Arizona Cardinals entering franchise-altering stretch with Kyler Murray return

Nov 10, 2023, 2:16 PM

TEMPE — Staring at a 1-8 record at the midway point of the season, the prospects of the Arizona Cardinals making the playoffs are nonexistent.

Just rip that Band-Aid off if you haven’t already.

But when it comes to the second half of the season, the stakes are still ultra-high for the Cardinals’ new regime led by general manager Monti Ossenfort and head coach Jonathan Gannon.

For the first instance since they came aboard, Ossenfort and Gannon have a healthy franchise quarterback in Kyler Murray to roll out there on Sundays.

It all begins in Week 10 against the Atlanta Falcons.

Murray’s retaking of his spot in the offense couldn’t come soon enough for the Cardinals in more ways than one.

Sure, Arizona is coming off a 58-yard offensive output against the Cleveland Browns and is in desperate need of a jolt. But that’s far from the only factor coming into play with Murray’s return.

Week 10 not only marks the QB’s retaking of the reins, it also signals the beginning of an eight-game audition that has major future implications for the franchise and quarterback.

Whatever is put on tape between Sunday and the season finale against the Seattle Seahawks, will play a huge part in what happens this offseason and beyond for the Cardinals.

The perfect scenario

A strong showing benefits all parties, but none more so than the Cardinals.

Because at the end of the day, Murray returning to his old form gives Arizona options.

On one side, a successful second half of the season could cement Murray’s place within the franchise despite the ongoing — and warranted — chatter surrounding the 2024 NFL Draft and the capital Ossenfort could use to bring in his version of a franchise quarterback on a much more manageable contract.

Murray has already showed the willingness to buy into the culture switch happening within the walls of the Tempe training facility. If Murray can show he’s up to snuff from a playing standpoint, the QB would likely check that final “he’s-our-guy” box for the new regime.

In addition to Murray locking in as the team’s signal caller of the future, there’s also the off-the-field back and forth that gets avoided altogether with sticking with Murray.

After what we all saw during his contract extension talks — and all the dead money that could be associated with getting Murray off the books — that is something that shouldn’t be taken for granted.

And to top it off, that aforementioned draft capital the Cardinals garner could then be used in replenishing other positions of need on the roster, speeding up the rebuild that began this past offseason.

Just because the grass may be fresher and cheaper, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily going to be greener. See 2018 first-round pick Josh Rosen.

But like I said earlier, options.

The other side of Murray performing well is the simple fact that the Cardinals would likely fetch a decent trade package for the signal caller.

Why on earth would the Cardinals want to go through all that, though?

Remember, the new regime didn’t draft Murray, and while the team is contractually tied down to the QB, the new Cardinals brass could very well want to bring in their own guy.

What cannot happen

There is a world where Murray turns in an inconsistent final eight games of the season, but viable options still remain that don’t put the Cardinals in an absolute hole moving forward.

There’s rust to consider and the fact that Murray didn’t get a full offseason of work in under offensive coordinator Drew Petzing and Co.

But what absolutely cannot happen for either side is Murray ending up injured once again during this crucial stretch of games.

If that happens to be the case, the prospects of Murray leading this team into the future and any potential of the Cardinals dealing the QB are seemingly thrown out the window at that point.

Arizona won’t get options. Instead, it’s hope lies in being in a position to nab one of the top young signal callers in the draft while having the financial burden of Murray to contend with next season and beyond.

Get ready, Cardinals fans. This eight-game window is going to reveal a lot about how this franchise is going to look years down the line.

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