If Cardinals buy Kyler Murray’s potential, there’s only 1 decision
Welcome to my Kyler Murray Playbook. Here are the rules:
His height doesn’t matter. Most NFL quarterbacks don’t throw over people. They throw between them, in open windows and shifting lanes. Murray has elite quickness, vision and release. He’ll get the ball past the line of scrimmage. Size matters not.
Unless he fails. And then 5-foot-10 will get his first general manager fired.
The process is effectively over. By now, the Raiders know what they’re going to do. Time spent with Murray has either convinced or calmed Oakland head coach Jon Gruden, dictating how much he will mortgage for the No. 1 pick.
It’s tense at the poker table, especially near the end of a big hand. This is the biggest game the Cardinals have played in years. But:
If you have the conviction to draft Murray, there is no trade bounty or embarrassment of riches that can tempt you off your position. Even if the Raiders offer up all three first-round picks.
Due diligence calls for quantification and crystal balls, for the measurement Murray didn’t provide in Indianapolis. Namely, what is the difference between his ceiling and the upside of Josh Rosen? That question must be answered by Kliff Kingsbury, the head coach implementing a new system expected to make a ripple in the modern NFL. On my football team, this draft pick is his decision.
If Murray > Rosen is like the difference between Russell Wilson and Derek Carr, or Patrick Mahomes and Case Keenum, the decision is already final. Murray is the only choice, and the greatest thing Steve Wilks ever did for Arizona.
Rosen is hard to forecast. He proved the fallacy of perception during his rookie season, and was nothing like an aloof, entitled college brat. But there are unexpected questions, from arm talent to personality. Yes, he’s smart and quirky and ironic, with great intellectual curiosity. Is he enough of an alpha male at the position? In other words:
Close your eyes. Can you picture Rosen as a Hall of Fame quarterback? Or does the question make you queasy?
Murray’s transition from the A’s to the NFL has been scripted perfectly. He received a $4.66 million signing bonus with A’s, and according to reports, only has to repay a large portion of that broken promise. If he is the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, he will earn a $23.4 million signing bonus and a $34.9 million rookie contract.
Murray has wisely bulked up, distributing an impressive, shirtless weight-room picture on social media. The photos only solidify the Russell Wilson comparisons.
Murray is surely not as fast as he once was, but whatever lack of speed he’s been hiding will be irrelevant to his NFL production, paling in comparison to what he’s gained by appearing somewhat sturdy.
Physically, Rosen proved to be very tough. But what of his emotional state?
He once vowed revenge on the nine teams that passed on him in the 2018 draft. He amended that list to the quarterbacks who preceded him, even though he did little to prove otherwise. What will he be like when he shows up for voluntary workouts on April 8? How would you act if told you were the future of a company, only to be replaced one year later?
Nearly two weeks ago, I ran into Baker Mayfield in Old Town Scottsdale, and the bearded Browns star testified enthusiastically that Murray was, “the real deal.”
I know. What else would he say?
I just interviewed an Ohio State beat writer who spoke of Nick Bosa like he were J.J. Watt.
I know. What else would he say?
Steve Keim is emerging from the darkness of a brutal year, shamed on and off the field, sentenced to the cell of self-loathing. I believe in his mission, his instincts and his home-run swings.
But it’ll still take a lot for him to say Murray’s name on draft night.
Reach Bickley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.