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Cardinals’ Leadership At QB

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Arizona Cardinals Introduce Kyler Murray Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Arizona Cardinals need leaders to emerge at each position if they are going to be one of the surprise teams in the NFL this season.

Here are my intuitions about the leadership (current and potential) at each position, today starting with the signal callers.

Following the NFL Combine, NFL Network’s resident GM Charlie Casserly reported that some of Kyler Murray’s interviews in Indianapolis went so badly that teams were denouncing his leadership, study habits and board work. Furthermore, Casserly called the comments he heard from some teams as “the worst comments I ever got on a high-rated quarterback.”

One must imagine that Kliff Kingsbury was chuckling inside when he got wind of Casserly’s report. Few people on the planet know Kyler Murray the way Kingsbury does.

Murray’s college coach at Oklahoma, Lincoln Riley, felt compelled to offer Casserly a swift and strict rebuttal when he said,

“He’s funny,” Riley said. “He’s got a good sense of humor. He says what’s on his mind and he has zero issue doing it. Sometimes people like that, it can be pretty funny what they blurt out. He absolutely falls in that category.”

“It always makes him a lot easier to coach. There’s never any doubt in my mind what he’s thinking or where he’s at with something, which I love. I’ve had two quarterbacks like that.

“He’s radically different in some ways [than Mayfield]. But in that regard, he has no problem telling you his opinion, where he’s at, what he thinks. For a coach, man, you want that. I do. It certainly helps.”

Some in the media, like Stephen A. Smith, Max Kellerman and Marcus Spears went as far as to call Casserly out for what they considered to be racial bias toward dual-threat black QBs:

While I would like to think that the NFL has evolved well past the old school thinking that black QBs may not be studious, diligent and cerebral enough to be great leaders in the NFL, the most resonant point the ESPN radio hosts make that is that Casserly, having as yet spoken with Murray to evaluate Murray’s character himself, would take the words of a couple of informants and hype those words into a precipitous effort to damage and cause serious doubt about Murray’s reputation.

Kyler Murray has been an Arizona Cardinal for 3 months now. Does anyone here think Charley Casserly might have been on to something?

By all accounts thus far, rookie QB Kyler Murray has impressed everyone in the organization with his leadership. Iconic WR Larry Fitzgerald put it most succinctly when he said that “no one knows the offense better than Kyler.”

The fact that Murray knows the offense better than anyone else—-as a rookie QB—--is virtually an unprecedented scenario in the NFL.

Look at what Chandler Jones, a leader on the other side of the ball, has to say about Kyler Murray: “Kyler’s confident, and he’s not a cocky player. For him to be the first overall pick, he’s a very confident player. He’s composed. I can see him construct, I see him getting guys together in the huddle, and as a young guy, that’s something that I admire about him.

“He’s good at grabbing guys’ attention,” Jones continues. “I’m not sure how tall he is, but I see his little helmet and I see a little helmet in the huddle. He’s grabbing guys. I’m just, it’s impressive. He’s an impressive player. and I’m still sitting here watching him at practice getting a front-row seat to the No. 1 pick and the Heisman winner.”

Not only is Murray guiding the players through the install process, he is engaging them as individuals much the same way his head coach, Kliff Kingsbury, does.

The interactions are personable, instructive and professional...and often funny.

This was precisely Murray’s modus operandi at Oklahoma: “I try to talk to everybody on the team whether you are on scout team, whether you are my center, whatever it is,” Murray said. “If you ask everybody in the locker room, they’d say I was a pretty chill dude. I try to be personable with everybody.”

This was never more evident than during Oklahoma’s battle with Alabama during the Orange Bowl. When Murray wasn’t doing all he furiously could to lead the Sooners’ offense back into the game, he was on the sidelines trying to console, support and motivate the defensive players who were having such difficult time keeping Alabama out of the end zone.

Murray’s handling of the media to date has been equally impressive. He has not come across as a starry-eyed dreamer. Quite the contrary. Murray, in his well-grounded way, has been tempering his remarks with realistic day to day assessments of the ups and the downs.

In this manner, for someone who plays as fast as a road runner, Murray has seemingly not gotten a step ahead of himself. In essence, he has been tutoring the media about the nature of the day to day process of team building. But, not in a pedantic way. More of in a humble, matter-of-fact, here’s-how-it-is way.

Now—-while Murray is off to an excellent start, some pundits like Peter King and Mike Florio question whether Murray, because of his extraordinary won/loss record in high school (43-0) and college (14-3), will be able to handle losing in the NFL—thus, the greatest tests of Murray’s leadership are ahead of him.

If his one very disappointing loss this past season is any indication of Murray’s resolve, Murray bounced back very strongly from the Sooners’ disappointing loss to Texas—-to the point of winning 7 straight games, including avenging the earlier loss with a 39-27 win over Texas in the Big 12 Championship Game.

Let’s remember too that because Murray’s defense at Oklahoma was giving up so many points, Murray pretty much had to try to lead his offense to a score every series. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a QB’s back—-especially when trying to win a league championship and a berth in the 4 team NCAA Division 1A playoffs.

Veteran backup QB Brett Hundley has handled his situation laudably. He is committed to being a good teammate and to making the QB position as competitively dynamic as possible. Hundley avows, “I don’t play for second.” Ideally, the Cardinals want everyone on the roster to think this way.

Make no mistake about it, Kliff Kingsbury and Tom Clements are very high on Hundley’s talents and character.

In the pre-season 2nd year QB Chad Kanoff and rookie QB Drew Anderson should have golden opportunities to showcase their ability to lead the 2nd and 3rd string offenses. Kanoff was solid in pre-season games last year. The offense is deeper, talent-wise and far more diverse, scheme-wise. Thus, Kanoff and Anderson have to be pretty excited about their chances to make names for themselves and for their teammates this summer.