Earlier this week, a bombshell report from one of the NFL’s most intrepid reporters, Chris Mortenson dropped before the Super Bowl that shed some light on what seems to be a tumultuous offseason behind the scenes in Arizona relating to their Quarterback in Kyler Murray.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ve assuredly seen this tweet by now but just in case...
Where’s it headed?— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) February 13, 2022
Despite the acrimony, the Cardinals expect things to calm down and Murray is their QB.
Select veterans hope to reach Murray on how he handle adversity better.
Coach Kliff Kingsbury also is self-scouting where he can provide better alternatives for QB.
This followed up a strange amount of speculation given Murray deleted his Instagram photos
Let’s take a look at the 3 big takeaways from this report and how it may affect the Cardinals and their quarterback for 2022:
#1. With how many Quarterbacks have moved teams and made Super Bowls, or demanded trades/rumored to have wanted them, the spotlight is brighter than ever on disgruntled signal callers
One of the most interesting takeaways from this week was how immediately the assumed nature asked about Murray deleting all of the pictures “of him in a Cardinals uniform” was tied to disappointment with the team. Later it was pointed out that it was ALL content save for his Pro Bowl and Heisman pictures. Which shows that it wasn’t a total scrub, but it was interesting as to how that narrative of “in a Cardinals uniform” spread.
As many mentioned, forget that photos of his dog were gone, what mattered were the NFC Pro Bowl jersey (the latest one taken) and his Heisman winning post.
He was, however, not the only former Oklahoma University player to have had a recent Instagram scrub.
To compare, Marquise Brown (one of Murray’s former college teammates, unrelatedly?) also scrubbed his account, and there weren’t any Ravens photos. It let to similar speculation but surprisingly, the “rumor” was rather retirement for a gaming career that spread like wildfire.
"Marquise Brown is retiring to play video games!"— Tom Downey (@WhatGoingDowney) February 16, 2022
A story in 4 parts pic.twitter.com/QlPLfWOWV3
Mortenson’s report didn’t say that Murray was angry with, exploring options, etc.
Rather the phrase used was an “Odd Vibe” and “frustrated with the franchise and embarrassed with the playoff loss”. Which isn’t surprising with how the season ended but doesn’t mean that he was going to start pushing up “possible destinations” like Russell Wilson’s camp did with Adam Schefter last year.
This situation is noticably from Brown’s story where the main rumor that stuck was that he was going to become a video game streamer.
Why one and not the other with teams clamoring for Brown?
Answer is: because Murray is a Quarterback.
It’s easy to look at Deshaun Watson’s trade request, Tom Brady leaving the Patriots as a free agent, Matthew Stafford’s trade request and the success that they have had with new teams.
It means that part of the “drama” that ensues from a Quarterback changing teams is the “hope” that a team that is just a QB away can make something happen. There was very little traction for Brown or the idea that “Murray and Brown are scrubbing together” which is an interesting window to NOT read into despite the fact the pair are close and even hang out together (if we’re already making assumptions, right?)
Which is part of what drove the story even further. The idea of the Cardinals as a bad organization has been a league narrative for a while, even as the team has improved, people have seemingly wondered.
Point being: even if you are not 100% tied to your organization, any sign that you might not be will be pounced on due to the nature of the NFL
#2. The lone positive in all of this...Kyler wants to win football games. Badly.
Opening with a positive because there’s not much else to take away from a report like this, and that positive is something that hasn’t been seen is that Kyler Murray was embarrassed by the playoff loss to the Rams and is frustrated.
Clearly, he’s also been frustrated with himself as he has openly said that he expected to play well in the game and that his goal is to win Super Bowls (plural emphasis). That’s a high standard, and maybe some humility is in order after the humbling end to the Cardinals’ season.
But the alternative is a quarterback who doesn’t care or is in it for glory, a paycheck or simply the love of the game detached from the final score. And there have been talented quarterbacks in the NFL who haven’t had the same sort of passion. Jay Cutler comes to mind in Chicago, and I’ll never forget the story of a former NFL starting quarterback who didn’t last long after hearing reports of them working out with a player and calling a practice early. They went on to leave the league and have been successful since but the game of football was a sport played versus a game to win.
It’s encouraging, I think, if JUST in this regard: that the Cardinals are historically 30th in the NFL in winning percentage, only ahead of the Jaguars and Buccaneers as only winning .428 of the games they’ve played.
Having a quarterback who didn’t look at an 11-6 record with a poor exit from the wild card round and saw it as a decent season is a good first step for the franchise.
#3. If Murray’s pointing the finger doesn’t include improving and fixing his own game, there will be issues
This is probably the most obvious of the different points, and it’s certainly something that ing that will bear watching as Murray has been arguably...the most accomplished young quarterback the Cardinals have had in quite some time:
Kyler Murray among 39 qualified QBs in 2021 (includes playoffs, PFF):— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) February 15, 2022
Passing grade: 87.5 (No. 5)
Yards per attempt: 7.6 (No. 6)
Completion rate: 68.3% (No. 3)
Big-time throw rate: 7.8% (No. 1)
Turnover-worthy play rate: 2.2% (No. 4)
Also world-beating rusher. BuT bOdY lAngUaGe
As for if it can get worse, well...it is hard to find it getting much better right now.
Best Quarterback Ratings in Cardinals franchise history (min. 4 starts)— Mac (@azsportsfien) February 15, 2022
1) Kyler Murray: 93.9
2) Kurt Warner: 91.9
3) Carson Palmer: 91.1
4) Kevin Kolb: 83.2
But in the grand scheme of context, there’s no excusing that Murray’s improvement is something that needs to be on the table, more than just the talent around him.
We saw multiple interceptions that were on him in 2021.
There were times he made sacks worse trying to make a play.
Some of the reads killed drives (and some extended them to be sure)
And there’s also the factor of drama being something that’s followed Murray ever since his collegiate days. First, the transfer from Texas A&M to Oklahoma, and then the leaving of an MLB career for the NFL after a somewhat bizarre Dan Patrick Interview and a reported reputation of him being a “not my fault” kind of guy.
We’ve also seen him be well-liked & show leadership on tape, but being a quiet guy whose approach and work ethic is very internal versus external (you don’t improve statistically where he did in the intermediate range as a passer without identifying weaknesses and working to get better) and that’s something that isn’t normal in the NFL.
If Kyler Murray was a selfish finger pointing jerk...would he really have shown improvement in the NFL? Most players who are reticent to change are quickly exposed and humiliated and end up out of the league. Perhaps that could pertain to the second half slides...but it’s far more likely that Murray’s talent doesn’t supercede his work ethic and study THAT much where he has gotten better each year.
The alternative to getting better and not improving is...getting worse. No one in their right mind would say that’s been the case.
It might take some time, but Kyler Murray’s approach might simply be one that is so atypical for NFL Quarterbacks that in order to lead, you have to recognize that being static and firm will only lead to breaking.
Like his inspiration, Bruce Lee, Murray might need to survive by bending like a reed in the wind. Him fitting more of the “typical NFL quarterback mold” as far as leadership goes may certainly be part of that, and as many who followed Larry Fitzgerald might say, he went through a similar humbling and molding from the “one trick pony” as Todd Haley called him to moving into the slot and being one of the best blockers in the NFL to help his team compete.
#4. The anonymously sourced report about Murray being an immature finger-pointer came from someone who was LIKEWISE being an immature finger-pointer
The main response many people had to Mortenson’s tweet about Murray being an immature, self-centered, finger-pointer was for him to “grow up”.
Likewise, I think it’s important to look at how the person who leaked this report to the media was just as immature, self-centered and finger-pointing.
Many people’s response to leaks might be looking at someone hoping to push or change their franchise quarterback into a different leadership mold. However, when it comes to demonstrating that same leadership, what we got instead was a leak complaining about Kyler Murray from someone who didn’t even put their name on it.
And it was even seen as “odd” from the people closest to Murray as well:
spoke to a few of Kyler’s teammates at Radio Row (including Hopkins) — and they all spoke very highly of him. the sentiments were the same: a healthy Cardinals team and Murray at QB = Super Bowl.— Ashley Nicole Moss (@AshNicoleMoss) February 14, 2022
very odd report and contradictory to the vibes of a handful of his teammates https://t.co/gDvAxgNWRT
...That’s almost the height of hypocrisy and it stinks to high heaven of similar immaturity.
If you want your franchise quarterback to become a leader, then either put your name on it, say it to their face or stand forth in the media and go on record with it.
If it’s a challenge that’s needed to be taken publicly and the goal is to get the quarterback to respond, then if they don’t you will be vindicated, no?
It speaks to a growing amount of cacophony and issues within the Cardinals as an organization, as the organization themselves definitely played a part in the downfall of Arizona’s season.
Putting all the blame on Murray and saying “he thinks he’s a scapegoat and it wasn’t his fault” means that...you yourself are making him a scapegoat and not accepting responsibility, no?
Just like two children squabbling over a toy or whose fault it was, the Cardinals are in a difficult situation given that they don’t seem to have a mature enough front office/coaching staff that can handle things behind closed doors. Heck, perhaps Murray’s Instagram escapade led to this information leak (and made it far worse, including leading to a rebuttal from Murray himself) or this news being leaked at some point led to some of the frustration Mortenson mentioned.
When it’s a team sports and one body, the pieces need vision and to flow together, just like a regular body. A right hand that is constantly tearing at the left knee isn’t able to go anywhere.
As some have speculated, this doesn’t make sense to be coming from Kliff Kingsbury as it would be working against what he is doing as a coach to develop Murray and undercuts his ability to help develop said quarterback:
Maybe most odd is that Kliff and Kyler share an agent.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) February 13, 2022
So if it isn’t from teammates and isn’t from coaching (or directly from Kliff anyway) then it’s probably coming from the front office.
And if it is, then GM Steve Keim either has been part of the sourcing or it’s someone under him in his front office who’s been part of the leaks and privy to conversation enough where Mortenson would run with this as a major story.
It shows a lack of tact or if there are issues, a lack of transparency as neither Keim nor Kliff have put out any other comments to media but players have to their sources.
No one seems on the same page.
And likewise, neither will Arizona unless they are able to identify and push for leadership and accountability in all areas, not just at quarterback.
The problem is, with the 2021 season’s collapse and the lack of extensions for Keim and Kingsbury and Kyler, it might be too little too late to mend things without a winning season in 2022.