Imagine a pre-nup in which the husband is banned from looking at other women in case he cheats...that’s kind of like this dilemma with the current Arizona Cardinals.
What it implies is vastly more important than what it actually is saying.
That’s the situation coming out of yesterday’s bombshell report about the Arizona Cardinals and their franchise quarterback.
The Cardinals and Kyler Murray’s “honeymoon” phase upon signing his multi-year $230.5 million extension was brought to an abrupt halt upon the discovery of a clause in the contract that was unprecedented, to say the least.
From @NFLTotalAccess: More on #AZCardinals QB Kyler Murray’s unique contract. pic.twitter.com/Z3wpI7H8gy— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 25, 2022
To sum up, the Cardinals went out and proclaimed their love for Kyler Murray, and then it was revealed that they got a pre-nup.
Surrounding, particularly, film watching. Which is something that usually has gone without saying for NFL quarterbacks. It’s almost not even mentioned.
Essentially, what became dubbed as the “home work clause” led to some interesting and, in some case, hilarious, reactions on social media:
The cardinals put “dont play video games while your doing your homework” in 166 million dollar guarentee contract— PFT Commenter (@PFTCommenter) July 25, 2022
Kyler perparing for the Jets pic.twitter.com/d5IXUR3GjM— PFT Commenter (@PFTCommenter) July 25, 2022
NFL sponsor Microsoft on seeing that the Kyler Murray homework clause mentions "iPad" multiple times: pic.twitter.com/TSQnHZeSap— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) July 25, 2022
The feedback was not unexpected, especially given how previously a #1 overall pick in JaMarcus Russell had an infamous story about not watching game film.
And this isn’t something that was new or unsurprising as far as the case where there’s been questions about Murray’s study habits ever since a New York Times article had Murray talking about how he “didn’t kill himself watching [film]” and most fans assumed this meant that he didn’t watch film. See below:
https://t.co/i0gbLzFo6A pic.twitter.com/ubVA49hjmv— Sarah Kezele (@SarahKezele) July 25, 2022
Perhaps that’s the case, and that’s definitely something that was worth addressing from the organization.
Although, I think that part of the gap is, most quarterbacks maintain a culture of “film junkies” who grind and work hard. Brady, Rivers, Wilson and others have been known as “film junkies” who spend hours in the film room striving to get better, and even Carson Palmer and Kurt Warner have talked about it.
As far as the sourcing, the original report of it being “leaked” was revealed to both be shifted away from it being a source (likely) within the Cardinals as well as a shift away from outright criticism of Murray:
Kyler Murray does 4 hours of game studying on his own, anyway. And similar to the team wanting him around for the offseason as the face of the franchise, AZ wanted a commitment in writing while going to a certain place money-wise. Thus, the clause https://t.co/2WjSXBCqtv— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 25, 2022
So, what’s to take away from this? Let me take a look at each party as far as the deal (Murray & his camp, ownership, GM and Head Coach).
Kyler Murray: does he need to be pushed or not, and how much?
Obviously, Murray has taken the most bad press in this situation. Anytime there’s a clause that mandates a player has to spend independent time watching film, it begs the question as to why it’s needed.
Either there’s a performance problem with Murray where he has not been putting in the work to the level where it HAD to be mandated (and give the Cardinals an out) or there’s a perception problem with his work ethic.
There’s been no shortage of jokes about the childish, immature nature of this either being, or seen as needed, for the quarterback.
It says quite a bit about how thus far in the NFL, Murray’s pattern and career has seen second half struggles and while there’s been promise, there’s been a lack of winning at the next level that has invited questions in addition to body language, lack of development and even the lasting memory of how unprepared Murray and the Cardinals were to play the Rams in the first round of the 2022 playoffs.
I think it’s easy to say that if Murray couldn’t meet the “bare minimum” of film study he never would have agreed to this in the contract, as Rapsheet said, but why agree in principle to being treated like a child?
Time will tell if Murray’s progress in the NFL shows more immature behavior and if the Cardinals trying to “force” him into being a film person if he wasn’t one already is a mistake.
At worst? Murray comes off as closer to 15 years old than a 25 franchise QB. At best? The narrative surrounding him isn’t reality but carries on a bad perception. Not a great way to start the second part of this deal.
Murray’s Agent, Eric Burkhardt...at what cost, bro?
Kyler Murray’s agent, and if his dad/mom/friends are included, his “camp” in general was adamant about getting the quarterback paid as soon as possible to have Arizona demonstrate their commitment to the quarterback.
However, one has to question the agent finding and agreeing to this...unprecedented deal and how it might affect their client. There’s been no direct word from Burkhardt, and even the language in the contract and Ian Rapoport’s report comes off as more “spin” than anything truly positive.
It puts his client in a negative light, and it’s almost comes off as Burkhardt agreeing to almost “whatever” in whatever language to have his client get paid. Why not change the language into more subtle terms? Or finding a way to agree to the terminology in a way tat was more “off-the-record”? Or why even negotiate or work with this deal at all?
Unless Arizona has tracking software that monitors Murray’s eyes or has a way of tracking his iPad or his behavior at home, this is a clause that’s almost impossible to enforce. Heck, if Murray studied for 4 hours a DAY but Arizona was losing games, how do you know that he’s working hard enough or not?
Would they try to move on and argue he “wasn’t working hard enough?” and Murray’s camp couldn’t do a thing? Or would that leverage be so impossible to prove that it’s essentially a meaningless clause...and what’s the point of a meaningless clause?
Burkhardt got his client paid...at the cost of his dignity.
Michael Bidwill: Just ownership perception or reality?
At the crux of it, Michael Bidwill seemed to always be at the core of this sort of clause, and reports have said as much:
Arizona Sports’ @Gambo987 reporting that the clause was something that Owner Michael Bidwill wanted to put into the deal for Kyler Murray.— Blake Allen Murphy (@blakemurphy7) July 25, 2022
From what I’ve gathered the Kyler Murray study clause was a Michael Bidwill thing. Steve Keim, Kliff Kingsbury weren’t pushing for it.— Kyle Odegard (@Kyle_Odegard) July 25, 2022
So if it was an agent vs. owner thing, why did Michael Bidwill feel the need to push this agenda?
Did he feel like he needed an extra clause to ensure that his quarterback wouldn’t be spending too much time playing video games or more in legal terms? Clearly, the lack of trust from ownership for a player he’s paying that much money to WOULD be unprecedented.
And as for the source of it, while the New York Times article has mentioned it quite a bit, there’s likely a media bias or perception that plays a role as well.
Arizona Sports’ columnist Dan Bickley took the article to heart, and spent several days espousing on the merits of Murray’s film habits:
Sure, it’s definitely not something to blow over and say “there’s nothing wrong” as media’s job in some degree is to find narratives, discuss them or even hold those in power accountable for their own narratives and actions.
But it also might be a negative way of having the same information, being dwelled on for days (and as the contract issues stretched out) weeks on end pushing a narrative that has no way of being verified.
It might be as simple enough as Murray’s iPad could verify the numbers as far as film being watched, or just looking at his on-field performance improving year-over-year. Running with a narrative from one quote day...after day...again and again is one thing. But if ownership is then taking media subjecture and putting it into legal terms? Maybe that’s another.
It wouldn’t be the first time that a media driven narrative has potentially driven decisions that were made: just look at Kliff Kingsbury’s “I’d take Kyler at #1” video that made the rounds in early 2019 and think of the impact that might have had on a media-savvy Michael Bidwill.
Obviously, this is conjecture due to the fact that we don’t know for a fact that Bidwill himself listens to, or is subject to any sort of media bias with these decisions. Heck, he might not even know what that New York Times article said and is simply wanting Murray to focus on football...not video games and his Twitch streams or his proclivity for taking batting practice in the offseason! Perhaps the addition is a way to push his quarterback in a way that boosts him to a higher level.
But if that’s the case, then, to make matters even more baffling, there’s another camp that comes off negatively in all of this...GM Steve Keim and Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury.
The elephant in the room...What if Michael Bidwill is right about his quarterback and what does that say about his head coach and GM?
Here’s an angle that many people haven’t considered in this whole discussion.
If the report is accurate that Michael Bidwill pushed for this clause and GM Steve Keim and Kliff Kingsbury did not...then there’s a disconnect in the organization. It’s a logical flow:
- Ownership feels like the quarterback needs to have film study in legal terms in the deal
- Head Coach didn’t agree
- GM didn’t agree
- Therefore, either the HC/GM are correct and ownership is simply overextending their desire for control in the situation...or the HC/GM are wrong
Let’s assume, for a second, that Michael Bidwill is correct and that Kyler Murray’s “independent study clause” is needed. The fact that the report that this was ownership-driven and wasn’t universal puts Kliff Kingsbury and Steve Keim in a place where ownership would be wanting to push their quarterback (accurately) and the general manager and head coach were content with where he was.
This would mean that Michael Bidwill has a quarterback who needs to be pushed and a head coach and a GM who aren’t willing to push them.
That, plus the advocacy for making this entire deal work, wouldn’t speak highly of the GM and Head Coach that he ALSO just gave contract extensions to. It would mean that he didn’t believe that they were good enough yet...he extended them anyway.
All in all, this marriage of sorts seems to be on shaky ground.
You have a quarterback who either studies, but not enough, or at least to the point where the owner of the team trusts them to study on their own.
You have an owner who is potentially harming a relationship based on perception, embarrassing his quarterback in the process of extending them (either to get money back or to try to add accountability that puts him in a negative light)...
You have an agent who got his client a deal only to see them dragged through the mud less than 12 hours after it was officially signed...
And you have a head coach and GM who aren’t trusted enough by ownership to push said quarterback...and might therefore not be the guys to push him (or at minimum didn’t have the ear of their team’s owner)...
That’s one rocky start to this new era of Cardinals football.
In the end, maybe it all just comes down to money and the Cardinals’ belief in their quarterback only going so far as he’s taken them and wanting ASSURANCES that it will be money well spent in extending a 5’10 QB who hasn’t won a playoff game to the largest contract in Arizona Cardinals history.
But as far as who really “won” in this deal? Perception-wise, not many.
Everyone took a hit to their perceived stability. And the first step of this new journey has turned out to be rockier than anyone could have imagined it starting out to be.