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Dan Bickley

Valley football in good hands with Kyler Murray, Jayden Daniels

(Getty Images)

Great quarterbacks are gifts to the community. They are symbols of hope and harbingers of the future. They make every other problem seem small.

It’s why the Valley is on the verge of a football renaissance. Even though the Cardinals and Sun Devils are 1-8 in their past nine games combined.

In Tempe, freshman Jayden Daniels just lit up No. 6 Oregon, throwing for over 400 yards while leading ASU to a much-needed upset on national television. When the program needed a jolt of positive energy, Daniels responded by throwing thunderbolts and lightning. He earned Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week honors, and just in the nick of time.

Cardinals rookie Kyler Murray is at another level. Eleven games into his NFL career, he’s already a top 10 quarterback. He has become must-see TV, an underdog full of skill and fury, compelling a nation to pay attention to our professional football team.

And they’re only getting started.

Murray has shown remarkable adaptation to the NFL. He rarely throws interceptions. His mental mistakes are minimal. His bad plays stand out because they happen so infrequently. He leads by example, by making difficult plays under duress, earning respect from his teammates and opposing defenses.

But Murray has an advantage. He is working under the tutelage of Kliff Kingsbury, whose contributions aren’t properly reflected in the team’s 3-7-1 record. At the very least, Kingsbury has proven to be an elite NFL offensive coordinator in 2019, skilled at calling plays and synching up with the quarterback.

As a result, Murray has an offense built to his specifications, allowing a rookie at the NFL’s hardest position to feel as comfortable as humanly possible.

Like Murray, Daniels won over 40 games in high school and brings a lot of winning to the position. He was a four-year starter in high school. He has shown great end-game ability, when the madness gets thick. He’s one of those rare quarterbacks that find clarity in the chaos.

Perceptually, Daniels had a night for the ages. Deep throws that hit receivers in stride. The low-key temperament and ice-water-in-the-veins gesture he made after one of his touchdown passes. The game-clinching throw over the top of the defense on 3rd-and-16, just when Oregon was feeling a comeback victory. It was all there, all in the game.

Daniels’ performance also came with ASU’s season teetering on the brink. A loss to Oregon would’ve guaranteed a five-game losing streak entering the Territorial Cup, leaving ASU at risk of missing the postseason entirely. With nearly 30 freshmen on the roster in 2019, that would’ve been a tragic waste of time and development opportunities.

His heroics ushered out all the creeping negativity. It again stamped ASU as a program on the rise. And it will be incumbent on ASU to immediately build around Daniels, giving him all that he needs to win a Pac-12 championship in the Valley, before it’s too late.

That includes the right offensive coordinator, like Murray has with the Cardinals.

Either way, the respective seasons simultaneously produced by these two quarterbacks – a college freshman and a NFL rookie – is cause for serious giddiness. It transcends the present moment, the disappointing records and the championships that won’t arrive this postseason.

ASU has had plenty of snapshots in the past. The Sun Devils enjoyed a magical season from Jake Plummer, a breathtaking breakout from Andrew Walter and the fabled Jael Mary from Mike Bercovici. From Brock Osweiler to Manny Wilkins to Rudy Carpenter, the program has produced many fine quarterbacks.

But truly elite?

Meanwhile, the Cardinals have had even less to cheer about. Their best quarterbacks are Kurt Warner and Carson Palmer, who both joined the team as veterans, fresh off the scrapheap, only to end up in the team’s ring of honor.

There’s never been this kind of duo in the desert. Or this kind of synergy. Or this kind of ceiling.

Or this kind of future.

Reach Bickley at Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

Reach Bickley at 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 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
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