Cardinals’ Kyler Murray, Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa meet again in NFL

Nov 4, 2020, 6:44 PM | Updated: Nov 5, 2020, 8:05 pm

Kyler Murray #1 of the Oklahoma Sooners congratulates Tua Tagovailoa #13 of the Alabama Crimson Tid...

Kyler Murray #1 of the Oklahoma Sooners congratulates Tua Tagovailoa #13 of the Alabama Crimson Tide after the Alabama Crimson Tide defeat the Oklahoma Sooners 45-34 to win the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium on December 29, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Quarterbacks live under pressure. They feel it from pass rushers. They get it from the size of their paychecks. They hear it from coaches, critics and cities they represent.

Only the boldest compound their issues by putting a No. 1 on their chest, choosing an additional target, embracing a numerical bullseye.

Cam Newton did it. So did Warren Moon. So did Jeff George. It doesn’t always work out.

And for the first time in history, a pair of ascending NFL quarterbacks will square off as dueling No. 1’s: Arizona’s Kyler Murray and Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa.

“That’s just who I am, part of me,” Murray said of his choice in numbers. “I’m not really with trends. I don’t know. I think certain people look good in it. Some people look better than others … it is what it is.”

The two quarterbacks are very similar in spirit: serious-minded, supported by great families, fueled by a sense of destiny, representing something bigger than themselves. Murray is a Texas schoolboy icon and champion of undersized underdogs. Tagovailoa is a Samoan legend, from a proud Polynesian culture that reveres its football heroes. Both have carried a heavy weight on their shoulders.

They are also different. Tagovailoa wore No. 13 in their previous matchup, when Alabama beat Oklahoma in the 2018 College Football Playoff semifinals. He switched to No. 1 after landing in Miami, where No. 13 is untouchable.

Murray is also at a different place in his career. Unlike Tagovailoa, Murray was given the keys to the Cardinals’ offense from Day One. It was an impossible task, asking an unproven, undersized rookie to lead a huddle of grizzled men.

“We threw him into the fire,” Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “The first day he was in the facility, he was the starting quarterback. But he knew he could get through it.”

Murray absorbed an unhealthy share of rookie lessons, many of them painful. His NFL baptism also steeled him as a competitor, and he sounds dramatically different in 2020. DeAndre Hopkins said that Murray even barked at him to spend more time in his playbook, challenging an established NFL superstar.

And now he’s in charge of the No. 1 offense in the NFL, a statistic that surprised Murray during a Wednesday press conference.

“Is that real?” Murray asked a media relations director.


“I didn’t know that,” he said. “But I guess it means we’re doing something good.”

For a superstar-in-progress, Murray has many great attributes. His ego doesn’t need a private masseuse. He sees the good and the bad with great clarity. He has committed himself to greatness and knows what the pledge entails.

He lays low, lives a football life and puts in the requisite work.

“First impressions when I met him? He’s really jacked up,” Tagovailoa said earlier in the week, marveling at Murray’s muscular physique. “For as short as he is, this guy is rocked up.”

Murray is also acutely aware that looks and statistics can be deceiving. He knows the Cardinals offense hasn’t always performed like a top-ranked unit, and much of that is because of his own shortcomings. But it’s reassuring that Murray never seeks out praise or hides behind delusion. He stiff-arms hype and faces hard truths as well as any young quarterback in memory.

He is also why the Cardinals are longshots in the Super Bowl conversation. No other NFC contender has as much untapped potential. The Wild Cards are 5-2 after winning successive primetime games in the span of six days.

They have looked flawed, erratic and lethargic, often playing down to the quality of the opponent. They have also risen to the biggest occasions, scoring 30 or more points in three consecutive games, handing Seattle its only loss of the season.

In the process, Murray has helped his team respond to the criticism of general manager Steve Keim, who called out his stars and highest-paid players following losses to Detroit and Carolina.

“I don’t really have a comment,” Murray said about Keim’s comments. “This is the NFL. It’s not easy to win. Obviously, everybody in the locker room … the past is the past. We felt like we let those two games slip away. We could be undefeated but shoulda, coulda, woulda …

“We are who we are, we are where we are, in this moment, in a good position.”

Murray is still unrefined as a passer. Kurt Warner says his technique needs some serious tweaking. He hasn’t always looked comfortable playing the position at its highest level, his head often swimming in the NFL fishbowl. But you can see the rapid growth and the expanding horizons. In his last performance, he threw a touchdown pass after breaking a smile in the pocket.

“It’s just a player in Year 2, more comfortable in his own skin, more comfortable in his role, and he looks like that on the field,” Warner said. “There were times last year when he just going way too fast with everything.”

In other words, Murray remains faster than almost everyone in the league. But the game is finally slowing down. These days, he’s capable of just about anything.

“I think the rest of this year, he could really take off,” Kingsbury said.

Presented By
Western Governors University

Dan Bickley


Arizona Sports Video

Video: Bickley Blast: March Madness nears but the Phoenix Suns are more of a March Mystery as they enter the home stretch

College basketball has March Madness, but Dan Bickley explains how the Phoenix Suns are more of the NBA's March Mystery heading into the final home stretch of the regular season.

1 day ago

President John Mara of the New York Giants speaks with President Michael Bidwill of the Arizona Car...

Dan Bickley

The 2024 NFLPA report card grades don’t disappoint

The NFL Players Association released their annual report cards for each of the league's franchises this week and the grades don't disappoint.

1 day ago

The Arizona Diamondbacks celebrate winning Game Seven of the Championship Series against the Philad...

Dan Bickley

Diamondbacks’ young guns ready to apply invaluable postseason experience

For a young and blossoming team like the Diamondbacks, the value of a second-place finish can be impossible to quantify.

3 days ago

Presented By...

Arizona Sports Video

Video: Bickley Blast: Is the Kyler Murray love for real?

In this edition of the Bickley Blast, Dan Bickley reflects back on the history with the Arizona Cardinals and quarterback Kyler Murray, and if the latest social media love from the team to Murray is genuine. Bickley & Marotta also talk about Phase 2 with the Cardinals, and what they need to do to have success in the 2024 NFL Draft.

3 days ago

Kyler Murray celebrates with Monti Ossenfort postgame...

Dan Bickley

Pressure’s on 3 Arizona Cardinals as renovation enters new phase

Renovation of the Arizona Cardinals has entered Phase Two. It's time for Monti Ossenfort, Michael Bidwill and Kyler Murray to step up.

4 days ago

Presented By...

Arizona Sports Video

Video: Bickley Blast: Is Kyler Murray’s future set with the Arizona Cardinals?

With reports of the Arizona Cardinals doing their homework on several quarterbacks coming out in the 2024 NFL Draft, Dan Bickley wonders what the future holds for Kyler Murray in the Desert.

4 days ago

Cardinals’ Kyler Murray, Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa meet again in NFL