UCLA Football: Coaching Josh Rosen – Utah Edition


Josh Rosen had a decent day in UCLA’s 17-9 victory over Utah, going 15-30 for 220 yards and a touchdown. But how were his intangibles, the stuff that the pundits said would negate his obvious talent and make him uncoachable?

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For more on the origins and purpose of this feature, check out the previous editions:Virginia, UNLV, BYU, Arizona, Cal, and Washington State. But in a nutshell, the goal is to refute the narrative that Rosen is arrogant and uncoachable, and to more broadly look at the non-Xs & Os aspect of coaching a rising superstar – i.e., managing confidence levels, focus, disappointment, etc.

Cocky or Collaborative?

Via Bruin Report Online, wide receiver Jordan Payton noted that Josh Rosen was really taking ownership of the offense:

That can been seen a number of different ways. Many, initially including myself, took that as a damning indictment of Noel Mazzone‘s playcalling. The idea being that a 58 year old, career offensive guru shouldn’t have to have an 18 year old kid doing his job for him.

RELATED: Noel Mazzone is Going to Be the Death of Me

Additionally, from the other side, does this suggest that Rosen has shown up his offensive coaches and fallen prey to the same arrogant, controlling instincts that Trent Dilfer decried during the Elite 11 recruiting camp? Does Rosen think he knows better than Mazzone?

I’ve come around to a different way of thinking about this. One of Mazzone’s jobs is calling plays on offense, to be sure. But he’s also responsible for coaching the offense and transferring his principles and thought processes to the quarterback, for coaching Rosen in the offense to a point where the kid can be more involved and take more direct leadership. He’s not discussing this particular incident, but watch Mazzone’s interview (courtesy of Scout.com):

Notice how he emphasizes Rosen’s composure, preparation, and grasp of the offense. Rosen has gained his trust in the latter part of the season, trust that he can take the offense for a spin around the block without training wheels, so to speak. He says that he encourages Rosen to have input, sometimes in the form of rebuttal, into the gameplanning and playcalling.

Mazzone is very clearly a laid back, chill kind of guy. I don’t see him as the type to get protective of his turf or jealously guard his game day responsibilities. Maybe Rosen’s assertiveness and eagerness to take the reins rubbed a more uptight guy like Dilfer the wrong way. Maybe it wouldn’t have worked well with a number of other coaches. But in this regard, I think Mazzone and Rosen are a good fit for one another.

More Coach-Speak

Nov 21, 2015; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; UCLA Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen (3) throws a pass that was caught by wide receiver Thomas Duarte (not pictured) for a touchdown during the first quarter against the Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The OC Register‘s Joey Kaufman had a fun note after the win on Saturday. He asked readers to guess who said the following quote, Rosen or Jim Mora: ‘I hope we don’t get ranked after this game.’ It’s very much a Mora sentiment, and it’s of a piece with his remarks before the season that he wished that the press wouldn’t hype or even cover his team this year.

But – as you probably guessed by virtue of my bringing it up here – that was indeed Josh Rosen. Mora has clearly imprinted his perspective and mindset onto his young quarterback. We’ve noted this before, when Rosen called out the defense after the Washington State loss and how he handled the accolades after his performance against Cal. It behooves the team to have the players in leadership positions essentially be extensions of the head coach.

That’s how coaches succeed, beyond schemes and recruiting and playcalling: getting the team to buy-in to the same goal and the same processes to attain that goal. Bad losses and letdowns notwithstanding, this is the kind of leadership and singular direction that this program sorely lacked before Mora arrived. This is how he’s been able to take the Bruins to a sustained level of success not seen in 60 years.

Next: What Twitter Said about their Favorite UCLA vs. USC Memory

*** The header image for this article doesn’t contain Josh Rosen, but it does show the other end of the pass shown in the smaller picture within the text. It was a gorgeous throw, which Rosen and Duarte have connected on to great success many times this year.