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Dan Bickley

Bet on Kyler Murray’s upside, not his reported low Wonderlic score

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

The NFL draft wouldn’t be complete without leaked Wonderlic scores. Kyler Murray got a 20. The number is considered perfectly average by official test standards and a red-flag for potential NFL quarterbacks.

By contrast, Josh Rosen scored a 29 in 2018.

Uh oh.

So, is Rosen really nine points smarter than Murray? And what does that mean on a football field?

Start here:

Standardized testing can be highly deceiving. Some people can navigate 50 questions in 12 minutes. Others can’t ride the intellectual surfboard. Some have anxiety and learning disabilities. Others shine with a No. 2 pencil. Too often these scores are used for mocking purposes.

Lamar Jackson scored a 13 and become one of the most dynamic rookies in 2018.

But the difference in brainpower between Rosen and Murray is a serious question. Over the sweep of history, some of the NFL’s best quarterbacks have ranked among the immobile and least athletic (Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Peyton Manning, etc.). They won games between the ears. They won plays before the ball was snapped. They reduce a violent sport to simple algebra.

But great quarterbacks also make plays because they feel the game with their feet, possessing an arm that doesn’t need advanced warning. They see, they throw, they win. IQ is great. But DNA is even better.

And if the Cardinals wanted to make a bold declaration, stage a grand reopening and commit to a bold new vision in 2019, how can they not empower Kingsbury with a talent like Murray, a player he’s been chasing since high school?

Duh.

During his visit to 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station on Monday, Cardinals icon Larry Fitzgerald couldn’t help but notice the difference in organizational tone, starting with Kingsbury.

“That’s a cool cat, man,” Fitzgerald said. “He is a cool dude … he doesn’t have that, ‘I’m the head coach, get out of my way’ mentality.”

Kingsbury’s cool is working great because that’s how it works when you haven’t lost a game or your temper. Tough times require discipline, order, authority and credibility born from experience. That’s why the job is full of peril and potholes for Kingsbury, and why the next starting quarterback is so important to his future.

That’s why drafting Murray makes even more sense.

His Wonderlic score is not impressive, even though it is reportedly nine points higher than Alabama defenseman Quinnen Williams. He’s not good in a crowd of people. He seems a bit distrustful of outsiders, the type that requires the perfect kind of comfort zone. In Arizona, he’d be learning an offense he already knows, playing for a head coach who has no skepticism about his size or height. He would already know he has full organizational support, from the top down. And that would give Murray the freedom to be himself and make mistakes.

Granted, Rosen has shown some of his own intelligence in the offseason. He’s shown up for work and caused no problems. It’s a hard swallow when circumstances conspire to take your job, and when you’re no longer considered the bright shiny future of the franchise. In this arena, Rosen has shown great maturity and toughness, on and off the field.

But this is about talent, ceilings and quarterbacks who can start revolutions and win the Super Bowl. I’ll bet on the incoming rookie. The one with a Wonderlic score that ranks among the worst of the incoming prospects, with a score that only excites at the Blackjack table.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@bonneville.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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Dan Bickley bio
Dan Bickley is the most influential sports media member in Arizona sports history, having spent over 20 years as the award-winning lead sports columnist for The Arizona Republic and AZCentral.com and almost two decades as a Valley sports radio talk show host. In spring 2018, Bickley made the decision to leave the newspaper to join the Arizona Sports team as host of the entertaining and informative midday show Bickley and Marotta, as well as bring his opinionated and provocative column exclusively to ArizonaSports.com.
Bickley’s journalism career began in his hometown of Chicago, where he was part of a star-studded staff at the Chicago Sun-Times. He chronicled Michael Jordan’s six NBA championships; covered the Olympics in eight different countries and attended 14 Super Bowls; spent three weeks in an Indianapolis courthouse writing about Mike Tyson’s rape trial; and once left his laptop in an Edmonton bar after the Blackhawks reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
He has won multiple awards, written two books, formed a rock band, fathered three children, and once turned down an offer to work at the New York Times.  His passions include sports, music, the alphabet, good beer and great radio. After joining Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, he couldn’t be happier