If you haven’t listened to Dan Bickley’s latest allegations regarding Kyler Murray’s egregious lack of leadership, poor practice habits, responding to losses like a baseball player and his apparent unwillingness to listen to wizened vets like Larry Fitzgerald, have a listen for yourself:
On today's Bickley Blast, @danbickley reviews rumors emerging this week that call into question #AZCardinals QB Kyler Murray's focus and leadership as the team enters a pivotal late-season crossroad. pic.twitter.com/SJVPe357Q4— 98.7 Arizona Sports (@AZSports) December 9, 2020
For those of you who rightfully suggest that I tune Dan Bickley out, all i can say is that I wish I could.
But, I feel that someone needs to push back on Bickley and his cabal of Kingbsury/Murray dissenters—-because we haven't heard jack shig from Michael Bidwill and Steve Keim.
The last time that Bidwill and Keim were this quiet, they were planning to make Steve Wilks the scapegoat for a bizarre series of decisions that they made during their “BA hangover.”
If the team owner/president and his sidekick GM won say jack shig—-then someone has to, because theses insidious ad hominems spitefully directed at Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray are outrageous.
Thus, my endeavor here is to address each spurious claim that Bickley is hoping and praying that fans and pundits are persuaded to believe. One by one, let’s unpack them.
Gambo has heard that Kyler won’t listen to Fitz’s advice.
My initial reaction his is that as competitive as Fitz is, maybe he’s been getting a little tired of Kyler whupping his butt in chess. (I am being facetious here)
Look—-first of all, I can’t imagine Fitz complaining about this to Gambo or anyone else—-that would be completely out of character for Fitz.
Secondly, one can easily understand that this season has been the most challenging and frustrating for Fitz. For the first time in his 17 year career, he is not the team’s #1 WR.
The player who is the #1 WR, DeAndre Hopkins, is in many ways the polar opposite of Fitz. Hopkins is quick to agree that he is the best WR on the planet and, as such, he believes that he deserves special treatment.
Fitz has always been the ultimate practice player. Part of Fitz’s legend is that he will plane out to catch passes in practice. Hopkins takes practices off. Fitz gets vet days off, but he is now 37 years old—-Hopkins is 28. When Fitz was 28 he never would even think of missing a practice.
As we know, Fitz is still playing because his ultimate goal is to win a ring. But, we also know that Fitz is chasing Jerry Rice’a all-time NFL receptions record of 1,549. Fitz currently has 1,421.
Not only has a two week bout with the COVID-19 virus slowed the Cardinals playoff push and Fitz’s pursuit of the record, he is not getting nearly as targeted as he has always been accustomed to. This season Fitz has 43 catches for 336 yards (7.8 ave.) and 0 TDs.
Would it be reasonable to assume that Fitz is feeling frustrated this season? He will always take the high road, but this season has been especially tough on Fitz. He is rarely getting any targets in the red zone, where the offense has become run heavy. One of the times he was wide open, if you recall, in the Monday Night Football game, Kyler’s throw was wide and well over Fitz’s head.
Fitz has to be frustrated with his lack of targets, which by virtue of s simple syllogism would likely mean that he is frustrated with Kliff and Kyler.
But—-Fitz would never say so publicly.
Furthermore, is any WR in this offense happy with his number of targets?
And if there is any truth to this rumor, then it’s more likely that Fitz isn’t asking Kyler to heed his advice, he’s asking Kyler to throw him the ball more—-and thus far Kyler hasn’t been doing so nearly as often as Fitz would like.
Brock Huard has heard from people inside the Cardinals’ organization that Kyler is laser-forced on game days, but not nearly as focused during practices.
First of all, it is absurd to think that Brock Huard has become an authority on what goes on at Cardinals practices. Like Kyler said, practices are closed to outsiders.
So where did Huard get his info?
It would be virtually impossible to believe that a coach on the current staff or a member of the front office person confided in Brock Huard.
What likely happened is that Huard got his info from a disgruntled player or two.
So, why would a Cardinals player or two be willing to throw Murray under the bus to a Fox analyst?
The most logical reason that I can think of is that there are some players on the team that do not like the fact that Murray wishes the team wouldn't have to give up a week of practices during the bye week. Any perceived threats to players’ time off are not going to be received well.
And that’s the profound irony of this rumor, because everything we know about Kyler Murray is how important practice is to him—-it’s the very reason why Murray would be frustrated with DeAndre Hopkins for his insistence on missing Wednesday practices.
Do not forget that it was Kyler Murray who arranged for and paid for all of his fellow QBs, RBs, TEs and WRs to come to Dallas/Fort Worth for a string of practices during the off-season.
The other absurd aspects of this rumor are that NFL practices these days are mostly “thud” rehearsals at half speed—-there is no live contact—-and if you have watched the QB drills that are video taped from time to time, Kyler’s effort and precision in those drills is exemplary.
In response to the Huard rumors, Kliff Kingsbury said yesterday” “Kyler shows up every day and competes his tail off and works hard at his craft, and you can see the progression from Year 1 to Year 2.” (see stats that prove this later on)
Finally—-the other irony here is that if any real criticism of the Cardinals’ practices has actual merit is that as an organization over the past few years the Cardinals have been eager and very willing to have players sit out of practices—-there is rumor floating around that the Cardinals agreed to a stipulation in DeAndre Hopkins’ contract extension that he is permitted to take Wednesday practices off.
If that is true—-this creates a precedent and a double standard that can erode the morale of a football team.
Last year the Cardinals were willing to let Terrell Suggs miss minicamps and all of OTAs and then a significant number of practices during the season. How did that work out?
Bickley: “I’ve done a to of digging and a lot of people in the organization aren’t impressed with Murray as a practice player, as a leader, as a QB and as the CEO of the organization.”
What a crock.
Gambo and Bickley may have heard grumblings from a player or two—-but to turn those grumblings into the organization-wide pluralities that Bickley is claiming here is complete and irresponsible hyperbole.
Why is Kyler Murray such a threat to some of his teammates?
Because he wants greater accountability for all the players—-he wants greater commitment—-he wants to do away with the country club culture that for years has prevented the Cardinals from being contenders. if it were up to him, the team would still practice during the bye week. No one was more upset with the disappointing loss at home to the Dolphins after the bye week. It just showed how soft some of the players are—-many of whom are the team’s highest paid veterans.
Last year during training camp, Patrick Peterson tried to advise Kyler as to how to be a good pro, how to be outspoken and how to display the right amount of swag. Kyler wasn’t buying any of it.
Kyler Murray is a threat because he is his own man.
Kyler Murray is a threat because he has his own vision of what a winning culture looks like. When he laments that “I have always won”—-he doesn’t strictly mean that about himself. He means his teams have always won. He understand the sacrifices that teams have to make in order to win. Kyler Murray knows better than anyone—-he can’t win games on his own.
Think of what it must have been like for Kyler Murray to show up to play for the Cardinals and in short oder find himself among two players who were cut from the team just days into training camp due to domestic violence charges—-to learn that another veteran player, who while on seaso- ending IR, bet against the Cardinals with his bookies in Las Vegas—-how the veteran Pro Bowl CB who was advising Kyler how to act like a pro, did not attend any of the OTAs, called the Cardinals’ front office “snakes in the grass” for not agreeing to pay him during his suspension, showed up to training camp, then served his 6 game suspension for taking PEDs while covering it up, who then upon his return was playing at half speed and looking lost in the defense for 5-6 weeks, like two other veterans Murray saw eventually get cut for their lack of effort in D.J. Swearinger and Terrell Suggs.
What Cardinals’ fans can be very excited and thankful about is that Kyler Murray wants this type of dysfunctional culture to change and change now, not tomorrow and not, as he has said, 4-5 years from now.
So yeah—-it would be easy to imagine some players being critical of Kyler.
That shouldn’t surprise or alarm anyone.
Look at how many of the Cardinals highest paid veterans this season are under-performing.
Yet, Kyler is the player taking the hits by the Arizona media.
Kyler has ben trying to out this team on his back and the weight of that has been oppressive.
But—-because Kyler has the courage to stare down the Medusa here—-he represents our biggest hope that one day soon we will see an team that is highly competitive year-in and year-out.
Bickley: to hear Kyler Murray’s press conferences following tough losses he sounds like a baseball player.
That is not only such a low blow below the belt—-it shows how limited Dan Bickley is in understanding a young, star QB like Kyler Murray.
If anything could drive Kyler Murray away from football, it would be the dysfunction of the organization. To him there is no point in playing if the players around him are not making the commitment and sacrifices it takes to vie for championships.
Kyler Murray is not going to give in to losing.
But, what’s encouraging about Kyler is that he could care less about what Bickley and his cabal have to say.
if anyone is equipped to stand tall amidst a maelstrom of criticism, Kyler Murray is. He’s had to prove the naysayers wrong his entire life—-all because of narrow-minded people like Dan Bickley who cannot stand the fact that Kyler doesn’t look like, act or talk like the kind of prototypical QB that he has been pre-dispotioned to envision.
Kyler Murray is not a quitter.
Kyler Murray will never quit on his football dream to win a Super Bowl.
He could have easily left Oklahoma after he was drafted in the top 10 of the MLB draft by the Oakland A’s and was written a check for $5M dollars. He could have been out on his own, living in a nice crib (not student housing in Norman OK) and playing baseball for an exciting organization that has a storied tradition.
Bickley: Is the head coach holding the team back?
- Look at Kyler Murray’s stats after 28 games:
6,709 yards passing, at 65.6 %, 42 TDs, 22 ints., 90.5 QBR, plus
1,209 yards rushing at 6.2 yards per carry, for 14 TDs.
- Look at the offensive improvements from last year to this year.
Total Yards Offense: 2019 21st...2020: 6th
Scoring: 2019: 16th...2020: 9th
Rushing: 2019: 10th...2020: 4th
Passing: 2019: 22nd...2020: 19th
3rd Down %: 2019: 23rd...2020: 13th
Red Zone TD %: 2019: 29th (45.28%)...2020: 1st (75.61%).
Despite inheriting the #32 offense in the NFL when he arrived and despite having no regular off-season this year, the marked improvements that Kliff Kingsbury has made on offense are, without question, advancing the team forward.
When has any of us ever seen the Cardinals have the #1 Red Zone TD percentage in the NFL?
And this HC its holding the team back?
What’s holding the team back more often than not is poor FG kicking in the clutch and the Cardinals’ defense’s tendency to surrender leads right back to the opponents in the 4th quarter.
But—-what many pundits and fans may be over-looking is how Kliff Kingsbury is the first head coach in a long tome to be able to have success working with what Michael Bidwill has described as “players with different personalties.”
I believe Kliff Kingsbury is an ideal coach for Kyler Murray (Kyler has said that he wouldn’t want to play for anyone else)—-but also look at the job Kliff and hisoffensive coaches have done with D.J. Humphries, Justin Pugh, Kenyan Drake and Maxx Williams. They are about as 4 different personalties as a coach is going to find.
Bickley: These reports about Kyler have come “at the worst time imaginable.”
No—-your campaign to take down Kingsbury and Murray come at the worst time imaginable—-just when they could use some patience and some support (the improvements this year are obvious, except to those who are deliberately ignoring them) as the team heads into the most important quarter of the season,
Just so you know, Bickley, its become obvious that you would relish seeing the Cardinals keep losing so that it would help your cause—-but equally disturbing is the anticipation in the event that the Cardinals start winning again, of you actually feeling magnanimous and vain enough to believe that you lit the fire.
What you fail to understand is that Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray are self-starters. Their fires are lit every day.
Just so you know—-Kliff Kingsbury and Kyle Murray could care less about what you and your cabal have to say, largely because no one puts more pressure on them than they themselves do—-and if the Cardinals turn things back in their favor—-it will be a testament to the team’s perseverance and competitive mettle—-which is exactly how Kliff and Kyler would view it—-because after all, it is a team sport.