Josh Rosen is going to be one of the first quarterbacks taken in the 2018 draft, if not the first. Last night, in what was almost certainly his final home game, he was knocked out of the game due to an injury at halftime. The nature of the injury wasn’t revealed during the broadcast–he did get slammed down hard on his back/shoulder on a play–but Rosen was emotional as he could not return.
Devon Modster came off the bench, and UCLA held on to win by driving for a late field goal, to get to 6-6 and qualify for a bowl game.
After the game, interim coach Jedd Fisch had this somewhat bizarre quote about Rosen’s absence in the second half (via the LA Times):
UCLA interim coach Jedd Fisch did not specify the nature of Rosen’s injury but said he was pulled for precautionary reasons.
“We want to make sure that he is healthy for the bowl game,” Fisch said. “He got hit pretty hard on that one sack and he wants to make sure that he is healthy for the bowl game as well.”
It’s bizarre because, well, UCLA very well might not have made a bowl game with Rosen out of the game. They led 17-9 at the half and it was a tie game with two minutes remaining. California was also 5-6 and the winner was going to get a bowl game. It’s hard to believe that it was simply precautionary because of bowl prep.
Today, Pete Thamel reports that Chip Kelly is finalizing a deal to become UCLA’s next head coach, and that the move to fire Jim Mora suddenly a week ago to compete on hiring Kelly worked. That report does not state whether Kelly will coach the bowl game, or whether Jedd Fisch will finish it out as the interim, but regardless, Chip Kelly will be in evaluation mode once he takes the job.
So that brings us back to Josh Rosen and an exhibition bowl game against another 6-6 team in some exotic locale like Shreveport, Louisiana. Last year, we saw Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey sit out their school’s bowl games, and it did not impact their draft prospects at all. The quarterback position can be different–leadership and all–but this seems to present the case for a top prospect to sit out the game. Top quarterbacks sit out the Senior Bowl all the time, and that seems like a more important game. And like that one, he might be working with a new coach, and not the one he played for his entire career at UCLA.
The program is in flux, Kelly is taking over, and from Kelly’s perspective, Josh Rosen is not the future. There’s not much Rosen can do in a bowl game to impact his pro prospects, other than risk injury. If Rosen doesn’t play, then Devon Modster gets three weeks of practice reps with starters, and game reps on film, and he may be the immediate future with Chip Kelly.
I know Fisch said that Rosen was ready to play in the bowl game, but this seems like it might be best for all involved if Rosen moves on, as Kelly moves in.