DAN BICKLEY

Kyler Murray’s latest audition as Cardinals’ long-term QB a letdown

Nov 19, 2023, 3:05 PM | Updated: 6:03 pm

Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals runs with the ball during the first half of a game against...

Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals runs with the ball during the first half of a game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on November 19, 2023 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

(Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Kyler Murray deserves patience and time. But Sunday’s 21-16 loss to the Houston Texans was not a good look for the Arizona Cardinals.

It was a game where our franchise quarterback appeared as wobbly as some of his passes.

Maybe it’s the rust. Maybe it was the hostile environment. Maybe it was the heavy pressure applied by the Texans defense. But Murray was outplayed by a rookie; struggled to make plays with his arm; and failed to deliver with the game on the line, after his defense valiantly gave him chance after chance.

No shame in the outcome, especially for a player who is just returning from major knee surgery. But Murray is also auditioning for the job of franchise quarterback in Arizona, attempting to impress a general manager and head coach who have no skin in the game. The standards are high, and the scrutiny is ruthless.

On Sunday, Murray came up short. He completed 20-of-30 passes for only 214 yards. The offense looked bland and boring, a dreadful cocktail of dinks and dunks and underthrown deep balls. It was a terrible letdown for those who wanted to believe in the magical return of a quarterback who was underserved by the previous regime and liberated by a new beginning.

Murray had a few good moments, including an exhilarating start. He was under center on the first play of the game, completing a rare play-action pass to Trey McBride. He stood firm in the pocket a few plays later, delivering a long touchdown pass to Rondale Moore. Television cameras caught Jonathan Gannon’s sideline reaction, and the shared celebration was a moment of bliss for diehard Cardinals fans.

Also, Murray showed no hesitation in letting it rip on Sunday, again running hard with zero hesitation. And his elusiveness shined on a touchdown scramble later in the game.

But the Cardinals offense also looked painfully familiar, from the timeouts to the delay of game penalties to the lack of respect being shown by the opposing defense. Murray had a number of plays he’d love to have back, showing the “my fault” body language of an NBA superstar in the midst of a poor shooting night.

Some fans are happy with the loss and how it fortifies the team’s draft capital and chances of replacing Murray in 2024. Some are encouraged by the scrappy nature of the defense, and how it responded to a first-half thumping by holding the Texans to 86 yards in the final 30 minutes, how it produced a pair of late-game interceptions to keep the Cardinals in contention. And some are outraged at the officials, who butchered a couple of key plays and seemed especially eager to appease to the home crowd.

Remember: the only thing that really matters is the performance of Murray. His return against the Falcons was a smashing success. His encore in Texas left much to be desired. His evaluation is a work in progress, and many more games are necessary to achieve the clarity we all need.

But after Sunday’s 16-point performance, I firmly believe this:

It’s not going to work in Arizona if Murray doesn’t evolve, improve his footwork and start taking the majority of snaps from under center. He needs to let go of his last security blanket and recognize it’s the shotgun that keeps shooting him in the foot.

Dan Bickley

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