Bickley: Arizona Cardinals’ Kyler Murray, Gannon ruin New Year’s Eve for Eagles

Dec 31, 2023, 2:29 PM | Updated: 5:27 pm

Kyler Murray and Jonathan Gannon chat pregame...

Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals fist bumps Arizona Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon before the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on December 31, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Kyler Murray is not averse to taking fashion risks. His pregame attire occasionally makes him the subject of ridicule.

On Sunday, he was the troll.

Before a stunning 35-31 victory at Lincoln Financial Field, Murray strolled into enemy territory wearing a Sidney Crosby replica jersey. On a day commemorating the return of Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon — one of Philadelphia’s most heinous sporting villains — Murray chose to rep one of the city’s most hated hockey rivals.

It was the biggest show of visiting chutzpah in Philly since the Diamondbacks punched their ticket to the World Series. And if little things tell big stories, Murray’s stellar performance in his show of solidarity with Gannon marked a huge step forward for this football team.

The Cardinals effectively ruined New Year’s Eve in Philadelphia. They dealt a huge blow to the Eagles’ title hopes. They dominated time of possession. They rushed for 221 yards. They muzzled Gannon’s hostile haters for eternity.

Pennsylvania legend James Conner completed his two-game demolition of the Steelers and the Eagles with another massive individual performance. Michael Carter was electric as a backup running back, giving the team a dynamic 1-2 combination moving forward.

Meanwhile, Greg Dortch staked his claim as a 2024 starter; while Michael Wilson came to life after an embarrassing bout of miscommunication with Murray in the first half, resulting in a 99-yard pick six that had Valley football fans raging about their diminutive quarterback all over again.

Haters, please stop. Consider how bad Patrick Mahomes is struggling with a mediocre supporting cast this season in Kansas City. And Mahomes is pretty good, right?

Murray’s second-half performance should remove all doubt about the immediate future. The visiting Cardinals dominated the Eagles in the second half, just like they dominated the Steelers during the second half in Pittsburgh. And in the end, there was only one conclusion, one that might change and endanger the career path of Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni:

Jonathan Gannon wins a game that has been circled on the calendar for months, beating a team with a superior roster.

For many reasons, the return of Gannon was not exactly your classic Philly hate-fest. The Eagles have their own problems. They have been emasculated in the second half of the season, exposed as a team with internal issues. The vitriol on Sunday was mostly reserved for the home team, and not the visiting head coach.

That must’ve made Gannon feel good. Especially as he ran off the field in victory.

The victory also secured what might be the best four-win season of any rookie head coach in NFL history. Because Gannon’s team has displayed tenacity, passion and competitive spirit. They play to the end of games, good or bad. Just like they’re playing to the end of the season as well. And on Sunday, they punched the Broad Street bullies in their face, in their backyard, just like our baseball team did two months ago.

That’s how you built culture in a lost season. That’s how you build hope for the future.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta mornings from 6-10 a.m. Arizona Sports.

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