How long he stays in Atlanta (or the NFL for that matter) is anyone’s guess, but the former UCLA standout (and tennis prodigy) is only twenty-four, hasn’t suffered any debilitating injuries as a pro yet, and has surely benefited from having prior league MVP Ryan as a mentor. He’s also showing signs of maturity. While he doesn’t have any major regrets about his past behavior, he has carried with him the reputation of being pouty after a poor performance, a stigma he would like to shed going forward.

To date, Rosen hasn’t seen the field since the debacle against New England the week before Thanksgiving. And with Atlanta being a mediocre team that rarely finds itself in lopsided games, there’s no telling if Rosen will get another chance this year.

But it won’t be for lack of diligent preparation.

“It’s a tough business … and you’ve had the journey Josh has had, … cut a bunch of times in a short amount of time,” Smith recently told the media. “Like I said, we’re all human. It’s no different than coaches that move around a bunch in a short span of time. So, I think sometimes different people, they earn it, and he has.

“We’ll just see where it goes. I’ll say this about Josh. A lot of people, they don’t withstand what he has and I appreciate that about him.”

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