Cardinals have shown commitment to Kyler Murray so far, but what comes next?
Nov 30, 2023, 3:51 PM | Updated: Dec 1, 2023, 5:33 am
(Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)
Worlds collide when the subject is Kyler Murray.
The outside world is full of critics and trolls. There is great skepticism over his future as a franchise quarterback in Arizona. A heavy percentage of football fans in the Valley want him gone.
The conversation is much different on the inside. Kyler Murray does not sound like quarterback on the hot seat. To the contrary, he said he’s looking forward to a normal offseason, where he can “actually move around and throw.” Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Drew Petzing seems pleased with Murray’s progress.
Maybe the Cardinals are bluffing. Or maybe we’ve had it wrong all along.
A small part of the outside world was convinced the Cardinals would never activate Murray in the first place, guaranteeing the quarterback would not get hurt again in 2023; thereby allowing the team to recoup a small portion of savings on his enormous contract if he’s cut by March 17, 2024. Clearly, that didn’t happen.
The rest viewed his return in 2023 as an audition: four games to reacclimate; followed by a bye week to reset and refocus; and then another four games to end the season. And when Murray reverted to some of his worst habits in a terrible loss to the Rams last weekend, it felt like the beginnings of an impending divorce.
But maybe the Cardinals are playing a longer game. It’s possible that the 2023 season has always been a write-off for Murray, that it would be unfair to judge a quarterback without the benefit of a real offseason. Remember, Murray is coming off major injury for the first time in his career. He’s learning a new system, including a complete overhaul of his footwork. And he’s performing for one of the least talented rosters in the NFL, a team in a full-on rebuild.
The Cardinals are also aware of the perils that come with finding Murray’s replacement. Some years, the NFL draft yields Joe Burrow and Jalen Hurts. Other years, you might get four quarterback busts in the first 15 picks, as was the case in 2021.
This much is certain: For Murray to succeed, he must be a dual threat. He must punish defenses for their overzealous pass rushers by moving up in the pocket and occasionally ripping off devastating gains straight down the center of the field. Either way, he must a contributor in the running game. The Cardinals are 10-2 when he carries the ball 10 or more times.
Murray must find a comfort zone taking snaps under center, which he’s done only 22 times in three games. This is essential in allowing the Cardinals offense to expand and surprise. He must get the Rams out of his head, an opponent that has drawn four of the five lowest rushing attempt games of Murray’s career. Finally, he must regain his touch as a passer, which will occur with better technique.
Murray has already checked some boxes. His leadership and maturity are no longer issues. He’s been engaged and available, a fixture at team headquarters since his rehabilitation. He’s shown no hesitancy trusting his doctors and his surgically repaired knee.
Critics counter with a sobering fact, that Murray will never grow in the way that matters most. Namely, his height and ability to survey a football field from the pocket. It’s also true that coaches can be prideful and arrogant, utterly convinced they can fix the unfixable.
So, maybe the plan is to give Murray the benefit of the doubt and another full offseason. And it’s possible the new regime in Arizona will get burned for betting on themselves.
Or maybe there’s great value in seeing the good in Kyler Murray – something that has become increasingly difficult in the Valley.
Reach Bickley at email@example.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.