NFL journalist A.C. Boyle discusses the true potential of Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray after his recent success.
In Kyler Murray’s first game as the starting quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals, he showcased the kind of mental toughness that every great leader in the NFL needs. The Cardinals had played “three quarters of the worst offense I’ve ever seen in my life,” said head coach Kliff Kingsbury. He wasn’t wrong: the Lions looked well on their way to a win by simply not playing worse than Arizona. However, that all changed in the fourth quarter when Murray led the charge to bring the team even.
That rally included a fourth quarter stat line of 15 completions on 19 throws, 154 yards passing and two touchdowns from Murray. Additionally multiple key throws from the former Heisman winner ended up in the hands of Cards legend Larry Fitzgerald. Murray played with the mental toughness of a seasoned veteran. Still, the first three quarters, where Arizona averaged a dismal 4.2 yards per play, pose a glaring error in his debut, but Kyler looks like he’ll have a chance to prove his critics wrong.
Though the Cardinals only ended up drawing with the Lions, this game could have season long effects for both the team and Murray. First, though alien to most American sports fans, ending a comeback game with a draw is far from defeat. If the Cardinals end up in a situation where that draw gets them into the playoffs where a loss would leave them at home, Murray’s early season heroics will be to thank.
Second, like Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray has entered the NFL with dozens of critics in the world of sports punditry, and winning early could help to shut them down. However, criticisms of Baker and Kyler rarely focus on the same thing. Yes, their height has been the convergent point for criticism, but really that’s much more Murray’s problem than Mayfield’s. Criticism of Mayfield, from day one, has always been centered around his demeanor, whereas Kyler has won praise for the way he carries himself. He even had Fitzgerald saying that the rookie quarterback has “got a little Brett Favre in him.”
Mayfield, despite a hectic first half of the season due to front office changes, finished his first season with the Browns in third place in their division, just barely out of the playoffs and having broken Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson’s rookie season touchdown record. All of this made his rookie season one of the best ever played, but Murray might even be primed to surpass that. In fact, Murray has one of the league’s best running backs in David Johnson sitting behind him, so his odds to surpass Baker’s first season success are by no means slim.
This isn’t to say one game can help predict a season, but more important than showing the electric playmaking every fan knows Murray to be capable of, the rookie put his resiliency on display for all to see. Oklahoma fans likely remember the pummeling that the Murray-led Sooners took last year at the hands of Alabama in the College Football Playoffs. But they should also remember why that game did not end up as a shutout. The Sooners were able to leave the game respectably because Kyler Murray never stopped trying to lead the team down the field to score, and if he keeps bringing that type of tenacity to Arizona then the Cardinals will have made a franchise-altering draft pick.