Kyler Murray’s saga with Cardinals reveals character flaw, organizational failure

Feb 15, 2022, 3:06 PM | Updated: 4:43 pm
Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals warms up prior to the game against the San Francisco 49ers...
Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals warms up prior to the game against the San Francisco 49ers at State Farm Stadium on October 10, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

It’s always too late to close Pandora’s box. Genies rarely fit back inside bottles.

The Cardinals are trying anyway. Their strategy has been curious from the very beginning.

Look at the chronology: For some undisclosed reason, Kyler Murray chose to scrub all Cardinals-related content from his Instagram account. Don’t be naïve. There was cause and a reason. His agent, Eric Burkhardt, confirmed as much when he declined to comment, thereby passing on the opportunity to diffuse a tinderbox situation for his client.

Next: In an apparent effort to throw Murray an olive branch, the Cardinals scrubbed their own social media account of everyone but their diminutive quarterback. It was a confusing gesture apparently meant to mock media overreaction. To make someone else their common enemy.

It gets worse.

On Super Bowl Sunday, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen delivered a scathing report, quoting anonymous sources who described Murray as “self-serving, immature and (a) finger-pointer.” The NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported that Murray refused to re-enter a playoff game to the Rams late in the fourth quarter, despite Colt McCoy’s urging, effectively distancing himself from the loss and his loser teammates.

Garafolo reported the Cardinals were not at all happy with that show of petulance, and who would be?

The fact that Murray felt entitled to remove himself from the game … that he wasn’t listening to anyone but himself … that he wasn’t afraid of the repercussions … that he knew his head coach wouldn’t say squat to the media … is both a character flaw and an organizational failure, because it means he respects and fears no one on the Cardinals.

Meanwhile, the anonymous quotes are all heavy details from the lips of someone. If it’s flowing from inside the locker room, the problem is severe. And if it was done internally, to deflect blame from an overmatched head coach whose future is also tied to the general manager’s job security, the tandem might have just sealed their own fate.

Lastly, the Cardinals followed up with a statement confirming their commitment, their allegiance and their respect for Murray.

There’s no telling what Grumpy Cat will do next. A trade demand? A reconciliation? A pivot to Major League Baseball? A handshake agreement with Michael Bidwill, where the owner promises to reward Murray with a Top 3 quarterback contract if he stands and delivers another playoff berth in 2022?

If Murray’s statement accomplished anything positive, at least he posted a picture of himself inside a Cardinals uniform. Which is why the team is frantically circling wagons, hoping for higher ground in the very near future.

To wit:

In late December, former Cardinals quarterback/fan favorite Drew Stanton said the following on a podcast:

“I want my quarterback, I want to be able to look at him on the sidelines and not be able to tell if I’m up by 40 or down by 40. Everybody to a man has talked about this on different days, about Kyler’s body language. If that’s apparent to a fan watching that, think about the effect it’s having on his teammates around him.”

That’s expert, insightful analysis. But Stanton is also a team employee. And during a radio interview on Tuesday, he said the entire Murray fiasco is “much ado about nothing.”

There’s a reason why this story has polarized and divided the fan base. Because it highlights the very worst of both parties involved. Of a team that can’t win at home. A team that can’t win down the stretch. A team that can’t win important games. And after two consecutive years of this nonsense, they can’t seem to tell us why.

Alas, there was a time when the Cardinals felt ignored by the national media, when they craved bicoastal attention. Now they’re getting it in heavy doses for all the wrong reasons. And every apparent failure of Murray is also tied to the entire organization, a franchise that had three years to develop Murray and failed on too many fronts. A franchise that gave him a rookie, unseasoned head coach who has seemingly never held him accountable. A franchise that admitted giving Murray a say in personnel decisions before he made the playoffs.

The Cardinals will surely contest such an observation. But our eyes tell us everything we need to know about Murray’s lack of emotional growth, and how badly the team has failed to reach, teach and properly push their No. 1 overall pick.

Tough love isn’t easy. That’s why it works. It could go a long way in Arizona.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta from 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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Kyler Murray’s saga with Cardinals reveals character flaw, organizational failure