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Parallel Paths: Patrick and Kyler

When one takes a close look at the paths that QBs Patrick Mahomes and Kyler Murray have taken to the NFL, there are a number of uncanny parallels:

  • Texas high school stars/legends in football—-top level NFL prospects.
  • Texas high school stars in baseball—-top level MLB prospects.
  • Sons of top level athletes, turned coaches.
  • Sons of bi-racial marriages.
  • Dual threat QBs who can manipulate the pocket, extend plays and connect downfield.
  • Rocket arms.
  • Can contort their bodies like shortstops to make off-balance throws with mustard and impressive accuracy.
  • Modest, unselfish, engaging, team-oriented players.

Most obvious differences:

  • Patrick is 4-5” taller.
  • Kyler is faster.
  • As an NFL rookie, Patrick had a redshirt year behind Alex Smith.
  • As an NFL rookie, Kyler started all 16 games.
  • Patrick, in his 4th year, has his team winning and playing at the highest of levels.
  • Kyler, in his 2nd year, is in the process of trying to turn the Cardinals into winners.
  • Patrick was drafted by a playoff team—-and plays for a HOF worthy NFL head coach.
  • Kyler was drafted by a team with the worst record in the NFL in 2018—-and plays for a 2nd year NFL head coach.

One Has to Wonder...

  • How the Chiefs might have done in the 2017 playoffs if they had started Patrick Mahomes. (They lost in the Wild Card round at home to the Titans 22-21)
  • How Oklahoma might have done in 2017 had they started Kyler Murray. (As the #2 seed, they lost to Georgia, the #3 seed in the BCS semis at the Rose Bowl, 54-48)

I elaborated on Patrick and Kyler’s common denominators in a previous article (January 12, 2020), titled “What Kyler Can Learn From Patrick,” if you want to revel in the details:

After watching Patrick Mahomes lead the Chiefs last night to their impressive 34-20 win over the Texans in the first game of the 2020 NFL season—-at this point in the article I would like to focus on something/someone else whom Patrick and Kyler have in common:

Kliff Kingsbury

As many college football fans know, Kliff Kingsbury put on a full court press to try to recruit Kyler Murray and Patrick Mahomes to Texas Tech.

As fate would have it, Kingsbury was able to get a commitment from Patrick, but Kyler decided to go to his dad’s alma mater, Texas A&M, instead.

Kyler’s decision to go to Texas A&M turned out to be a mistake—-the Aggies had over-recruited at the QB position and the coaching staff under head coach Kevin Sumlin screwed the whole thing up royally in its indecision over which 5 star high school QB prospect to play (Kyle Allen or Kyler Murray) and, even worse, how to properly communicate their plan (or lack thereof) to the players.

Following Kyler’s tumultuous freshman year at A&M he transferred to Oklahoma, where he had to sit out his first year per the NCAA transfer rules and then he had to spend another year on the sidelines as the backup to Baker Mayfield.

Somehow, some way, when Kyler was then drafted by the Oakland A’s as the #9 pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, he convinced the A’s to let him play one more year of college football.

It remains virtually unthinkable that the most heralded, most successful QB in the history of Texas’ famed “Friday Night Lights” high school football tradition—-would wind up being a starting college QB for just one year.

It is also unthinkable to think that had Kyler Murray given up football to go begin his MLB career with the A’s—-he would have never been a full-time starting QB in college football.

Sometimes that’s how precarious that some players’ career paths are.

Thus, it also remains astounding that in Kyler’s one year as a starting college QB he won the Heisman Trophy and led Oklahoma to the Final 4 of the BCS Championship.

The main reason why Murray was so successful in his one year as a starter at Oklahoma was that he was playing within a structure that provided him with an ideal head coach and offensive system (OK’s Air Raid) while surrounded with a solid offensive line and prolific set of skill players.

Of course, Patrick Mahomes’ college experience was drastically different than Kyler’s. As a freshman at Texas Tech, Patrick was the backup to Davis Webb, but wound up playing in 7 games and starting the last three after Webb was sidelined with injuries.

Patrick was the main man in Lubbock for his sophomore and junior years, passing for 9,705 yards and a whopping 77 TDs, including his NCAA record 734 yard passing performance versus—-who would have guessed it?—-Oklahoma—-on October 22, 2016.

While Patrick wasn’t able to win any championships at Texas Tech, his experience playing for Kliff Kingsbury in Kingsbury’s K-Raid was a boon for a number of different reasons. There were games where Patrick knew that he had to try to score every time the offense touched the ball in order to have a chance to win the game—-like Kurt Warner had to do more often than not while with the Cardinals, as he most famously did when he out-dueled Aaron Rodgers on January 10, 2010 when he completed 29 of 33 passes for 379 yards and threw for 5 TDs in a 51–45 victory.

There is no question that Patrick Mahomes learned how to sustain a laser-type of focus throughout each possession of a football game while at Texas Tech. But, at the same time, he was playing for a head coach and in a style of offense that encouraged him to be creative and gutsy.

In certain ways, being encouraged to be creative and to take risks is the ultimate boon (career-wise) for any college student, let alone college athlete.

Moreover, the lessons that Patrick learned from his head coach about leading by example, about being unselfish, about feeling free to wear his immense love for the game on his sleeve and about always keeping the experience fun and exhilarating were invaluable.

Think then of how miraculously fortuitous it was for Patrick Mahomes to be passed along from Kliff Kingsbury to Andy Reid.

You could not possibly hand pick a better NFL coach for Patrick Mahomes than Andy Reid—-for basically all of the reasons why it was a boon for Patrick to play for Kliff—-except this time around, Patrick is able to contend for championships because of the strength of the Chiefs’ entire roster.

Think for minute how much alike Andy Reid and Kliff Kingsbury are—-with particular regard to their love for innovative, highly creative play calling and in their modest, wryly humorous, fun-loving, personable and nurturing approach to coaching.

Therefore—-the syllogism is complete when we consider how miraculously fortuitous it was for Kyler Murray to be passed along from Lincoln Riley to Kliff Kingsbury.

I always try to be careful when I use the term “miraculous”—-because it can only be applied in special cases.

Miracles are not necessarily things that would appear virtually impossible to happen—-miracles are miracles because of the timing of when they occur.

For example, the Red Sea actually does dry up on occasion—-but the fact that it dried up at just the precise time when the Moses and the Israelites needed it to in order to escape from the Pharoah’s army—-now that’s why this is called “The Red Sea Miracle.”

As applied to Patrick and Kyler—-think about this—-how often does it happen that a playoff team with a good veteran QB like Alex Smith is able to leap up from the 27th pick to the 10th pick in the draft to draft a franchise QB who would turn out to be the NFL MVP two years later and the Super Bowl MVP three years later—-traded from a Bills team that actually needed a franchise QB at the time. Imagine where the Bills might be right now if they had made Mahomes their guy.

As for Kyler and Kliff—-it may go down down as one of NFL Draft miracles of all-time—-if not the most stunning one. Think about this—-the pairing of Kliff and Kyler took a series of miracles in order for it to materialize—-Bruce Arians’ retirement—-Steve Wilks’ rare “one-and-done” tenure as head coach——Kliff Kingsbury being fired by his alma mater (when his team with Alan Bowman, a hot freshman QB, who, alas, got injured in the tight, seesaw contest, came within a whisker of upsetting Murray and Oklahoma which would have more likely led to a contract extension for Kingsbury rather than a firing—-and likely would have cost Murray the Heisman Trophy)—-to Kingsbury saying to the national media the day before the Oklahoma game that “if I had the 1st pick in the NFL Draft, I would take Kyler Murray”—-to the Cardinals having the courage and imagination to hire a college coach who was fired because of a subpar 35-40 record—-to the Cardinals having the 1st pick in the NFL Draft for the 1st time since 1945 when they were the Chicago Cardinals (when they selected RB Charlie Trippi from Georgia)—-to the prescience and unprecedented audacity to draft a QB in the 1st round in consecutive years—-going all-in with the new QB and trading the other.

Yes—-and now—-the miracle that Cardinals’ fans across the USA and planet earth are hoping for—-perhaps more than any other?

if and when the parallel paths of Patrick Mahomes and Kyler Murray just so happen to intersect—-at a Super Bowl.

Which, no doubt, might go down in history as the “Red Sea Miracle” Part II.

Patrick Mahomes’ Accolades (per Wikipedia)

Kyler Murray’s Accolades (per Wikipedia)

Ryan Clark’s assertion that Kyle Murray is a mini-Patrick Mahomes: