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Sooners on Speed Dial: Trae and Kyler

When I was a boy in the 1960s and early 1970s, I picked the St. Louis Cardinals as my favorite football team (thanks to #8 Larry Wilson), the Oakland A’s as my favorite baseball team (thanks to #27 Catfish Hunter, #26 Joe Rudi and #9 Reggie Jackson) and the Atlanta Hawks as my favorite basketball team (thanks to #44 “Pistol” Pete Maravich).

I have remained a loyal fan of the Cardinals, A’s and Hawks ever since.

During this time, I have reveled and rejoiced in watching the A’s win 4 World Series Championships in 1972. 1973, 1974 and 1989.

As a Cardinals’ fan, I had the privilege of watching them hoist the Halas Trophy (NFC Championship) which led to their only Super Bowl berth in 2008 and then a second NFC Championship game in 2015.

As a Hawks’ fan, I now have the privilege of watching them play in the Eastern Conference Finals for the second time (2015 Hawks with Paul Millsap, Al Horford and Kyle Korver got swept by LeBron James and the Cavs).

These days, I have been fascinated by the synchronicities of a curious kind on Venn diagram of my three favorite teams.

When Kyler Murray was selected by the Oakland A’s with the #9 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft I was very excited. To be honest, I was not happy to learn that the A’s were allowing Kyler to continue to play football at Oklahoma. But, I was fascinated to see how he would perform as the successor to Baker Mayfield in the Sooners’ high-octane offense under head coach Lincoln Riley.

Upon watching Kyler Murray play QB, it did not take me long to cast aside my dream of watching him play centerfield in green and gold with the dream of watching Kyler Murray play quarterback in Cardinal red and white,

The A’s have an exciting young team that is doing just fine with Ramon Laureano and Mark Canha in centerfield.

The Hawks, with Trae Young at point guard, are well ahead of schedule in Trae’s third season. In fact, when Nate McMillan was appointed interim head coach, the Hawks were 14-20 and couldn’t seemingly play a lick of defense. Amazingly, McMillan got the team on a 27-11 roll and now, thanks to a combined five wins on the road versus the Knicks and 76ers, and an 8-4 record thus far in the playoffs, the Hawks find themselves in the NBA’s Final Four with the Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers and the Milwaukee Bucks. How many pundits would have picked that Final Four at the beginning of the season? How cool is that!

The common denominators between Trae Young and Kyler Murray are numerous: both were born in Texas, both have dads who were star athletes at Texas colleges, both were their state’s high school players of the year in their sports, both were unanimous 1st Team All-Americans in college (while playing only one full year), both have been questioned about their lack of ideal size, in light of playing contact sports, both have been tagged at times as unconventional, big stat guys who likely wouldn’t be able to win in professional sports, both have an affinity for donning the number one (Trae wears #11 and Kyler wears #1) and of course, they are good friends because they both earned their college fame at the University of Oklahoma.

Furthermore, Trae Young and Kyler Murray were drafted by teams that were having to start all over from scratch a few years after the fallout of losing conference championship games in 2015 with veteran-laden rosters.

The Inevitable Criticism:

Check out this article about the criticism Trae Young received his first two years in the NBA:

https://www.sportscasting.com/some-fans-think-trae-young-is-being-unfairly-criticized/

Sound familiar?

This weekend I took to Twitter to continue to try to point out factual evidence as to why at this point in Kyler’s career, he deserves more credit:

Fact: Kyler has as many regular season wins (13) in his first two seasons as Patrick Mahomes. did. Sure Mahomes only started one game his rookie season, but he inherited a playoff team with superstar All Pro receivers in TE Travis Kelce and WR Tyreek Hill.

I think that people tend to under-estimate how difficult it is for a QB to be drafted #1 by the worst team in the NFL.

@WBJMItch Jun 19

#1 Pick QBs wins 1st 2 seasons (2001-2020) Andrew Luck (22), Cam Newton (13), Kyler Murray (13), Baker Mayfield (12), Eli Manning (12), Jared Goff (11), Michael Vick (9), Alex Smith (9), Sam Bradford (8), David Carr (7), JaMarcus Russell (6), Carson Palmer (6), Matthew Stafford (3).

The Learning and Growth Process:

Listen to what Trae Young said after his first season in the NBA. Plus, he offers his opinion that Kyler Murray should opt to play in the NFL.

Kyler, after year one, was on the same path: (and remains so)

https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/29657311/how-cardinals-qb-kyler-murray-got-bigger-stayed-fast-year-2

Both Young and Murray Hindered By Pandemic:

Last year Trae Young was livid about the the Hawks being one of the teams that were not invited to “The NBA Bubble”, so much so that he lobbied for creating a bubble for the teams that were left out.

Look at what The Bubble did to help the Suns position themselves for their impressive playoff run this season.

As we know, the Cardinals and Kyler Murray came within a whisker of making the 2020 playoffs in just his second season. The end of Kyler’s season was in some ways just as frustrating as the end of Trae’s second season.

But, as is the case with Trae Young and his upstart Hawks winning 5 road games in the playoffs thus far, one of Kyler’s main accomplishments to date has been his ability to win key road games at Seattle, San Francisco, Dallas and New York.

As the Cardinals’ football version of a playmaking point guard, Kyler Murray in his third season has a chance to help lead his team on a playoff run the way Trae Young has done in his third season with Hawks.

Trae Young and Kyler Murray would be the first to outline for everyone the areas (both physically and mentally) in which they are working very diligently to improve. in Kyler’s case, he has said repeatedly this off-season that he and the team need to get better at mastering the day to day details of the game plans.

Like every young QB, Kyler needs to improve his ability to read defenses, to hit his receivers more consistently on time and in stride, to avoid turnovers and drive-ending sacks, to pick his spots as a runner, to avoid contact as much as he can and to execute more nuanced plays like screen passes and QB draws. Kyler also need to do a better job of not letting his frustration get the better of him. for his sake and the team’s.

Most of all, it would be great if Kyler Murray could get the Cardinals’ offense back into the up-tempo mode because of the way it can tire out the opposing defenses in the 4th quarters. That’s why the Hawks have been winning. Teams are getting gassed trying to chase Trae Young all over the court. Just ask Ben Simmons who worked his tail off to guard Trae, which is one of the reasons why Simmons wasn’t much of a factor on offense late in games. I think that is a point that has been largely overlooked.

As a former basketball coach, I made the mistake once in a New England Championship semi-finals game of putting my top scorer, Dennis Milner, on the opponent’s best player, Joe Wolf. Dennis held Wolf to a season-low 14 points, but Dennis, a 58% shooter during the season, missed all three shots to give us the lead at the end of the game.

Trae Young was having his worst shooting game of the playoffs in game 7 versus the 76ers ( at one point he was 1 for 12), but he was still delivering dimes on assists and in the fourth quarter he scored ten clutch points when the team needed it most.

After the game, Trae handed his jersey to his dad, Rayford Young. as a Father’s Day gift. In yet another curious synchronicity (this time with Cardinals’ HC Kliff Kingsbury), Trae was born in Lubbock where his dad starred on the Texas Tech basketball team.

The synchronous point is this: as far and skill, playmaking and physical abilities go, Trae Young and Kyler Murray possess transcendent skills and insatiable, competitive desires, ones which can help put their teams on a speed-dial toward success.