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The Package Deal

Arizona Cardinals Introduce Kyler Murray Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

One of the most interesting questions that has come up with regard to sports agent Erik Burkhardt’s role in managing to get two of his top clients, Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray lucrative 5+ year contract extensions, is whether Burkhardt did a brilliant job —- or not.

In terms of getting the deal done, particularly in light of of Michael Bidwill’s timetable, one would be compelled to say, yes, Burkhardt did a fabulous job.

But, what could be of concern is how both Kingsbury’s and Murray’s extensions came at a cost —- which makes the signings, to some, feel like a pyrrhic victory.

The Arizona Cardinals, at 8-2, were at the top of the NFL universe after 12 weeks during the 2021 NFL season —-

At that time, Kyler Murray was near the top of the NFL MVP conversation, as was Kliff Kingsbury for NFL Coach of the Year.

But it was at that time, when Erik Burkhardt used his social media platforms to promote the University of Oklahoma’s purported interest in hiring Kliff Kingsbury as Lincoln Riley’s successor.

Sure —- that's an agent doing his job.

But, the question is whether an agent should consider what the effects of such promotions could mean to the momentum of the coach’s team, particularly during the middle of the season?

Like one of the famous lines in T.S. Eliot’s mangus opus, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock:

“Do I dare disturb the universe?”

The facts are —- since that fateful day when Burkhardt drew national attention to Oklahoma’s interest in Kliff Kingsbury, the Cardinals sank to 3-5 and blew a 3 game lead in the NFC West with Kyler Murray going 2-4 down the stretch.

By the end of the season, neither Murray nor Kingsbury were on any pundit’s top 10 for MVP and COY rankings.

One could claim, hey, the fallout was inevitable and thus it was just coincidence that the Cardinals downward spiral occurred right after the Kingsbury-to-Oklahoma distraction.


But, then let’s take this a step further.

Within a week of the Cardinals’ season ending loss to the Rams, Erik Burkhardt wanted to make sure that Kyler Murray’s contract situation would be the talk of Super Bowl week and the NFL’s off-season.

Kudos to Burkhardt —- it worked to a charm. When the Derek Carr and Deshaun Watson deals came in, Burkhardt ripped up his original offer and in the end, wound up getting more money for Kyler and himself.

However, the fallout of these public negotiation tactics did not help Kyler’s national image, particularly on the heels of Kyler’s worst game as a pro. Quite the contrary.

Moreover, the 6 month ordeal was not PR friendly for the Cardinals. Burkhardt publicly questioned the Cardinals’ “commitment to winning.”

In retrospect, the profound irony is that the Cardinals were winning in an unprecedented fashion when Burkhardt intervened.

The Cardinals’ off-season has been fraught with drama, looming questions and harrowing uncertainty —- while the Rams and Bucs keep stockpiling talent and organizational buzz.

Had Erik Burkhardt done what the majority of agents do by working behind the scenes on behalf of their clients and, as such, being respectful to their clients’ teams, would the Cardinals off-season have looked different?

It very much could have.

Michael Bidwill found himself in a curious and ticklish situation with Erik Burkhardt.

Of course, not only is it unusual that a sports agent represents both a team’s QB and head coach, but Steve Keim —- Bidwill’s “bad cop GM” to his own “good cop Team Owner” — has stated publicly that “Erik (Burkhardt) and I are good friends.”

Even back at the NFL Combine when Steve Keim was asked about Erik Burkhardt’s contract manifesto, Keim handled it very cavalierly by saying, “the agent is doing his job.”

Because of Keim’s and Burkhardt’s friendship —- how much was the agent able to influence not only Kyler’s and Kliff’s extensions, but Keim’s own as well?

Thus, ever since the NFL Combine, apparently Burkhardt, Keim, Kingsbury and Murray have been like Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield) in Caddyshack, waiting for Rocco and Moose “to help the judge (Michael Bidwill) find his checkbook.”

It is especially agonizing to know that all of this off-season drama, and the PR hits it caused, could have ben easily avoided.

The epitome of the “checkbook” delay was Kliff Kingsbury, at the end of the team’s mandatory mini-camp, pleading at his press conference for Kyler’s contract extension to be signed by training camp.

Brave New World

Now that Keim, Kingsbury and Murray have signed their contract extensions, this is the first time ever that the Cardinals, as an organization, have simultaneously made a 5 year commitment to the team’s GM, head coach and young, homegrown, franchise QB.

Not only are the Cardinals seeking organizational stability and continuity in ways we fans have never seen, they appear to be poised to count more heavily on their young talent than in the past, and to keep building their roster through the draft.

There are aspects of this commitment that are very exciting.

Despite what anyone’s doubts might be.