Kliff Kingsbury ready to find out what makes Josh Rosen 'tick'

TEMPE, Ariz. -- When Arizona Cardinals president Michael Bidwill and general manager Steve Keim began searching for a new head coach on the last day of 2018, they knew they had a franchise quarterback in Josh Rosen. And they wanted someone to coach, groom and mentor him.

Bidwill and Keim saw where the league was headed: offensive-minded, playcalling, quarterback-focused head coaches. And they wanted to jump on the trend.

"We wanted to hire a great offensive mind," Bidwill said.

That led the Cardinals to Kliff Kingsbury, considered one of the brightest offensive minds in all of football and a quarterback guru at age 39.

Last week, Bidwill and Keim handed Rosen, a project still in need of fine-tuning, to Kingsbury. They hope Kingsbury will turn Rosen into a refined, top-tier quarterback capable of taking the Cardinals to the playoffs on an annual basis and, possibly, taking them on a run or two to the Super Bowl.

It was a challenge Kingsbury, who takes "a lot of pride" in the quarterback position, readily accepted.

"I want to get to know Josh, get to understand what makes him tick," Kingsbury said. "I do think he wants to be a great player in this league. I think he's very competitive. You watch him play this year and some of the shots he took and continued to get up and continued to fight.

"That says a lot about the young man. So, excited to develop that relationship."

To figure out where Rosen needs to get to, Kingsbury first needed to see what he was working with. But it has been hard for Kingsbury to get a firm grasp on the type of quarterback Rosen was last season.

Kingsbury had watched every one of Rosen's 13 starts (and the few minutes he played in Week 3) by his second day on the job. He watched all 393 of Rosen's pass attempts, all 11 touchdowns and all 14 interceptions. He watched the 45 times Rosen was sacked and all the times Rosen got off the turf, albeit sometimes slowly.

Kingsbury turned off the tape thinking the quarterback he's inheriting was "incredibly talented."

But even though he was impressed with Rosen, the film didn't tell Kingsbury the whole story.

"It's hard to tell when you're really trying to break down a quarterback," Kingsbury said. "You don't know what he was told, what his reads were, where his eye should be. All you can see is whether it's accurate or not, and sometimes [if] protections [are] not good, that's going to be spotty, as well."

Kingsbury won't be judging Rosen by last year's film. What matters to Kingsbury now is that Rosen is "one of the most talented throwers you'll see," he said.

"As a pure thrower, it's hard to find a guy that throws it better," Kingsbury added.

With Kingsbury bringing his version of the Air Raid -- a high-flying, pass-happy spread offense that puts up tons of yards and even more points -- to the Cardinals, Rosen's arm is all that matters.

Kingsbury's Texas Tech teams were offensive powerhouses. They didn't necessarily win, going 35-40 in his six seasons, but they produced on offense. From 2013 to 2018, Kingsbury's quarterbacks had the second-most completions, attempts, yards, touchdowns, completions over 20 yards and passing first downs nationally, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. The Red Raiders' offense also was ranked third nationally in yards per game, second in passing yards per game, fourth in total first downs, third in third-down conversion percentage and eighth in points per game.

Kingsbury was open about whether his version of the Air Raid will work in the NFL. He didn't promise an exact replica showing up at State Farm Stadium, but he pointed out that more and more college offensive concepts have made their way into the NFL -- and some have even been successful.

"I think that's something we'll find out," he said. "Watching other people's film and watching guys that are doing some of those concepts, they're having success. There'll be defensive adjustments. Everybody's always chasing each other. We understand that."

For Kingsbury's offense to work, Rosen will be asked to throw the ball -- a lot. And Kingsbury, a former quarterback himself who once threw 70 passes in a college game, thinks throwing the ball 30, 40 or even 50 times a game is sustainable in the NFL.

During this past regular season, 30 quarterbacks averaged at least 30 attempts, including 11 of the 12 playoff quarterbacks. But one, the Pittsburgh Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger, averaged more than 40 for the entire 16-game season. And the Baltimore Ravens' Joe Flacco did it for nine games.

"Yeah, you see some of these teams execute pretty close to that at a really high level and putting up MVP-type numbers and first seed and everybody says you have to run the football and play defense in the playoffs," Kingsbury said. "So, this will be a fun playoffs to kind of see where they meet and how it all plays out."

For Kingsbury's scheme to work, he will have to get Rosen to buy in after a rocky rookie season under former head coach Steve Wilks. The first step is for Kingsbury to establish a relationship with Rosen, which the two briefly initiated last week on a phone call after Kingsbury was hired.

In Kingsbury, the Cardinals got what they wanted; now they have to wait and see whether what they wanted works.

"I take a lot of pride in that position," Kingsbury said of the quarterback slot. "I played that position. I try to see it from their eyes. I've been very fortunate to be around a lot of talented players, and that's a big part of it. I think that the biggest thing is see it from their perspective. I want to customize the offense to what they do best and make sure they understand me as a playcaller. I think that's worked to our benefit so far."