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Murray’s Most Impressive Quality?

Oklahoma State v Oklahoma Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images

Kliff Kingsbury describes Kyler Murray as a “freak” and “one of the best dual threat QBs of all time.”

Kyler Murray’s physical gifts are extraordinary and as Kingsbury maintains they are so rare they are “freakish.”

But one salient aspect about Kyler Murray that hasn’t received nearly enough attention as it deserves is his superb patience.

The Big Picture:

* How many top level college athletes would have stayed committed to his football dreams to the point of sitting two years behind another QB?

* What makes this level of patience even more impressive is that with as outstanding as Murray is in baseball, he could have just as easily quit football and dedicated himself entirely to baseball. After all, he was a top 10 pick in the 2018 MLB Draft.

* Especially after being a top 10 pick and collecting a $5M signing bonus, Murray could have quit football and no one would have blamed him.

* But Murray stayed true to his ultimate dreams---which are his football dreams.

* What’s equally impressive is that once he got his chance, he could have been so amped up and anxious that he could have come out of the gates last year trying too hard---trying to do too much too soon. And yet, when you watch how composed he was right from the get-go---and how he calmly devoted himself to patiently stand in that pocket and take whatever the defense was giving him.

* Murray’s calmness and patience particularly on 3rd downs was the major reason why he led the nation in 3rd down conversion percentage. In Lincoln Riley’s version of the Air Raid, very similar to Kliff Kingsbury’s, so many of the staple plays, like the classic crisscross “mesh” play, take a little time to read and develop. And Murray’s patience in letting those plays develop and then finding the open man and throwing a strike was outstanding to the point of being textbook.

* This is why Murray reminds me so much of Kurt Warner---he grasps the offensive concepts and has such an instinctive sense of timing and he will maneuver his feet accordingly in order to deliver the ball at the precise moment.

* The other stunning manifestation about Murray’s patience is how aware he is of what kind of touch and arc to put on the football. He mixes up his speeds and release points as well as any QB I have ever seen. Impatient QBs tend to rush their throws and throw so many of them on frozen ropes. Murray can zip a pass into a tight window as well as anyone, but he has an uncanny way of knowing the critical importance of touch and ball placement in relation to increasing the completions odds.

* It’s thanks to Murray’s patience as to why he rarely has a pass batted down and why he rarely gets hit. His presence of mind under duress is mature beyond his years.

* Lastly, and perhaps even most impressively, is that for a QB with Murray’s quickness and breakaway speed, he almost never abandons the pocket too early. He is not at all antsy to run. He runs when he gets flushed. Murray has an excellent feel for where the pressure is coming from and knowing where his nearest escape route is.

Point Guard:

Kliff Kinsgbury talks about wanting his QB to be the “point guard” of the offense by distribution the ball to the playmakers. Do you know that this past season the Oklahoma offense featured 5 players who gained more than 1,000 scrimmage yards, plus double-digit TDs? Check this out:

Player----Total Scrimmage Yards---Total TDs

Kyler Murray---5,362 yards---54 TDs

Marquise Brown---1,318 yards---10 TDs

CeeDee Lamb---1,158 yards---11 TDs

Trey Sermon---1,128 yards---13 TDs

Kennedy Brooks---1,113 yards---12 TDs

Talk about distributing the ball. Have you ever seen anything like this? Look at how balanced the scrimmage yards are among Brown, Lamb, Sermon and Brooks.

Yes, of course, a good deal of credit deservedly belongs to the Sooners’ experienced and talented offensive line. But, Lincoln Riley attributes a portion of the Sooners’ consistently good pass protection to the opponents having to change the way they rush the passer in fear of Kyler Murray taking off. Teams know they can’t just pin their ears back and abandon their lanes to get after Murray because it will leave wide open escape routes. Plus, every team is forced to take one player out of the pass rush or the pass coverage to be a spy on Murray in the event of a scramble. That in itself gives the offense such a distinct advantage. But, even then, as an exasperated Nick Saban pointed out and Sean Payton echoed at the NFL Combine, “you put a spy on Murray, but Murray runs right by him anyway.”

Kyler Murray has been playing this kind of patient, diverse, high scoring football his entire football career. Take a look at some of the highlights from his senior year at Allen High School. Again, look at the touch he has on his passes and look at what a mistake it is for pass rushers to break out of their lanes. This is an extraordinary confluence of football smarts and skills.