ARIZONA CARDINALS

Seahawks QB Wilson opened door for Cardinals to draft Murray

Sep 25, 2019, 6:39 PM | Updated: Sep 26, 2019, 1:35 pm
(Getty Images)...
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

TEMPE, Ariz. — The comparisons first came on the last day in February.

Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray measured 5-foot-10 and 1/8 inches at the NFL Draft Combine. It was a win for him by an eighth of an inch, and it slapped him with the physical comp to Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

Also a baseball-trained quarterback, Wilson attended two universities — North Carolina State and Wisconsin — and put together enough film for NFL teams to see he had all the tools to succeed as a professional. But Wilson measured 5-foot-11 at the 2012 combine, and the expectation was his height would be too much for the skillset to overcome.

He would be a late-round selection, they said.

“Even his colleges coaches questioned that,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday as Seattle prepared for a Sunday visit to face the Cardinals at State Farm Stadium.

You know how the story goes from there.

Wilson has since been a Cardinals killer, Super Bowl winner and six-time Pro Bowler. This offseason, he signed an extension to make himself the highest-paid player in the NFL.

“It was good to see a guy my size doing it,” Murray said of watching Wilson’s success. “I think that helps any kid. We kind of have the same stature, so being able to see him do it in the league, winning Super Bowls, that gives you a confidence boost.”

Wilson’s existence in tormenting his NFC West rivals and otherwise playing winning football as an elusive, undersized thrower impacted those in Arizona. It no question led to the Cardinals using their No. 1 draft pick to select Murray.

“I think he opened up the minds of other people,” Carroll said of Wilson. “That opens up the door for Kyler to get his shot. Kyler’s a really good ballplayer. There’s no doubt that he belongs and is part of it and fits and all that.

“Maybe had Russell Wilson not come along, it would’ve been much harder for Kyler to be the first pick in the draft, but I don’t know. He’s a great player. Maybe he’s earned it anyway.”

Even Cardinals general manager Steve Keim has admitted Wilson’s impact changed his own thought toward drafting and undersized quarterback.

One of Keim’s comments to 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Bickley & Marotta before Murray was even measured suggested that the Arizona GM was heavily considering taking Murray with the top pick.

“As you grow in this process and you open your eyes, you really have a better understanding that, number one, 10 years ago, there weren’t any comps that a 5-foot-10 or 5-foot-9ish quarterback could not only play at this level but have success,” Keim said on Feb. 27 in Indianapolis.

“Now that’s changed. We’re a business that really looks at comps and we try to sort of pattern things after what others have done.”

After taking Murray first overall in the draft, the Cardinals general manager again cited Wilson’s success as a factor for his decision.

Just seven years prior, Wilson was drafted in the third round by Seattle, and even that was considered a surprise, according to his NFL.com draft prospect profile:

If Wilson were three inches taller there would be debate at the top of the draft as to where he fits in, but look for teams to take a flier on him in late rounds to see if he can develop and outplay his size.

He and Drew Brees before him might be the poster boys for so quickly changing the stereotype that a quarterback ought to stand 6-foot-4.

So far in 2019, the 30-year-old Wilson is putting together one of his most efficient years.

Through three games, he’s completing 71.4% of his passes for 901 yards (8.6 yards per attempt) and has seven touchdowns without an interception.

Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury believes there are similarities between a young Wilson’s decision-making and Murray’s at the beginning of his career. Kingsbury hasn’t pushed Murray to watch film of Wilson — the rookie already does — but sees the biggest takeaway for Murray in Wilson’s improved decision-making.

“With the experience comes the ability to know when, ‘Hey, this play’s over. I’m throwing it away. I’m not taking a loss on this play,'” Kingsbury said. “He does a tremendous job of picking his moments when to make the spectacular play. When you watch Russ, he continuously makes a routine play over and over and over, and it gives his team a chance to win.

“They’re never off schedule. It’s never third-and-15 or third-and-16. They’re on schedule in makeable third downs.”

Through an 0-2-1 start, Murray has completed 61.3% of his passes thus far for 830 yards (6.1 yards per attempt) and four touchdowns with three interceptions.

Carroll, for what it’s worth, sees the similarities between the two baseball-playing quarterbacks who don’t have height on their side.

Asked if the Seahawks defense would be better prepared than most to face Murray because of his similar shiftiness to Wilson, Seattle’s head coach had this to say:

“That would be the case if we had figured out ways to stop Russell in our practices. The element that Kyler brings to the game is the most difficult element to defend, and it’s the unpredictability that goes along with the athleticism and the accuracy and the arm strength … the unpredictability of the ability to make things happen after the normal play.”

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