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Cardinals bye week roundtable: Grading Kyler and Kliff

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, left, talks with head coach Kliff Kingsbury during the second half of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/John Hefti)

The Arizona Cardinals sit at 3-7-1 heading into a Week 12 bye. With a first-year head coach in Kliff Kingsbury and first-year starting quarterback in Kyler Murray, let’s reset the first 11 games of 2019 before looking ahead to the final five.

To do just that, we asked our collection of 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station hosts, producers, editors and reporters three big-picture questions.

First up: What letter grade would you give the K1-K2 duo through 11 games and why?

Ron Wolfley, co-host of Doug & Wolf

B. In September, they were running more of the Air Raid. In October, they moved more toward the Pro Raid. Although both needed September to produce in October, it’s easy to see where this offense is headed: top 10.

Paul Calvisi, anchor of Doug & Wolf

B+.  We’d grade on a rookie curve but Kyler hasn’t looked like a rookie, which is perhaps the best compliment you can give any player less than a year removed from college. As D.J. Humphries said this week about Kingsbury: “Kliff’s system works.”

Luke Lapinski, host of The Rundown with Luke Lapinski

I’ll go with a solid B. Can’t really go any higher than that with the team only winning three games so far, but these are the two guys you’re building around and their performances have been encouraging.

Murray rarely looks like a rookie, has shown considerable progress over the course of the season and pretty clearly has the potential to do more once the right pieces are in place around him. Plus he works well with Kingsbury, who has impressed me with his ability to adjust to what other teams throw at the Cardinals without sacrificing creativity on offense.

John Gambadoro, co-host of Burns & Gambo

The Kliff-Kyler duo get an A-. Clearly the addition of these two are something Arizona got right. And the most important thing for any organization is to have the right coach and right quarterback. Kingsbury’s offense has been dynamic and Murray, unlike Josh Rosen last year, has already proven that he is the franchise quarterback that Arizona so desperately needed.

Dave Burns, co-host of Burns & Gambo

B-. Can’t give them a C because we’re grading on a curve. It’s unrealistic to ask a rookie coach/quarterback combo to implement a complete turnaround in year one so I cut them some slack. But I also can’t give them much higher of a grade because they’ve won three of their first 11 games and you can’t reward a lack of results. Tell you what … I’ll split them up. Kliff gets a B- but Kyler gets an A-. He’s left zero doubt in my mind that the future of the position is secure.

Vince Marotta, co-host of Bickley & Marotta

B. I’m thoroughly convinced that Kyler Murray is a star, but we haven’t seen that full 60-minute offensive barrage orchestrated by he and Kingsbury. There have been numerous flashes, but the fact that the Cardinals have only scored more than 30 points in a game once this season shows there is room for improvement. I think they’ll get that improvement soon enough.

Jordan Byrd, producer of Burns & Gambo and host of Arizona Sports Saturday

B+. It’s hard to find many negatives through 11 games with the Cardinals offense, and Kyler Murray has been a big reason why. The rookie quarterback is far more developed and successful than I thought he would be in his first professional season. At no point this season has there been a doubt about whether Arizona made the right choice.

Kingsbury has shown a willingness to adapt and change his schemes for the betterment of the team. That sounds like a no-brainer but as last year indicated, it’s not always a gimme. The only reason I’m not giving the duo an A grade is because of some poor end of game decisions and play. But I have faith that time and experience will help both with those issues.

Kevin Zimmerman, editor and reporter

B. Kingsbury has grown as a reactionary play-caller throughout an entire gameplan, as evidenced by his second go-around against the 49ers. More than that, he has protected Murray, not only in terms of keeping him out of harm’s way physically but in helping the rookie from throwing into danger. Murray looks like a starting-caliber product as a rookie, and bumping the duo into the A range would require he and Kingsbury adding more designed runs and more risks via vertical passing game into the offense.

Jarrett Carlen, producer of Bickley & Marotta

B grade. His legs are as advertised, his arm is better than advertised and his height is showing that it didn’t need to be advertised at all. While the rookie mistakes (taking a bad sack, throwing a costly INT) do show up, they are few and far between. He is by far reason why this year’s three wins feel a lot better than last year’s.

Kellan Olson, editor and reporter

I gotta separate them. Maybe I’m being too generous, but I had relatively mild expectations for Kyler Murray as a rookie, and he looks like a future superstar. If you lined up every NFL QB and picked the eight guys who will run the league the next 10 years, he’s certainly in the conversation after the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson and Dak Prescott. Lost in the sludge of these terrible Cardinals games has been Murray’s playmaking ability — even ignoring the skill position concerns around him, I could see the Murray winning seven or eight games right now if Arizona had a competent defense. He’s not an A+ because of too many brain farts. I’ll give him an A.

A solid B for Kingsbury. His in-game decision-making needs work but he appears to be the perfect complement for Murray as a schemer and play-caller. Once he trusts Murray to run the ball more and adds some legit threats at the skill spots, they are going to be a problem. In the good way.

Tyler Drake, editor and reporter

B. While there is much to be said about the defensive inabilities, the offense has looked head and shoulders better than last season and still has plenty of room to grow. It’s safe to say K1 is the real deal moving forward and should continue to see offensive growth spurts as he and K2 continue to build on their already solid relationship.

For the Cardinals in Year One of the Murray-Kingsbury Era, the team needed to show improvement, not regression. They have done that and then some, sticking around in most of their losses and avoiding consistent blowouts. They have only lost by more than 11 points three times this season, they lost a total of eight times by 11 or more in 2018-19, and have hung around with the likes of the one-loss 49ers in two divisional games.

For me, one of the downfalls of the offense has been the point production. Kingsbury’s offenses score points, but in 2019, Arizona has just one game of 30 points or more. It could just be the growing pains of the NFL, but the inability to get over that 30-point hump on a more regular basis drops them from an A- to a B.

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