ORLANDO — UCLA head coach Jim Mora made headlines last week by suggesting the Browns should pass on his former quarterback, Josh Rosen, and instead take rival signal-caller Sam Darnold from USC.
Presented with that piece of information at the NFL's annual meeting, Cleveland coach Hue Jackson shrugged off the report and made clear Rosen is among several passers the Browns can take with the first or fourth overall pick in the league's draft later this month.
"I'm sure Rosen's somewhere hot," Jackson said, laughing. "Obviously Jim's seen them both. I don't know that he recruited them both, but he's seen Sam first hand, he's seen his quarterback first hand. I think what he was trying to do is, he used the word 'fit.'"
Jackson stressed that idea of fit in Orlando as the Browns continue their evaluations of the top quarterbacks in this year's class, a group that includes Rosen, Darnold, Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield and Wyoming's Josh Allen. Led by general manager John Dorsey, Cleveland has met with all four signal-callers and will host each at the team's facility on pre-draft visits. Mayfield was at the team's Berea headquarters Tuesday while Darnold visited Wednesday.
Rosen, once the nation's top high school quarterback described by some analysts as the best pure passer in the draft, threw for 9,340 yards, 59 touchdowns and 26 interceptions in three seasons at UCLA. A former tennis standout, Rosen's footwork and mechanics are arguably the best among his peers. He's also earned high marks for his intelligence on and off the field.
Still, Rosen has spent much of the draft process having to answer questions about a report that indicated he didn't want to play in Cleveland and concerns over his passion for the game. Both Jackson and Dorsey have dismissed those reports as more fiction than fact.
"He was outstanding," Jackson said of the team's private workout/meeting with Rosen in Los Angeles. "Again, people made the statement that he didn't want to (come to Cleveland) and we didn't get that feeling at all. I think he'd love to be in Cleveland, love to play here. I think he has an appreciation for our staff and what we're trying to accomplish."
"He came across, he's not a bad person, I mean he's really smart, he's engaging, he does want to be in Cleveland," Dorsey added. "After our conversations, he has no problems being in Cleveland. Again, it's one of those conversations where that story can take a life of its own but until you meet him I'm not going to get into that. I want to see the person before I make judgment on a person. That's fair, isn't it?"
Dorsey said Rosen also showed the Browns why he's considered the most polished of all the quarterbacks. *He showed arm strength, he showed footwork, it was better than I saw on film," he said. "He can throw on the move. Really, he's a really good passer."
Jackson agreed with that assessment, saying Rosen "looks like a big-time NFL quarterback and has a real rhythm to his arm. We're talking about one of the best pure passers in this draft."
The Browns, of course, will spend the next three weeks determining which quarterback fits them best, whether that's Rosen, Darnold or one of the other top players at the position.
"I think we all have a pretty good understanding of who the guys are, what they bring to the table. They're all very worthy candidates. They're all kind of different," Jackson said. "But then again, we have to see what's the best fit for us."