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Picking Up K1 and K2

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Imagine if you and every one of us was assessed to the point of being stigmatized by how we performed something for the first or second time.

  • Like the first time you tried to ride a bicycle...
  • Like the second time you went on a date....
  • Like the first time you took the SATs...

This week marked the fsecond time that Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury participated in the national phenomenon called “Monday Night Football.”

Cynics and staunch critics might say, “yeah, but they have played in a handful of other prime time games.”

—- but MNF is different challenge altogether. Just ask John Madden.

Not only are the spotlights the brightest on MNF, it typically draws the largest national audience, and the most difficult challenge for players and coaches is in handling the long wait over the weekend and through the entire day on Monday, to finally be able to suit up and play.

You are Cardinals’ fans —- what was the entire day of Monday like for you this week?

For me, it felt like the longest day of the year —- and to be honest, as I alluded to on the Red Rain podcast, I was a bundle of nerves all day. The anxiety kept mounting by every minute, and each hour.

Thus, it didn’t surprise me at all that at times the Cardinals struggled versus such a quality opponent —- not for lack of effort, per se, but for looking a little more anxious than normal.

Yet, despite the Cardinals’ historic success thus far this season, after the Cardinals’ gut-wrenching and frustrating 30-23 loss, national and local critics came out of the woodwork to deem Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury as abject failures who couldn’t handle the bright lights of Monday Night Football.

azcentral.com devoted two articles this week to do nothing more than quote Kyler’s and Kliff’s venom spewing detractors in the national and local media —- providing a litany of pot shots and denigrations. Here is a taste:

From azcentral’s “Kliff Kingsbury Slammed...”

https://www.azcentral.com/story/sports/nfl/cardinals/2021/12/14/arizona-cardinals-kliff-kingsbury-slammed-loss-los-angeles-rams/8892377002/

Here are some of the tweets that were cherry picked:

What a colossal piling on this is.

Did you have any problem with Kliff trying to score the TD and not the FG first?

I didn’t.

I wasn’t swayed by the ESPN crew who thought Kingsbury should kick the 56 yard FG first.

Were you?

Yes, the failed TD drive took too much time —- but that’s the calculated risk one takes.

But the Cardinals now down 30-23, still had a chance.

The on-side kick was a work of art.

The crusher was the phantom holding penalty on LG Sean Harlow.

And for sure, no one can still understand why Kyler didn’t spike the ball to set up a Hail Murray.

But, Kyler must have thought they were better off snapping the ball without spiking it first.

Would it be a surprise to think that Kyler was hoping to catch Aaron Donald flat-footed on the snap?

Problem was, most of Kyler’s teammates thought he was going to spike the ball.

This was now the 2nd last play miscommunication involving Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury in their prime time games.

Even so, these are the kinds of mistakes that come with inexperience, particularly when coaches and players get caught up in the emotions of the moment.

However, do these mistakes justify the kind of stigmas some pundits and fans keep trying to pin on Kyler and Kliff?

Again, this was their first taste of MNF.

And, curiously, one name is never brought up in these Kliff and Kyler slams —- Aaron Donald. The impact that #99 had one the outcome of this game was ginormous. 15 QB pressures to go with Von Miller’s 9 QB pressures.

Imagine if Donald was on the Cardinals. How do you this game would have gone for Sean McVay and Matthew Stafford? How did it go for them the first time around when JJ Watt was getting in Stafford’s face?

When a player dominated the way Aaron Donald did in this game, it speeds up everyone’s clock.

The fact that the Cardinals kept on fighting and clawing under such intense duress to the tune of amassing close to 500 yards of total offense deserves praise, not ridicule.

Yes, the offense made some tough mistakes that wound up being pivotal. But, how about giving the Rams a little credit for that?

And now, what azcentral wanted all of us to know is that Kyler is being accused of merely being a “stat bandit” while running an “impotent” office.

From Fox Sports Radio host Ben Mailer: (https://www.azcentral.com/story/sports/nfl/cardinals/2021/12/15/arizona-cardinals-kyler-murray-called-out-national-radio-host/8908772002/)

“I’ve heard a lot of chatter also, a lot of chatter about Kyler Murray for MVP, the little guy, MVP,” Maller said. “Can we now put the kibosh on the Kyler Murray MVP campaign for this year, thank you very much. Kyler Murray and the Cardinal offense, when they were in scoring situations, was impotent pretty much the entire night, working as a stat bandit …A lot of empty yards, the stat bandit. The Rams had a 14-point lead going into the fourth quarter and Kyler Murray piled on those garbage yards. 156 passing yards to fatten up the stat sheet in the fourth quarter.

“Cardinals didn’t score enough. And when the game was in the balance, he wilted under pressure. The moment was too big. Kyler took a ride on the vomit comet. He finished with as many touchdown passes as I had and you had. We had the same amount as Kyler Murray. Oh, but he also had two more interceptions and a fumble! Wow! What a great night! Sign me up for some of that.”

Let me ask you this —- is the Chargers’ talented young QB Justin Herbert receiving this kind of slamming, name calling and vitriol after the mistakes he made last night versus the Chiefs?

Why is that?

Why is there such venom when it comes to Kyler Murray?

Why does azcentral feel that it has to put out a poll to gauge how much criticism Kyler Murray deserves for his performance Monday night?

Especially after Kliff Kingsbury told the media following the loss that he has “never been so proud” of the effort and determination that Kyler putt forth in this game.

I was so proud of Kyler’s effort. Weren’t you?

Not only is Aaron Donald conveniently left out of the conversation by these critics and snarks, so is the fact that this was Kyler’s second taste of Monday Night Football, playing under constant in his face pressure in just his 2nd game in 6 weeks, while playing on an ankle that still gets sore after he puts some exertion on it.

Some of the plays that Kyler made in this game were absolutely sensational.

Like this one:

How about this one?

Look at how hard Kyler is fighting to try to get the Cardinals back in this game.

How many QBs on the planet can make this kind of play?

This poll was voted on mostly before last night’s game —-

Were you surprised to see Justin Herbert ahead by a landslide?

Why is it that Kyler’s tipped pass interception by Aaron Donald into the arms of Ernest Jones, was called a “boneheaded mistake” by so many pundits and fans?

That quick post to Ertz has worked for Kyler and Ertz and while the window was tight, the TD was there for the making if the pass gets through.

Aaron Donald made a great play.

Yet, in reading about Justin Herbert’s mistakes last night, the word “boneheaded” has never come up thus far at least in the numerous articles and fan tweets that I have read —- all I keep seeing is the suggestion that at 6’-6 “maybe Herbert should not throw so many passes side-armed.

Why is Kyler the boneheaded one?

And by the way, Herbert didn’t have to play against All Pro DT Chris Jones last night.

Now —- I think very highly of Justin Herbert. It isn’t as if he’s played in many prime time games and at times last night his inexperience cropped up. But, the Chiefs also made great plays ands they deserve a ton of credit for stopping three Chargers’ drives in the end zone.

I voted for Kyler Murray in Brett Kollmann’s poll because yes, I am biased to a degree, but I was voting for the Cardinals to draft Kyler Murray from the very moment Kliff Kingsbury was hired because Kyler Murray, in my opinion, is the most dynamic, multi-talented QB I have ever seen in college and now in the pros.

I have a great deal of respect for the professional and diligent ways that Kliff Kingsbury has developed a much needed esprit de corps among his staff (most of whom he never met before they were interviewed) and his players (in particular Kyler Murray), who, to a man believe, to quote D.J. Humphries, “if you are against them (coaches), you are against us (players).”

And —- isn’t that the point?

After taking the worst team in the NFL in 2018 to being tied for the best record (10-3) in the NFL in 2021 after 13 games, isn’t it time for the Cardinals’ media and hyper-critical fans to show Kyler and Kliff their full-fledged support?

I am not saying that K1 and K2 are by any means beyond criticism —- none of us are. But, to take the criticism to hyperbolic lengths seemingly every time they lose a game feels excessive and hurtful.

I am not one to stand by and see my coach and my QB get slammed in ridiculous and absurd ways.

Yesterday, I felt compelled to push back. Today, the same.

What Kyler, Kliff and the Cardinals need is a little more of this:

And this:

Thank you and kudos to you, Gambo!

As for the whole Coach of the Year and NFL MVP hype —- you know that isn’t coming from Kliff and Kyler.

In fact, when asked about NFL COTY, Kliff recently said they should just name the award after Bill Belichick. Think about how selfless that is coming from a head coach who had to hear all summer long that he had better make the playoffs or he should be fired and forever thought of as a loser head coach.

As for Kyler, he could give two sugars about being the MVP. When he gets the nod for NFC OPOTW, he defers the praise to his teammates. With Kyler, there is only one thing that matters and that is winning games.

Do you appreciate that about Kyler?

While we cannot control the venom that comes from some local and national media figures, what we can do as staunch and appreciative Cardinals’ fans is lift up our coach and our QB after they get knocked down and not kick them in the ribs instead. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t point out what they can learn from mistakes, but there are constructive ways of doing that without piling on. Aren’t there?