The Arizona Cardinals are 4-8, and with losing comes adversity. Whispers about Kyler Murray’s work ethic and leadership issues are getting louder. Kliff Kingsbury, who failed up from Texas Tech, is firmly on the hot seat, and their general manager continues to haphazardly throw darts at the roster with no real plan.
And on Wednesday, a clip from former teammate Patrick Peterson surfaced on YouTube, where Peterson claimed Murray only cares about himself.
If you ask the folks of North Texas who they believe is the best high school football player they’ve ever seen, most of them would say it is Murray. That star went on to win a Heisman Trophy and an appearance in the College Football Playoff in his one year as a starter at Oklahoma. But things have been far more difficult as a professional QB.
And it’s becoming more difficult to ignore the whispers by the day. Even Benjamin Franklin can’t insulate Murray from hearing the skepticism, even with a crisp $189 million in guaranteed money coming his way.
Understanding Kyler Murray
Kyler Murray is a gamer and a streamer. That activity and of itself is not a professional issue. However, many view gaming as lazy and taking time away from one’s profession or personal life. Athletes are often unfairly reduced to their profession, and America’s unhealthy grind culture leads many to criticize anyone for not spending every minute of free time to supplement their profession.
Murray has always been a gamer. He grew up with a console, his entire family partook, and he’s even said he’d probably be a professional gamer if he weren’t such a uniquely talented passer.
I’ve personally watched him play Warzone with TimTheTatman. Professional streamers are always on the hunt for content, and their play style is incredibly aggressive compared to Bill just getting off an eight-hour shift at the office. But Murray kept up with that pace, which is a feat in and of itself. He is naturally good at video games.
It only becomes a problem when he signs a contract for $230.5 million that needed a clause saying Murray would “study game material” for four hours a week. That’s nothing. Your average writer that analyzes the Xs and Os of football puts in five times that commitment in a week.
Murray was predictably defensive about his work ethic when the clause was leaked to the media. But Murray has always been the best, and while you won’t want to believe it, sometimes the best are that way because they are genetic anomalies, not the hardest workers in the world. Murray has an incredibly rare skill set, and through high school and college, he was able to get by purely off his fast-paced footwork and howitzer arm.
Any quarterback is more prolific with their best weapon on the field, but the Cardinals’ offense dissolves into a puddle without Deandre Hopkins. To be a QB consistently producing at the highest level, the commitment it takes through film analysis is excruciating. And while the Cardinals’ offense is not nearly as complex as others in the league, getting ready for a football game is more about identifying defensive tendencies to exploit.
Four hours of independent study is not enough. That is the most interesting part of the contract clause that is no more. Four hours is nothing.
But in the end, it would be removed due to the backlash the Cardinals faced after details of the clause were leaked.
The Loud Whispers
In February, Chris Mortenson tweeted about the tension between Murray and the organization regarding a contract extension. He said that Murray is a self-centered finger-pointer, according to sources, who obviously remain anonymous.
In March, things got even more interesting. Larry Fitzgerald Jr. has always appeared to be everything one could ask for as a professional athlete. He’s even replied to a random Twitterer stating that retiring had nothing to do with the young QB, and that he’d never had a problem with a teammate in 30 years. That came the day after Fitzgerald Sr., a long-time sports columnist, called Murray “spoiled.”
Whether we like it or not, even if the younger Fitzgerald had an issue with Murray, he would never say it himself. He has a reputation, one that will help make him a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He’s a role model to many.
There’s a chance that the Cardinals Fitzgerald and his father have never discussed Murray, and that the experienced columnist came to that conclusion on his own. But things got even more interesting on November 22, when the ESPN crew spent minutes during the pre-game to prop up Colt McCoy at the expense of Murray.
We hadn’t heard a broadcasting crew lean into Murray like that before, so is it a coincidence that his former teammate was sitting at the ESPN desk pre-game, silent during the discussion on Murray? All we got from Fitzgerald was eye contact aimed at the speaker and an occasional dead-panned nod.
Is it a coincidence that his father and now his colleagues are so gung-ho in their seemingly personal criticism of the Cardinals QB?
Patrick Peterson and the Dangers of Podcasting
Maybe Peterson doesn’t care now that he’s no longer Murray’s teammate. Maybe he was just trying to amplify his podcast. Or maybe he was just talking to a friend and momentarily forgot he was on a podcast and that the whole world would hear how he felt about his former teammate.
The intimate nature of a two-person podcast, especially with a friendly co-host, can drop someone’s guard.
“Kyler Murray don’t care about nobody but Kyler Murray. That’s just a matter of the fact.”
Peterson did not mince words, and as of Thursday morning, he hadn’t replied publicly to Murray’s tweet about his comments.
Trust the Tape
Murray is an athletic marvel. He’s the quickest entity in the NFL, and he makes throws that rival any other QB in the NFL. But he’s flying by the seat of his quarterback pants. If we can take anything from the ESPN crew’s bashing, it was the “going back to school” comment by Steve Young.
Murray could be an MVP-caliber player in the NFL. Given the right situation between coaching and roster, that’s his athletic potential. But he needs to become a student of the game. Sometimes it takes learning how to learn to reach that level.
Dak Prescott is an outstanding example. His career began as a decently athletic QB who was accurate enough behind a great offensive line with enough offensive weapons to move the ball with great efficiency. However, his pocket presence and ability to dissect defenses lacked.
That changed sometime between 2018 and 2019. Now, in Year 7, he’s arguably the most intelligent pre-and post-snap QB in the league, which is the main reason he continues to find success.
Kyler must pursue that same growth. Mental growth is not unique to Murray. Many young QBs need to take that next step, and every player moves at a different pace. Murray is in Year 4 and has had a stable coaching situation in that time, making his lack of development a bit more concerning. But it is not the end of the world.
However, if he doesn’t have or loses the respect of his teammates, no amount of studying in the world can fix things. Arguments on the sideline between players, coaches, and teammates mean nothing.
We see Tom Brady using Microsoft Surface Tablets to play catch with the ground all the time. He yells at coaches or teammates like nobody’s business. And he’s famous for pouting post-game straight into the locker room, skipping the traditional handshakes.
But inside the locker room, Brady has always been respected. Murray must go above and beyond to keep his and to repair any tattered relationships he has in the organization.