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Murray on a Mission

Philadelphia Eagles v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Kyler Murray could be the best thing to ever happen for the Arizona Cardinals.

That is —- if the organization, his coaches, his teammates, the media and Cardinals fans allow and encourage him to be.

If you are not willing to try to see the Cardinals’ organization through Kyler Murray’s eyes, then you might never understand Murray as a man, as an elite athlete and, most of all, as a fierce competitor.

You see —- Kyler Murray has been disgusted by the dysfunctional culture that has plagued the Cardinals for decades.

Murray’s disgust was on full display after the Cardinals lost 34-31 at home to the Miami Dolphins the week after their bye week.

Murray had just tried to carry the Cardinals on his back and do everything he could to win the ballgame, passing for 21/26 283 yds., 3 TDs and rushing 11 times for 106 yards and a TD, while taking more direct hits the ever before.

And yet, Murray’s surly and almost despondent post-game demeanor turned a number of media and fans against him. And I can assure you that his remarks turned off some of his teammates, as well. Yes, the kind of teammates an ultra-competitive player does not want on his team.

You might recall that since Kyler Murray arrived as a rookie, he has stated that he would much prefer to keep practices going during the bye week.

Yet, as is often the case with many upstart, young, eager-to-succeed employees of an organization, Kyler Murray inevitably is going to be told by some of his teammates to shut the ef up.

How freakin’ dare he?

So here he was on November 8th and Kyler Murray had just left everything he had on the field (check the hit was willing to take late in this video trying to convert a 3rd and short). While that play came up inches short, and then the Dolphins stuffed Chase Edmonds on 4th and inches to turn the outcome of the game in their favor, Kyler had turned in a Pro Bowl and MVP worthy type of performance.

He could have simply just taken pure satisfaction in his own stellar achievements —- but, no —- Kyler Murray on that day showed us exactly what his priorities are as an NFL football player. No amount of stardom in that bitter 34-31 loss was going to mitigate Kyler’s intense aversion to having to somehow accept the outcome of that game.

Following Kyler’s press conference, many Cardinals’ fans took to Twitter to coin Murray as a spoiled brat, sore loser and pitiful leader —- which the Arizona media piggybacked on to heighten the fans’ disdain for their young, immature, “Gumpy Cat” of a QB.

What so many media and fans under-estimated is how badly Kyler wanted to win that game. In his mind it would have been a splendid way to erase the painful memory of losing his final game as a collegian to Tua Tagovailoa and the Alabama Crimson Tide 45-34 in the FBS Semi-final on December 29, 2018 —- a game in which Kyler passed for 308 yards, 2 TDs and ran for 109 yards and a TD, but was upstaged by Tua’s 24/27, 318, 4 TD passing performance.

Ergo, after Kyler had played a near perfect game versus the Dolphins,, Kyler was met with the overwhelming feeling that he wasn’t going to be able to carry the Cardinals on his own, not when a key number of his teammates, particularly on the other side of the ball, appeared to be unwilling to make the physical and mental sacrifices that winners eagerly provide.

As I mentioned earlier, you have to try to see things through Kyler’s eyes, particularly with regard to the dysfunctional situation that Kyler was drafted into. Imagine what it was like for him to arrive as rookie and learn that the star defensive player of his new team was not only suspended for 6 games for a PED violation and coverup, but that on social media the star player had called the Cardinals’ front office “snakes in the grass” and that the player therefore had no intention to participate in the team’s OTAs.

Imagine what it was like for Kyler to see another star defensive player and local icon recently signed as a free agent elect not to participate in OTAs and then not participate in a number of practices during game weeks, only to play at half speed during the games —- and then have to learn that this star player had told an old teammates that he would never want to “steal” from the Ravens, so he chose to go and “steal from the Cardinals” instead.

Imagine that at Tampa Bay after leading the offense down the field to give the team a lead in the 4th quarter watching that same local icon barely make an effort to rush the opposing QB during what turned out to be the Bucs’ game-winning drive.

At this point in Kyler Murray’s two years and one month in the Cardinals’ organization, he knows about as well as anyone that if the Cardinals’ culture doesn’t change, there is no way that the team is going to win no matter how hard and well he plays.

This past season, Kyler started to urge on his teammates in demonstrative ways that we did not see as a rookie. Unlike the team’s GM at times and a host of Cardinals’ coaches present and past, Kyler did noting will not kowtow to the veterans. Look at how he challenged DeAndre Hopkins, for example. Hopkins said he liked that Kyler stood up to him. Imagine what it must feel like for Kyler to practice on Wednesday without his #1 WR.

So yeah, Kyler Murray is pissed, as well he should be —- and in my opinion, as Cardinals’ fans, we should be extremely grateful that Kyle is pissed and that he is not caving in to the dysfunction and half-assed commitments that he has seen from a number of the complacent veterans on the team.

So this off-season, Kyler goes to a Suns’ game wearing an A’s hat and some Cardinals’ fans are outraged that Kyler isn’t wearing a Suns’ hat instead.

But, why was it so difficult for the fans to understand that Kyler was wearing the A’s hat because the Warriors (who play in Oakland right next to the Colosseum) were in town and Kyler was giving thanks to the A’s for their support and generosity?

The tremendous irony is that we Cardinals’ fans should be thanking the Oakland A’s left and right for allowing Kyler Murray to keep playing football.

These days on Twitter some Cardinals fans are questioning Kyler’s work ethic, leadership and commitment to not only the Cardinals, but to the Arizona sports teams and community.

CardinalsUpdate says he is a big Murray fan (which I believe is true), but he wishes that Murray could be more community oriented. OK, sure, but, few young players at Kyler’s point in his career are going to be able to do for community what J.J. Watt does. One of the reasons why J.J. Watt signed with the Cardinals is his devotion to the Pat Tillman Foundation. Let’s try to remind ourselves that Kyler Murray has been a member of the Arizona Cardinals for 25 months.

The fact that J.J Watt loves Kyler should be exciting for all Cardinals’ fans.

I believe all of the following things about Kyler Murray:

  1. No one wants to see the Cardinals turn over a new leaf and write a unique and exciting new chapter in Cardinals’ history more than Kyler Murray.
  2. This off-season Kyler has made a number of key observations and suggestions very clear to Michael Bidwill, Steve Keim and Kliff Kingsbury as to what it is going to take to turn the Cardinals into a perennial Super Bowl contender.
  3. Kyler’s observations and suggestions have been appreciated more so this year and have been very well heeded by Bidwill, Keim and Kingsbury —- including, Murray’s personnel suggestions, as evidenced on the Cardinals’ Flight Plan during the draft when Keim and Kingsbury noted how pleased Kyler was going to be that they drafted WR Rondale Moore, revealing, “Kyler loves him.”
  4. The Cardinals’ off-season decision to re-define their veteran leadership and to get much more aggressive and physical up front was spawned from conversations with Kyler Murray and Budda Baker.
  5. If the Cardinals do not fix the cultural issues that have been plaguing the organization for ages, no matter how much money they offer Kyler Murray on a 2nd contract, Kyler won’t accept it.
  6. Kyler is never going to sell out for the money. Ever. In terms of contracts, he is going to be very Brady-esque when it comes to his helping his team salary cap-wise —- because Kyler’s top commitment will always be to winning and putting his team in the best possible position to compete for Super Bowl championships.
  7. Kyler’s urgent desire to win and compete for championships is not strictly for gratifying himself and/or for promoting his own brand; it’s for the shared joy of triumph with his teammates. Kyler won the Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma, but do any of you doubt whether he would have traded the Heisman in to see his Sooners with the national championship?
  8. What does it say about Kyler that when asked about winning 2019 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and five times winning NFL Offensive Player of the Week that he sees these honors as a testament to the progress his teammates have made on offense?

Do yourself a favor and go back and watch Kyler’s Heisman acceptance speech —- so that you can ask yourself whether Kyler comes across as a team player. If you think Kyler is all about himself here and feel cynical about his sincerity, then there is probably nothing that I or anyone can say to change your mind.

Let’s understand that Kyler has never been and likely will never be very comfortable talking into a microphone. Nor will he ever be comfortable trying to express the pain he feels when his team loses. If his Dolphins’ post-game press conference turned you off, then go take a look at the 4:40 mark of this post-loss interview following is first collegiate loss at Oklahoma.

Let’s also not forget that after Kyler was drafted #9 in the MLB Draft by the Oakland A’s, with the $5M signing bonus in the bank, he could have easily left college and said goodbye to his days of playing football.

What does it say about Kyler Murray’s love for the game of football and his commitment to the game and his Oklahoma team that he signed up for another year of classes, off-campus housing and around the clock training in order to hold on to the biggest dreams of his life.

As you saw on the video, following a loss, Kyler gets tongue-tied and emotional to the point of looking despondent when he is asked to express his feelings with regard to a tough loss. When the Cardinals drafted this young man, this is who they were drafting.

The great paradox of life is that out greatest strengths can also be interpreted by some as our greatest weaknesses.

Personally, I appreciate and love the fact that my QB takes losing this hard.

Kyler and his Sooners were able to bounce back from their early season loss to Texas and were able to win the Big 12 Championship over Texas —- which propelled the Sooners into the #4 seed in the 2018 FBS Final Four.

If the Cardinals fix their questionable practice habits and the quality of their leadership, then they could bounce back big-time from the very disappointing finish to thei 2020 season.

Losing football games is always going to choke up Kyler Murray and put him at a loss for words —- which is why he could be the best thing that ver happened to the Arizona Cardinals, — because it is not in Kyler’s DNA to accept defeat — ever.