CARDINALS CORNER

We’re living in a new era of Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals

May 28, 2024, 8:00 PM | Updated: May 31, 2024, 12:37 pm

TEMPE — Not that long ago, questions surrounded Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray’s leadership and maturity. There’s still murmurs about those topics now — as off base as they might be.

Not that long ago, Murray’s understanding of the game was under fire. It was magnified even more when a homework clause was (originally) attached to his contract extension.

Not that long ago, people were needing more from Murray off the field just as much as on it.

They say change can bring out the true colors in a person. Whether it was a new regime and aligned thinking, a career-altering injury and bounce back, an influx of the right people in the locker room or simply just getting older, they’re brighter than ever within the franchise cornerstone.

“He’s a leader. I say that because he’s coming into it,” running back James Conner said Tuesday. “When I got to Arizona, I was kinda like, ‘Who is the leader here?’ Sometimes you’re just a product of the environment. That’s no longer the environment here. He’s making an effort to bring guys close. He’s bringing along the offensive line room.

“He’s trying. That’s all we can do is try our best and that’s what he’s doing. It’s been awesome to see. We’ve been to a couple things together. We got even closer, me and him. … He’s going to have a great future in this league and that’s because he’s putting his best foot forward.”

The winds of change appeared to first roll into Tempe the day Ossenfort took over the reins from a previous front office that was doing more harm than good on different levels.

Ossenfort didn’t just talk the talk, he’s since walked the walk, forming the base of a firm foundation behind a like-minded hire in coach Jonathan Gannon to rudder Arizona’s rebuilt ship after it was adrift in open NFL waters.

Murray has been with it since seemingly Day 1, through ACL recovery and all. Accountability throughout the front office, coaching staff and locker room? Sign him up. The connection between quarterback, coaching staff and front office couldn’t be stronger. After what was seen in past seasons, that’s saying something. You’re only going to go as far as your leaders take you.

Even watching his best friend Hollywood Brown and the team not come to a contract agreement has appeared to do little to nothing in Murray’s relationship with the team.

“He has (exceeded my expectations),” Gannon said Tuesday. “We had a good talk this morning. The guy’s constantly thinking about ball. I was being a dad a little bit this weekend and I was (looking at texts from Murray), ‘What are you asking me? What play is that?’ He’s doing a good job.”

“He’s never sped up,” the head coach added. “He sees what’s going on, he knows his answers, he has complete command of the offense right now and I think he has another couple ticks to go with that. … Everything we’re trying to get done, he understands it like a coach. You can progress very quickly with the amount that you give him.”

And if you need any more examples of just how far the signal caller has come from an outside-looking-in perspective, look no further than this offseason.

With rehab no longer a part of the schedule, Murray has filled that time working with his teammates both inside and out of the training facility on top of group outings to playoff basketball games, Arizona Diamondbacks tilts and batting practice sessions.

“I think it makes all the difference,” offensive lineman Will Hernandez said last week. “I think great teams are formed having those interactions outside of football. You can really get to know somebody outside. When we’re (at the facility), we talk and we mess around and play, but at the end of the day, we’re at work. Some guys aren’t going to come completely out of their shell. You form brotherhoods doing those kinds of things.”

“That’s our guy,” the OL added. “Everybody’s a little more amped up and ready to roll. We all know that the standard automatically raises when he comes in.”

It’s hard to imagine a time Murray was more in lockstep with the organization than he is now.

But while the good feelings between signal caller and franchise are on display for the world to see, it also adds that much more pressure on Murray.

For the first time in a while, a path has been cleared for an offense that has some serious firepower behind Murray in Conner, rookie wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. and tight end Trey McBride.

From top to bottom, the depth chart has improved immensely. Four wins — even with a first-year head coach and general manager — didn’t meet the standard last year.

It sure as hell won’t in 2024.

Murray has the tools, full organizational backing and health on his side.

The ball is in his court now and there’s no more excuses. Just how he likes it.

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