American Football

What Incentive Does Kyler Murray Have to Play This Season? Think About It.

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New England Patriots v Arizona Cardinals
Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Some Cardinals pundits are predicting that Kyler Murray is going to be ready to play “earlier than people expect” and could actually be ready to play Week 1.

Which begs the question —- what incentive does Kyler Murray have to play at all this season?

Think about it.

One thing that is completely working to Kyler’s advantage these days are the narratives from former players like Frank Sanders that Kyler was being handicapped by playing in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense.

The Frank Sanders Interview:

Here is part two of Frank Sanders’ interview with compare.bet’s Kyle Odegard:

You might recall that one of the main reasons why Kyler scrubbed his social media accounts in the aftermath of playing his worst game ever in the Cardinals’ 31-11 playoff loss to the Rams was feeling that he was being unjustly scapegoated for the lopsided loss.

Arguably, the two most significant achievements of Kyler Murray’s 2022 season were landing the second highest contract in NFL history and being able to pass the scapegoat tag over to Kliff Kingsbury.

Isn’t it ever so convenient to blame Kyler Murray’s 2022 woes on Kliff Kingsbury?

When one takes a closer look at how and why Kyler had his worst season as an NFL QB, there are a number of ways in which Kyler handicapped Kingsbury, and not the other way around:

  • The six months of off-season drama of Kyler’s discontent with the Cardinals cast a pall on the organization and it made it much more difficult for the Cardinals’ FO to attract free agents, who, last March and deep into the summer, had no idea what was going to happen with Kyler.
  • JJ Watt in 2021 said one of the main reasons why he chose the Cardinals was his belief in Kyler Murray’s innate abilities. But, a year later that type of positive buzz toward Kyler seems to have fizzled.
  • No matter what kind of wrinkles and upgrades Kliff Kingsbury wanted to make to the 2022 offense, especially in helping to further Kyler’s growth in the system, they were severely hampered and mitigated by the fact that Kyler, D-Hop, Hollywood Brown and the Cardinals starting offensive line decided to opt out of attending the team’s OTAs.
  • Compounding the lost opportunity during the OTAs to fine-tune the offense was the fact that both Kyler Murray and Colt McCoy, plus some key offensive linemen were unable to practice during the majority of training camp due to injuries, holdouts or retirement ponders.
  • In the first pre-season game, we saw a nifty number of play action bootlegs, waggles and sprint outs from QB3 Trace McSorley. On the very first offensive possession, he marched the team straight down the field versus the Bengals and, on a clever play action waggle in the Red Zone, he delivered a perfect TD pass to Andre Baccellia.
  • When Trace McSorely helped lead the Cardinals to a ten point 4th quarter lead over Tom Brady and the Bucs, he was not relegated the vast majority of the game to sitting at the back end of the pocket.
  • Over his 4 year tenure, Kliff Kingsbury said on numerous occasions that each week he and Kyler would sit down and map out the plays that Kyler “feels most comfortable” running.
  • Kyler Murray often indicated that Kliff gave him the complete autonomy to change plays (make audibles) on pre-snaps, the most infamous of which was the last play of the Green Bay game in 2021 where A.J. Green got caught scoreboard watching while Kyler’s pass his way went directly into the hands of Rasul Douglas.
  • Therefore, to claim that Kyler Murray had little say in what the play calls were —- or that he was “limited” by Kliff Kingsbury’s scheme —- is flat-out facetious.
  • The point is —- the Cardinals’ offense for Kyler Murray has always been whatever he has wanted it to be. If Kyler wanted to play more under center and wanted to run a steady diet of play action bootlegs, waggles, sprint-outs and drop-backs, he would have been. Heck, if Kyler came to Kliff and said he wanted to run a Wishbone package, Kliff would have jumped right on it.
  • Was it just pure coincidence that the only game in which Kyler Murray strung three good consecutive quarters of football together (in the 25-24 home loss to the Chargers) was after Colt McCoy reminded coaches, players and fans how Kliff’s offense was supposed to be run?
  • Colt, playing behind a makeshift offensive line minus 4 starters, led the team to its most impressive win of the season (27-17 win over the Rams at SoFi Stadium). In that game Colt’s 67.2 QBR was then the highest QBR of the Cardinals’ season —- Kyler’s to that point were: 51.3 KC; 65.4 LV; 29.3 LAR, 41.5 CAR; 66.6 PHI; 28.7 SEA; 67.1 NO; 46.7 MIN; 44.0 SEA —-and after missing two games, versus the Chargers in Kyler’s return to action, he posted his season best QBR of 85.0.
  • Yet, after the BYE week, in preparation for the Patriots game Monday Night Football, Kyler was late to a meeting. At that time, Colt McCoy was suffering through an arm injury, so Kyler was given the start that most players wouldn’t get after they broke a team rule. That turned out to be a very fateful and regrettable decision.
  • To be fair to Kliff Kingsbury, it should be noted that down the stretch of the most disappointing season imaginable, his offense managed to take 4th quarter leads with 4 different QBs: Colt McCoy (@ Rams), Kyler Murray (Chargers), Trace McSorely (Bucs) and David Blough (@ Falcons).

I am of the belief that Kyler Murray’s woes this season had far less to do with Kliff Kingsbury’s offense and much more to do with how demoralized he became after the homework clause in his contract drew national headlines. For a player who was already disgruntled with the organization, to have to go through that kind added humility took whatever air was left out of the balloon —- and it emphatically confirmed the main reasons why he had lost resect for the way in which Michael Bidwill and Steve Keim do their business.

During all of the footage HBO’s Hard Knocks had of the Cardinals’ QB meetings, who was the take-charge alpha in the room? Do you remember Kyler’s demeanor in those meetings? It was entirely passive. This was the look of disengaged player. Ironically, the only time Kyler looked more engaged was when Kliff was in the room.

The Seth Joyner Interview with Brad Cesmet of Sports360AZ:

Seth Joyner is speaking truth to power, especially when he says that “Kyler Murray needs someone he respects, someone proven, someone who can tell him ‘I have won a Super Bowl before’, someone who will put down the gavel and show him what it is going to take. You need a guy like that for Kyler Murray.”

At the beginning of the interview Seth mentions how Sean Payton could have been that kind of coach for Kyler Murray.

But, as we know, Michael Bidwill was not open to giving up the #3 pick to seal a deal with Sean Payton.

Bidwill had said when the HC search opened that he would keep Kyler up to date with the interviews and would welcome Kyler’s input.

How is Kyler Murray honestly reacting to Bidwill’s hiring of defensive-minded head coach Jonathan Gannon?

How is Kyler reacting to Gannon’s appointment of Drew Petzing as OC, given that Petzing has no experience as an OC at any level of football?

How does Kyler feel about the fact that all three of the Cardinals’ head coaching candidates with NFL head coaching experience, all of whom came with Super Bowl experience, wanted nothing to do with Cardinals?

In terms of Kyler’s own misgivings about the Cardinals’ organization, how could Kyler blame Sean Payton, Dan Quinn and Brian Flores one bit for not taking the Cardinals’ job, and in the cases of Quinn and Flores, how could he blame them for passing up an NFL head coaching job to be defensive coordinators instead?

Kyler would get that.

Near the end of the interview Seth Joyner questioned how willing Kyler is to “humble himself” to realize that he and his teammates “a part of the team’s problems” so as to help work their way out of the hole. Seth mentions with strong concern the perception that Kyler “thinks he knows all the answers.”

Thus, not only is Seth Joyner skeptical of Jonathan Gannon being the kind of coach Kyler needs, he feels fairly certain that Kyler isn’t going to change the perception that “he knows all of the answers” or the question as to whether Kyler has “the humility” to see that he too is part of the team’s problem —- that is —- until he gets a coach whom he genuinely respects from an offensive perspective.

Odds Seem Stacked Against Kyler Playing This Season

If you believe as I do that Seth Joyner asks some very significant questions, then we already know that Michael Bidwill has never been able to hire a head coach with NFL head coaching experience. What then are the odds of Kyler Murray playing for an experienced head coach in Arizona?

Therefore, what kind of incentive then does Kyler Murray have to play this season?

From a physical standpoint, Kyler has made it clear that he won’t play if he’s not close to being 100% able to use his feet to escape pressure. The last two seasons he missed 6 games rehabbing ankle and hamstring injuries before tearing his ACL with 4 games remaining this past December.

Coming back from an ACL is a bear. Some are able to do it faster than others. But for many players, the most difficult part is the mental rehab it takes to become fully confident enough to play. In light of Kyler’s injury rehabs for other, less serious injuries, his rehab for an ACL is very likely going to take longer than normal.

Then there is the question of what kind of supporting cast Kyler has on the current offense. The signings on the offensive line thus far have been designed for continuity. Let’s not forget that if it were up to Kyler, he asked Steve Keim to take CeeDee Lamb in 2020 and to draft Creed Humphrey in 2021. Can anyone blame Kyler for feeling indignant about missing out on CeeDee and Creed?

It’s meaningful that the Cardinals elected to re-sign Kelvin Beachum to a 2 year deal, despite the fact that Beachum was outspoken about Kyler needing “to grow up a little.” Hollywood Brown came to Kyler’s defense, yet for Kyler, how could he not perceive Beachum’s remarks as yet another embarrassing perpetuation of the “homework clause”?

DeAndre Hopkins desperately wants out of Arizona. Zach Ertz is also in rehab and he’s projected to return sometime in the middle of the season.

Zach Allen and Byron Murphy, two of Kyler’s more prominent 2019 draft classmates appear to be feeling liberated by their defections. As was the case with former teammates Haason Reddick, Chandler Jones —- and the one-time “Three Cardinals Amigos”: Christian Kirk, Trent Sherfield and Chase Edmonds.

Thus, at this point, there would appear to be far more incentive for Kyler to take as much time as he feels he needs —- and if by the time he feels he might be ready to play again —- if the Cardinals are losing —- then why would Kyler risk playing at all this season?

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