NASHVILLE – The underdog wears pink. He calls himself the consummate winner without reservation or whiff of humility. He shows zero sympathy for the quarterback he just displaced in Arizona.
Welcome to the new world, Kyler Murray, where you will inspire a new generation of undersized quarterbacks to reach for the stars.
And welcome to Arizona, where you will find a house divided. At least until you beat the Seahawks, and then everyone will be on board.
Some people are tickled. Country music star Blake Shelton hilariously threatened general manager Steve Keim on Twitter, saying he would “personally wrap my guitar around your neck” if Keim left Murray on the board.
Some people are angry. Murray encountered a Cardinals fan in Nashville who was less than tickled with the Cardinals’ newest first-round pick.
“There was a guy out there in the crowd, waving at me, saying they don’t want me, they want Nick (Bosa),” Murray said. “It is what it is. You can’t make everybody happy, but at the same time, I hope to make them happy with my play.”
When Murray showed up for his official press conference, the walls had come down. He smiled frequently. He showed real charisma. By then, the game was over, the game had been won and it was as if Murray was finally free to be himself.
After a few private moments with Murray, I can attest that he’s taller than I thought, much bigger than he looks on television. That’s reassuring. It’s also clear he ended up with the franchise of his choice.
“It’s a surreal feeling for me,” Murray said. “I’m (most) glad that I’m going to the Cardinals, honestly. That’s where I wanted to go play.”
As for what kind of person Arizona is getting?
“Great guy. I try to do the right things on and off the field. Try to do right by everybody. Once they get to know me, I think they’ll see it.”
It’s easy to feel bad for Josh Rosen, the quarterback who made the best of a horrible situation in 2018. He endeared himself to teammates for absorbing a beating and never once pointed fingers. He showed great physical and mental toughness. But this was the right play for Arizona.
Their rookie head coach, Kliff Kingsbury, needed a quarterback to call his own. Now he can pour all his energy into developing the player he recruited out of high school, and when Murray shines, so will Kingsbury. The quarterback will give the unseasoned head coach his best shot at credibility.
Murray needed Kingsbury. He needed a head coach who recognizes the quarterback’s stunning gifts and not his deficiencies. A head coach who doesn’t hold any preconceived notions about height requirements in the NFL.
Together, they represent a bold declaration and a new direction for a franchise that hasn’t had a winning season since 2015.
“Knowing he’ll let me play and be me is probably the biggest thing,” Murray said.
Murray’s familiarity with Kingsbury and his system make it realistic that he can succeed as a rookie starter in the NFL. There are high-profile games against Russell Wilson, Baker Mayfield, Sean McVay’s Rams and Bruce Arians’ Bucs. With one draft pick, the Cardinals have morphed from one of the most irrelevant NFL outfits to one of the most compelling.
Maybe that energy will help heal a team dealing with the collateral damage of a one-and-done head coach (Steve Wilks) and a star cornerback (Patrick Peterson) who is once again unhappy with the organization.
“I know they were very fond of me,” Murray said. “But I’m the type of guy that I wasn’t going to believe anything until I got that phone call. Finally getting to play for coach Kingsbury is something we’ve been talking about for a long time.”
Skeptics will wonder if the Cardinals selected Murray to sell tickets. Rosen fans have reason to be angry with how the incumbent quarterback has been treated during this process. But this the NFL, and it’s no place for the weak. And the easy thing for the Cardinals would’ve been to pass on Murray, aware that his size is an easy alibi.
They went the other route. They authored one of the riskiest picks in NFL history, especially since there was no real public pressure in the Valley to draft Murray. But fortune favors the bold, and the Cardinals showed great conviction on Thursday.
Just like their newest quarterback.
Reach Bickley at email@example.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.