Tom Brady may be the most successful quarterback ever, but no signal-caller in football history epitomized the All-American, Golden Boy trope like Roger Staubach, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, Heisman Trophy winner and Dallas Cowboy.
Staubach manned the most prestigious position in sports for Americas Team, won two Super Bowls in the process and buoyed the National Football League as its face. He was nicknamed Captain America and proudly professed his Christian beliefs, whether it made him cool or uncool.
I believe in Christian principles, being faithful to my wife, caring about people, Staubach once told the New York Times after winning Super Bowl VI in 1972. I dont try to be anything. But if thats square, thats my life.
He was the anti-Joe Namath, the brash, charismatic man about town that quarterbacked for the Jets. As far as being that wholesome, All-American guy, it didnt get more straight out of central casting than Staubach.
But that beloved archetype could get flipped on its head again when UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen gets selected by a team in the first round of Thursdays NFL Draft, which is the consensus among talent evaluators.
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Rosen could be the anti-Staubach, a bellwether of current times as a young, opinionated and intellectual millennial who is unabashed about his beliefs and interests.
What Rosen represents appears to run counter to what teams cherish in its quarterbacks: men who automatically become the faces of their organizations once they become starters.
If the term Golden Boy is used to describe Rosen, it probably has more to do with his mane than his ideals. For one, hes agnostic. Plus, he sees football as a platform for expressing his views.
Rosen recently told ESPN that once he becomes a pro, he will champion environmental issues.
It touches everything,” he said. “I mean, the war in Syria started because of the drought and famine that destabilized the country and led the population to revolt against the government. I know global warming is a partisan issue for some stupid reason, but it touches everything.
Rosen also plays a sport where athletes with blue-collar backgrounds are common. The narrative goes that, because those athletes need the game, they tend to be more passionate and single-minded in their pursuit of excellence. For them, football is life or death and a means toward upward mobility.
Rosen, on the other hand, hails from affluence. His father is an orthopedic surgeon who was shortlisted by former President Barack Obama to be the surgeon general. His mother, Elizabeth Lippincott, is the great-great-granddaughter of Joseph Wharton, who founded the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.
Rosen told ESPN, OK, my family isn’t, like, stupid-wealthy. But I’m coming from a place where if football doesn’t work out, I don’t have to work at McDonald’s.
Tone-deaf comment aside, Rosen has done things that have negatively impacted his draft stock in the eyes of some. Like that one time, he went golfing at one of Donald Trumps golf courses in 2016, back when the President was the GOP Frontrunner.
Rosens choice of apparel for that outing? A hat that had the phrase F– – Trump across the front.
In the past, he has criticized the NCAA and the Alabama football program. He said this to a reporter about the Crimson Tide, “OK, raise the SAT requirement at Alabama and see what kind of team they have.”
When his former college inked a $280 million apparel deal with Under Armour in 2016, the largest ever at the time, Rosen wrote this in a since-deleted Instagram post, “We’re still amateurs though … Gotta love non-profits #NCAA.”
His perceived jerkiness hasnt done him any favors.
Was told by a top NFL personnel guy that UCLA QB Josh Rosen better drop entitlement attitude if he wants to be as good as he thinks he is
Even his former college coach didnt exactly give him a ringing endorsement during the pre-draft process.
“He’s a millennial. He wants to know why. Millennials, once they know why, they’re good, Jim Mora told the MMQBs, Peter King. 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.”
Heres what another NFL executive said about him, according to an NFL.com report: “It will be interesting to see if he slides,” one AFC personnel executive says. “He’s a really impressive kid — really, really intelligent and did a really good job in interviews. I love his arm, his accuracy, and his football IQ. But he’s not everybody’s cup of tea.”
The criticism of Rosens outside interests and what it connotes in the eyes of NFL people rings familiar.
Eight years ago, the same thing was said about Myron Rolle, the former Florida State University defensive back who won the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. When Rolle chose to go to Oxford to earn an advanced degree and forego his final year of football, it greatly impacted his draft stock.
Before he left, some evaluators had him pegged as a first-rounder, which would have meant a multimillion-dollar contract.
When he returned after his year at Oxford, he entered the NFL Draft. The time away from football deflated his stock, as evaluators reportedly had him at a third or fourth round grade.
Rolle missed entire 2009 collegiate season studying in Oxford (Rhodes scholarship), raising questions about his long-term desire to play football, states a sentence from the Weaknesses section of his NFL.com Draft Profile.
Rolle was eventually selected in the sixth round by the Tennessee Titans and signed a four- year, non-guaranteed, league-minimum deal.
According to a 2014 SB Nation article, Rolle said team officials treated him more like a curiosity than a football player.
“The coaches and general managers, they wanted to ask me about how I felt about health care in the United States right now. Going for the Rhodes, it really put a label on me that was hard to shake, and frankly I don’t think that I did shake it.”
Rolle got cut by the Titans and later the Steelers without ever appearing in a regular season game. He retired from the NFL in 2013 to earn his medical degree. He graduated last year and is currently doing a neurosurgery residency at Harvard Medical School/ Massachusetts General Hospital.
Rolles academic achievements were rejected rather than embraced, or at least it appears that way.
If the Colin Kaepernick saga is any indication, NFL teams still prefer their players, particularly its quarterbacks, to be seen and not heard. Rosen will present an altogether different test for a league grappling with game safety, concussions and the seeming proliferation of CTE in former players.
Rosen as a starting NFL quarterback giving voice to some of the leagues most worrisome issues could be a nightmare scenario for a franchise. But it could be a reality should Rosen choose not to modify himself.
Whatever the case, teams and their fan bases who long for those mythic, All-American, Golden Boys from yesteryear, have to adjust to the current generation, whether its the breathlessly athletic and creative Lamar Jackson or the opinionated and unabashed Rosen.
Time to update that player profile.