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The good and bad of Josh Rosen's five offensive coordinators in four years

Cardinals rookie quarterback Josh Rosen has seen plenty early in his football career but will need stability to succeed at some point. Richard Mackson/USA TODAY Sports

TEMPE, Ariz. -- If Josh Rosen had it his way, he would've spent all three seasons at UCLA running the same offense under the same offensive coordinator. And then he would've had one offensive coordinator with the Arizona Cardinals so he could learn, run and master the same scheme.

Life didn't quite work out like that.

He had three different coordinators in college: Noel Mazzone in 2015, Kennedy Polamalu in 2016 and Jedd Fisch in 2017. Each had his own philosophies. Each had his own way of coaching, teaching and leading. And the carousel of schemes, of coaches and of voices didn't stop after Rosen left for the NFL.

Less than three-quarters of the way through his rookie season, Rosen is already on his second offensive coordinator. Mike McCoy was fired after Week 7 and the Cardinals replaced him with Byron Leftwich. But when Leftwich took over, he tried to give Rosen some consistency by not overhauling the entire offense.

"We have a good understanding of each other," Leftwich said. "I know this kid and I know his instinct, pattern, I know how he's going to see and think about certain things.

"So, it's just consistently trying to put him in the right position in the play all the time with the understanding that he's a rookie and that's not always going to happen."

While consistency and stability would have been ideal for Rosen, the No. 10 overall pick says he's benefited from seeing so many offenses.

"I would have liked to have less, but you've got to play with the cards that you've been dealt," Rosen said. "In the technology, social media evolution of today's athletics, everyone's very ADD and wants things now. That kind of happens with players and coaches and that stuff. For the most part, I've seen a lot of offenses. I understand a bunch of different philosophies and what guys want.

"I could say I'm a malleable quarterback, but yeah, I think it has helped me."

Rosen arrived in Arizona with a library of different schemes, coaching, philosophies and systems in his head, giving him a larger-than-normal foundation on which to build when he began working with McCoy and Leftwich -- a "different perspective," coach Steve Wilks called it.

It's also "knowledge," said Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who's worked with Aaron Rodgers for the past 13 years. "Knowledge is gained by your own experiences, experiences that are shared from others. There's a benefit in that."

And that many coaches can help a rookie, said Rosen's backup, Mike Glennon, who is on his sixth coordinator in six seasons.

"You see how some of the smartest football minds in the NFL see the game," Glennon said.

Leftwich said the changes Rosen endured during college probably don't matter now anyway.

"He's just been taught a lot of different things from different guys," Leftwich said. "He's been hearing a lot of different stuff so I'm not going to even count the college guys because this is the National Football League. They don't matter. When you come into this thing, it's a job now, and then it's 24 hours a day, seven days a week football so you have an opportunity to break all the bad habits or see the good habits and improve on your good habits."

The downsides of having multiple coordinators in a short period of time far outweigh the upsides, though. Just ask Rosen's mentor and Sunday's opposing quarterback, Packers veteran Rodgers.

"When you stay in the same offense this long, it definitely helps the learning curve because you're still learning intricacies and the new plays and different schemes that come in and out of the league," Rodgers said. "But the continuity and the language really help."

Longevity in a system makes the first day of OTAs very different each year compared to having to learn a new offense annually, Glennon added. While the plays might be similar, having to digest and process new terminology is where a quarterback's growth in an offense can be slowed.

"I think it's truly beneficial because it's just like anything, you don't just get to put in an offense all in one year, and it's all oiled up and ready to go," McCarthy said. "Sort of just like any offense, it's important to just start with the footwork. I'm sure the footwork in Arizona is a lot different than it was at UCLA. So, just to get the training and the reps and continue to build that library of reps and the investment in footwork, it takes time.

"You have to build the other component of building the time clock and the progression with your perimeter guys, too. I think to have the same system with the same quarterback and coach, or the same coaching structure, is hugely beneficial to the quarterback, and I think history supports that."

That's what the Cardinals (2-9) ultimately want for Rosen.

And Leftwich has already starting getting him there.

He's helped Rosen with a "ton" already, from his cadence to his footwork.

"There's a lot of stuff within the offense that I didn't know," Rosen said. "It's an NFL offense. There's always going to be little things here and there. A lot more tips on leverage and where guys are, which tells you what coverage you're going to get. So, there's a lot of disguise but you're not allowed to disguise too good or otherwise you're going to be out of position. There are little tips and tells that I've been learning and picking up on."

Everything Leftwich teaches Rosen now is so Rosen can have a 15-year career in the NFL, Leftwich has said.

Even though McCoy was the offensive coordinator, it was Leftwich, as the quarterbacks coach, who worked with Rosen on a daily basis. It's still Leftwich's voice that Rosen hears every day.

If that changes next year, that'll be three offensive coordinators for Rosen in two seasons. But the rookie isn't thinking about that just yet.

"I am working on one OC for more than one year at the moment," Rosen said. "So, we'll get to that another time."