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Dan Bickley

Concerns over Kyler Murray’s size continue to be overblown

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, left, takes the snap as Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, right, goes out for a pass during NFL football practice at State Farm Stadium Friday, July 26, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Kyler Murray has elite speed, a schoolboy legend and a Heisman Trophy. He may not have the same arm talent as Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes, but he’s in the same gated neighborhood.

That alone should excite Cardinals fans to their core.

Unfortunately, there is skepticism and cynics spawned from the three-win, five-alarm dumpster fire in 2018. That’s fair. But here’s the where the line must be drawn:

Murray’s skillset can’t be overstated. He’s so quick that he rarely throws a football with poor mechanics. He has touch and a fastball. He throws ropes and rainbows. He passes naturally from multiple arm angles, which he attributes to his successful background in baseball. And when he starts running, you might catch him in the end zone.

He’s also guarded emotionally. You begin to understand why.

“How tall are you really?” asked former NFL star Steve Smith during a recent interview for the NFL Network.

Murray’s eyes narrow, his relaxed demeanor changing noticeably.

“C’mon,” he says.

“I’m 5-9 and three-fourths,” Smith said. “So that’s why I was asking.”

“I don’t think you are,” Murray countered.

Later, the two men stand heel-to-heel, facing away from each other. Murray is clearly taller.

At first blush, Smith’s question seemed to put the bush in ambush. But you can’t defy the truth. Murray’s stocky build and short-ish arms occasionally skew the visual. He is much bigger in person, buffered with muscle and taller than you think. But it’s easy for him to look small on a football field. Many fans have a very visceral visual reaction. It’s part of his charm. It’s part of his legend. It’s part of what might make him a true American superstar.

As long as he never feels small, we’re good.

What really makes Murray special entering the 2019 season is his command of the Cardinals’ offense, and thereby, his command of the men playing offense. This is also where the hardest questions remain under bubble wrap, guarded like state secrets.

How much of Kliff Kingsbury’s will further revolutionize NFL offense? How much before defenses spit the Cardinals back out? Is Murray custom-built for an offense destined to soar or destined to fail? How much is too much?

Over three seasons at Texas Tech, Kingsbury pushed the envelope, playing with three- and four-man wide receiver sets 80 percent of the time. The NFL is far more conservative and far less tolerant of innovation, where the average Air Raid-like scheme is used less than 10 percent of the time.

There is point where the NFL will start choking on all of this collegiate assimilation, where innovation meets a bloody end. Where is that line? Where is that place? Do Kingsbury and Steve Keim have any clue?

Murray is part of a new wave of NFL quarterbacks, talented prodigies handed familiar systems and terminology instead of foreign playbooks. None of them possess the gifts he brings to the table.

Early in camp, D.J. Humphries marveled at the purpose and chutzpah in Murray’s voice, how the young quarterback chided him for transitioning too slowly to the next play. Team broadcaster Dave Pasch marveled at a practice rep when Murray could be seen counseling David Johnson and aligning his wide receivers before snapping the ball.

“How often do you see that from a rookie?” he asked.

Never.

Thanks to Smith’s interview, we have also learned that Murray likes things a certain way. His shoelaces must match his shirt. He likes white cleats, not red. He doesn’t plan on losing, no matter what the oddsmakers say.

But football rarely goes according to plan. All plans change when you get hit, as famously stated by Mike Tyson. And that’s when Murray’s NFL career will truly begin.

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