Any player or particuarly a quarterback that is looking to start, extend or revitalize their playing career needs to seriously consider playing in the USFL.
Players Like Josh Rosen Should Seriously Consider Playing In The USFL
In some circles, that suggestion or the headline of this article reads like an insult. Anytime an NFL QB or player struggles, if you frequent the social media comments section, which can be a futile exercise, you will see several people suggest that said player should be demoted to a spring football league as punishment.
Sometimes if a player is receiving a thorough dragging as a failure on social media. Someone will write that said player is not even good enough to start in; insert any spring league here. The New York Jets Zach Wilson instantly comes to mind right now. Before Baker Mayfield partially redeemed himself in Los Angeles at the end of the 2022 NFL season. He was the #1 target for that type of vitriol.
I am here to debunk the notion that playing in a spring pro football league is a bad thing. It’s quite the opposite, actually. Especially as it pertains to quarterbacks. Playing in leagues like the USFL can be a blessing. And the very best thing that can happen to a player whose career is stuck at a crossroads.
The success of the USFL and other leagues in this space should help negate the negative stigma normally attached to playing in a non-NFL entity.
Recently, Alabama standout linebacker and former San Francisco 49ers first-round pick Reuben Foster took to social media, asking if he should give up on his NFL dream after his futile attempts to find a way back in the league or give the USFL a shot.
If it’s strictly about the money playing in the USFL compared to the biggest pro football league on the planet. Then I would say, go ahead and pass. But if Foster or any player like him truly wants to keep playing pro football. Then the answer to his question is a resounding yes.
Why The USFL Is A Perfect Fit For QB Josh Rosen And The Other Way Around
I have seen the positive results for decades of quarterbacks who played in non-NFL leagues and revitalized their careers. In NFL Europe, it was castoffs like Kurt Warner, Jon Kitna, Brad Johnson, and Jake Delhomme who all experienced rebirths.
Tommy Maddox was a first-round flop, the failed heir to John Elway’s throne in Denver; he was cast aside before he won an XFL championship, then comeback player of the year in the NFL before leading the Pittsburgh Steelers to the playoffs.
What all the mentioned players above got in leagues not named the NFL was invaluable playing time and reps that helped them grow as players. Without it, they would never have been able to become better quarterbacks. It’s as simple as that.
It all depends on what levels you measure success. Not everyone ends up with the perfect Hollywood ending of Kurt Warner, or the one Geno Smith is currently having, who was one step away from playing spring ball in 2020. That’s a story for another time and space. But simply extending a playing career by shining when given an opportunity to play is a victory. In the pocketbook and pride categories.
In recent times, the AAF in 2019 and XFL in 2020 have seen their league quarterbacks return to the NFL and significantly extend their playing careers. Players like Josh Johnson, Taylor Heinicke, John Wolford, Garrett Gilbert, Logan Woodside, and P.J. Walker have played multiple seasons in a row in the NFL since trying their hands at spring pro football.
Gilbert and Wolford have started games in the NFL since their run in 2019 AAF. The XFL 2020 trio of quarterbacks have started 33 games in the last three NFL seasons. Each with varying levels of success. Taylor Heinicke’s starring turn in the 2020 playoffs netted him a two-year contract extension. He has started 25 games for Washington, sporting a 12-12-1 record. P.J. Walker has gone 4-3 in his seven starts, and Josh Johnson has thrown for over 300 yards with multiple scores in both of his extended playing outings. Once for the Jets coming off the bench against the Colts, and Johnson started for Baltimore against Cincy in a shootout in 2021.
With all due respect to many of the names listed above. They don’t quite carry the pedigree of someone like Josh Rosen. That doesn’t mean that Rosen is a better quarterback than them. Just that his ceiling was seen at a higher level based on his pro applicable talents.
Part of the appeal for some people who watch leagues like the USFL is the idea of redemption. Because not only do people root for young underdog players who the NFL has overlooked. But leagues like the USFL exist as a place where people can cheer on the discarded misfit toys who want to prove that they can still play.
Label it what you want, an improbable comeback story or a major reclamation project. But that’s where Josh Rosen’s career arc resides at the moment. In all reality, his NFL-starting career is dead. And his career in the league is on life support.
Yes, Josh Rosen was on two different NFL teams in 2022 and finished the year on the Minnesota Vikings practice roster. But the former first-round pick by the Arizona Cardinals is essentially a dead quarterback walking.
It’s only a matter of time before he completely washes out of the league. The odds are heavily against him rewriting history with a late-career resurgence. Especially if he accepts his current lot in life.
The UCLA standout, who once upon a time, was heralded by some as the best quarterback in a 2018 class that included Lamar Jackson, has become a fringe NFL player hanging on to dear life for weekly practice squad checks and an NFL pension.
If Rosen’s goal is to never lead a pro team or offense again. Mission accomplished. He and his agents can hang on for another year or two to his current standing on NFL rosters as an afterthought. Or Josh Rosen can do the right thing while he still can and change his career narrative by trying his hand with a league like the USFL.
Josh Rosen is still young; he’s 25 and will be 26 on February 10th. Rosen can change his narrative by forging a new chapter in his playing career. By proving himself all over again in the USFL as a leading man at quarterback. He would once again get an opportunity to play. Something that is not in the Cards for him since he was a Cardinal as a rookie.
I know that 65 different quarterbacks started NFL games in 2022. So the idea would be that maybe heaven and earth can be moved with multiple injuries to one team’s roster and that someone like Rosen could get a shot to start another game someday. But that’s not exactly an ideal spot or strategy for long-term success.
What’s the worst that could happen to Rosen if he chose to play in the USFL? He could play awfully in the USFL and never see another day on a football field again. Fall by the wayside, as Johnny Manziel has. Or, more likely, a starring role in the USFL could lead him back to the same exact spot he is already inhabiting.
Even still, if that were the inevitable outcome, Josh Rosen has nothing to lose by playing in the USFL and everything to gain. Because what if he finally becomes the player he thought he was when he bragged about NFL teams making a mistake by bypassing him five years ago? He can live up to that boast only by being a starting quarterback again. And that’s only going to come in a league like the USFL.
The USFL Signing Josh Rosen Would Significantly Move The Needle
In recent times, USFL teams like the New Orleans Breakers have signed promising young rookie quarterbacks like Alabama A & M’s Aqeel Glass and Elon’s Davis Cheek. The latter was most recently on an NFL practice squad with the Carolina Panthers.
Signings like Cheek and Glass are great for the USFL. Two small school quarterbacks who will have a chance to garner playing time on the pro level. But in order to move the needle in a significant way in 2023. The signing of someone like Josh Rosen by a USFL team would create headlines and help sway some mainstream football fans to sample and watch the league.
The USFL did a respectable job in the ratings last year on FOX and NBC. For a new league, they stacked up well against other established sports entities. Despite having to combat the negative stigma of other leagues who have failed in this space and having to overcome the poor atmosphere of poorly attended games, which didn’t help with the league’s image to casual viewers in 2022.
What also has to be considered is the fact that the USFL lost some of their top quarterbacks from 2022, like Bryan Scott, Kyle Sloter, Jordan Ta’amu, and Luis Perez. The league could use a couple of new recognizable QBs that can draw in mainstream football fans better than those players did.
The go-to suggestion by NFL fans for leagues like the USFL is to sign Colin Kaepernick. But quite frankly, unless one of the world’s richest out-of-work quarterbacks decides to check his ego and salary demands at the door, as great as the attention derived would be. I can’t see a scenario where the Nike-sponsored martyr chooses to play for the love of the game. He should, but he won’t. Kaepernick has been begging for a spot back in the NFL, a league that he has labeled as immoral for years.
The USFL has raised their player salaries to respectable standards for season two, thanks to a great deal orchestrated for the players by the United Steelworkers Union and the UFPA. But it might not be enough to get certain types of NFL quarterbacks to choose the USFL over potentially landing on an NFL off-season roster.
I would suggest that the USFL bends its salary rules for specific quarterbacks such as Josh Rosen. Leagues like the USFL are only as good as their quarterback play. And players like Josh Rosen are worth the added investment because of the added eyeballs they will bring to games. The signing of Rosen would provide an added lure to season two of the USFL.
At some point, mainstream football fans and media members will be more open-minded and recognize the value of spring pro football leagues like the USFL. For prospective players like Josh Rosen, who want to change their career trajectory and write a new chapter. That time is now.