LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Kyler Murray is the most controversial number one overall pick in the draft this century and quite possibly of the Modern Era of the NFL.
But let’s be clear. Murray is an extremely talented young man with a chance to be a very good pro and he is absolutely not the villain here.
He just is not your prototypical top pick, comes with a lot of question marks and they are exacerbated by the franchise that chose him.
It has been a while since the Cardinals got anything right.
Fifteen months ago Bruce Arians, one of the more respected coaches in the league quit the Cardinals allegedly due to health and family concerns.
Yet one year later he became the coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Where did all his health and family concerns go? Is that really why he fled the desert?
Arians job was given to Steve Wilks and whether you blame the former Ron Rivera top lieutenant or Cardinal general manager Steve Keim for giving him one of the least talented rosters in the NFL, Arizona was the worst team in the league and Wilks suffered the ultimate indignation for an NFL head coach, getting fired after just one season.
Shortly after hiring Wilks, Keim and company attempted to draft their future franchise quarterback, trading the 15th pick in the first round, their third round pick and fifth round pick to move up to 10 and draft Josh Rosen out of UCLA, in spite of several red flags that shadowed the fourth QB taken in the first round.
Now let’s talk Kliff Kingsbury.
Considered somewhat of an offensive and more specifically passing game savant with his “Air Raid” offense, Kingsbury was given his first head coaching job at Texas Tech in 2013 at the age of 33.
In his first season the Red Raiders went 8-5, starting out 7-0 and then losing their last five games before producing a Holiday Bowl upset over No. 14 Arizona St. after starting the season with Baker Mayfield at quarterback before switching to Davis Webb.
Over the next five seasons he would oversee just one more winning season going 4-8, 7-6, 5-7, 6-7 and 5-7 in spite of having Patrick Mahomes as his quarterback from 2014-16 and after six seasons in the Big 12 he was fired.
Those are the highlights of the resume Keim and team owner Michael Bidwell settled on to bounce back from the disastrous hire of Wilks.
What about Kingsbury’s “Air Raid” scheme that is really the only justification the Cards could possibly point to for hiring him?
It is a variation of the old “Run and Shoot” which has been toyed with in the NFL before and mostly failed.
Ideally the “Air Raid” employs 1 RB, 4 WRs and an athletic and mobile QB, no huddles and a frenetic pace.
A significant majority of coaches, analysts and experts have raised serious doubts as to whether it can ever succeed against the sophisticated and ultra athletic defenses of the NFL.
Nonetheless it is where the 2019 Cardinals will cast their lot with Kingsbury, and it is the reason many assumed – without ever giving Rosen a chance – the Cardinals would need a new QB to lead it, basically tossing away the king’s ransom they invested just a year ago in Rosen.
Lastly of course there is the issue of Murray’s diminutive stature.
Again, this is an extremely gifted athlete and impressive young man, but it is well documented Russell Wilson is the only quarterback to win a Super Bowl, or to win consistently at all in the Modern Era of the NFL while standing less than six feet tall, with the overwhelming majority of successful QB’s checking in at least at 6-2, or 6-3.
Perhaps the Cardinals should just start buying lottery tickets?
Let me restate the most important point here that I can see, none of this should detract from Kyler Murray, but the huge odds he is being asked to overcome are just not fair.
I hope he proves all the doubters wrong but while we can all certainly agree he is not the villain, we can only hope he doesn’t become the victim.