Some call D.K. Metcalf a freak of nature. Others call him a one-trick pony. I call him a pioneer. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. The Beatles gave us “Abbey Road.” Mark Zuckerberg thought up Facebook in a Harvard dorm room. Metcalf, well he did them all one better. He changed the interview game forever and all he had to do was embrace his inner Ron Burgundy.
No, he didn’t call anyone a scorpion woman or hurl a burrito out his window. Instead, the muscle-bound wide receiver invited Pete Carroll to the gun show and apparently, he liked the goods. Even if Metcalf becomes the biggest flop this side of Kevin White (who’s still in the league, by the way), he instantly achieved legend status as soon as he showed up shirtless to an interview with the Seahawks, who would later draft him 64th overall. That’s next-level confidence, folks.
Now I wouldn’t recommend this interview technique to everyone—Men’s Warehouse might be the move for dad-bod torchbearer Ryan Fitzpatrick. But if you have gazillion-pack abs like Metcalf, he of 1.8 percent body fat, what’s the point if you’re not flaunting it? There are Greek gods who’d feel inferior standing next to Metcalf, a chiseled work of art who dominated the Combine so emphatically they should rename it in his honor. Yankee Stadium was the house that Ruth built but Lucas Oil Stadium in Indy will forever belong to DeKaylin Zecharius Metcalf.
What’s funny about Metcalf, besides him pulling a reverse Step Brothers at the Combine (they wore tuxedos to their interview), is that his draft-day tumble was one of the most predictable in recent memory. Despite blazing a 4.33 forty in Indianapolis, the goliath, 6’3,” 228-pound receiver has more than a few holes in his game. For one, his Combine performance in the cone drill was a catastrophe (second percentile), alluding to the 21-year-old’s lack of lateral quickness.
Amazing, isn’t it? Metcalf can lift a house—his bench press score was in the 99th percentile—but he can’t turn left. Apart from not being an ambi-turner, another knock on Metcalf has been his durability—he appeared in just 21-of-36 games over his three-year run at Ole Miss. Speaking of Metcalf’s time at Ole Miss, it’s debatable whether he was even the best receiver on his own team. A.J. Brown, who was picked 13 slots ahead of Metcalf at 51st overall last week, out-produced Metcalf by a colossal margin, bettering him in career catches (189-67), yards (2,984-1,228) and even holding a decisive 19-14 edge in touchdowns. Physically, Metcalf has all the traits of a Calvin Johnson-esque mega-talent. Now he just needs to show it on the field.
Rawer than a Ron Swanson steak, Metcalf faces a steep learning curve in the big leagues. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but Metcalf might have to be. With Doug Baldwin’s career in jeopardy, the rookie could be in for a baptism by fire. After laboring through an injury-mired 2018, Baldwin has spent the offseason recovering from three separate surgeries (knee, shoulder and hernia). Apparently Russell Wilson’s long-time partner in crime hasn’t made much progress on any of those fronts, casting real doubt on his NFL future. Mum is usually the word when it comes to injuries, but the Seahawks have been surprisingly transparent regarding Baldwin, confirming the 30-year-old’s career could be at stake. NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo believes Baldwin’s retirement is a mere formality, suggesting Monday that the veteran will wait for the Seahawks to release him for financial reasons (he’d risk losing some of his signing bonus) before officially calling it quits.
This is quite the role reversal for Baldwin, who at one point spanned 102 straight games (postseason included) without a single absence. But even with the end in sight, the two-time Pro Bowler still offered a glimpse of his past brilliance last year including a vintage performance in a Sunday night upset of Kansas City. Heralded as one of the great slot receivers of his time, no one played with a bigger chip on his shoulder than Angry Doug, a 5’10” bulldog who found NFL success in spite of going undrafted out of Stanford in 2011. Assuming his playing days are over, the one-time Super Bowl champ will go down as one of the most prolific pass-catchers in Seahawks history, ranking as the franchise’s third-leading receiver behind Brian Blades and Hall of Famer Steve Largent. Baldwin assuredly deserved a better send-off than this, but that’s the harsh reality of pro sports—most athletes don’t get to write their own ending.
Josh Rosen knows all about nice weather—his career path has taken him, among other destinations, Los Angeles (where he starred at UCLA), Phoenix and now Miami. What he doesn’t know much about, unfortunately, is winning. Rosen’s debut season was one long gut punch as the Cardinals floundered to a 3-13 record under since-fired head coach Steve Wilks. For his part, Rosen did little to stop the bleeding, struggling to a ghastly 55.2 completion percentage while posting more interceptions (14) than touchdowns (11). With sparse weapons and an ill-conceived coaching staff led by Wilks and annual-midseason-firing Mike McCoy, Rosen’s rookie campaign was doomed from its very inception.
A regime change offered Rosen a brief glimmer of hope, but Air-Raid proponent Kliff Kingsbury couldn’t resist the tantalizing skill set offered by Kyler Murray, a player he had coveted since his days at Texas Tech. Able to see the writing on the wall, Rosen promptly unfollowed the Cardinals on Instagram in anticipation of his inevitable trade. After the Giants and Redskins addressed their quarterback needs in Round 1, the quarterback-needy Dolphins quickly emerged as front-runners in the Rosen Sweepstakes. Before long, the sides came together on a deal that would send the former UCLA Bruin to Miami in exchange for the 62nd overall pick (which the Cardinals would ultimately use on UMass receiver Andy Isabella) and a fifth-rounder in 2020.
Flipping a late second-rounder and a future fifth for Rosen, a former top-ten pick on a team-friendly deal, marked the latest stroke of genius for red-hot GM Chris Grier, who has the rebuilding Fins well positioned for a quick turnaround. While poaching a potential franchise quarterback for pennies on the dollar represents an enormous victory for the Dolphins, the Cardinals deserve just as much credit for furthering their own rebuilding efforts. Rather than submitting to the sunken cost fallacy by sticking it out with Rosen for another four years, the Cardinals didn’t hesitate to draft Murray, an explosive dual-threat and ultimately a better match for Kingsbury’s Air-Raid leanings.
Ticket sales could certainly have been a factor in Arizona’s decision—the sexy Kingsbury/Murray pairing is sure to put fannies in the seats. But Murray, a former A’s outfield prospect who wowed onlookers with his scrambling prowess and electric deep ball at Oklahoma, has all the makings of a generational talent and should be a fixture in the desert for years to come. It’s clear the Cardinals have bought into Kingsbury’s unique vision as evidenced by their draft haul, which included a Heisman-winning quarterback, a tight end (Caleb Wilson) and three wide receivers (Isabella, Hakeem Butler and KeeSean Johnson). After scoring the league’s fewest points last season, the Cardinals’ refurbished offense figures to take a 180 in 2019.
As for Rosen, the 22-year-old now has a chance to reinvent himself in the wake of his turbulent departure from Arizona. When news spread of Rosen’s social media happenings (history text books will someday call it “the unfollow heard ‘round the world”), many were quick to put their own spin on it. Some construed it as an act of defiance and the precursor to a nasty breakup. Former receiver-turned-analyst Steve Smith Sr. was the most vocal in his criticism, blasting Rosen for his perceived lack of heart. “When things don’t go your way, you’re going to cry in the corner,” said Smith in the midst of his two-minute tirade. “He doesn’t want to work. He wants something given to him.”
The fact that it’s even a story Rosen unfollowed the Cardinals (and wouldn’t you if your replacement was being plastered all over your Instagram feed?) is a sign that we are indeed inhabiting the darkest timeline. To borrow a quote from the immortal Peter Griffin, “Who the hell cares?” Considering he was one of the pettier players in the sport in his heyday, Smith’s attack on Rosen, who had nothing but glowing things to say about Arizona upon leaving—he even offered up his apartment to Murray—felt wholly unnecessary and frankly, a bit hypocritical.
Not to be hyperbolic, but can you think of a more misunderstood player in the league than Rosen? We’ve all heard the peanut gallery chime in. He doesn’t know when to shut up. He’s an entitled brat. He’s too smart. He doesn’t love football. He had a hot tub in his UCLA dorm. What a diva! Josh Rosen is 22 years old. He’s played all of 13 NFL games and just got dumped in a very public way by the team that drafted him. Maybe cut the kid some slack?
“I’ve had it pretty good,” Rosen told our own Peter King over the weekend. “If I’m bummed I’m getting traded by the Arizona Cardinals, I try to think I’m living in an awesome condo in the middle of Scottsdale. I’m on a team, I have food on my table, a good family. Life could be a lot worse, so you count your blessings and try to put good energy out into the world.” What a menace to society this kid is. I say we lock him up and throw away the key.
If I didn’t know any better, I’d say Smith was projecting some of his own insecurities on Rosen, an articulate, thoughtful young man who, unlike the former wide receiver who just bullied him, seems to have a certain level of self-awareness. Don’t question Rosen’s drive either—the quarterback’s agent contends that he was fully prepared to compete with Murray for the starting job had Arizona kept him.
Smith was right about one thing, however. Nothing will be handed to him in Miami. Just ask his new coach, Brian Flores. “When Josh gets here, he’s got to compete for any type of role that he has here,” said the former Patriots assistant. “You have to earn it.” We know Ryan Fitzpatrick is no pushover and now that we’ve seen Arizona draft first-round quarterbacks in consecutive years, what’s to stop the Dolphins from doing the same? Next year’s quarterback crop, a group highlighted by Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert and Jake Fromm, figures to be much stronger than the underwhelming class that came through in 2019.
Finally free from the shackles of uncertainty in Arizona, Rosen is on to Miami, where the opportunity of a lifetime awaits. Before his introductory press conference Monday, Rosen tweeted, “Feels like the first day of school all over again.” Better hit the books, Josh.