Positive signs here all around for the Arizona Cardinals, a franchise in desperate need of good news. It was reported before the NFL Draft that Kyler Murray wanted Ohio State offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr. in the first round. New Cards GM Monti Ossenfort either saw it the same way or listened to his franchise quarterback, because Arizona traded down from No. 3 and back up to the sixth pick to acquire him. Armed with future assets and a key piece to protect Kyler, the Cardinals executed a draft masterpiece in real time.
But as we saw in Kyler's first four seasons, he's a crazy talent who evidently didn't put enough work in all around to turn Arizona into a legitimate contender. His health and play declined down the stretch of most of those years. In his only playoff start, Kyler laid an egg against the eventual Super Bowl champion Rams.
As Compare.bet's Cardinals insider Kyle Odegard reported, the honeymoon phase is in full effect between Kyler and the organization's new leadership:
"The first few months of collaboration between Murray and the new regime in Arizona has brought a high level of optimism about their long-term future together, according to multiple sources familiar with the dynamic. It’s no secret that the relationship between Murray, GM Steve Keim and coach Kliff Kingsbury was less-than-perfect in 2022, and it was obvious that owner Michael Bidwill needed to clean house when that turbulent season came to an end.
"New coach Jonathan Gannon has brought a high level of positivity to Arizona, and there is a refreshing new energy within the building that has players excited for 2023, sources said, even as many prognosticators expect it to be a rebuilding campaign. Murray and Gannon get along well, and the franchise quarterback has also jelled nicely with new offensive coordinator Drew Petzing and new quarterbacks coach Israel Woolfork.
"The coaches have been impressed by Murray’s quick work grasping the offense, while the injured signal-caller is excited to get on the field and put Petzing’s scheme into motion once he recovers from his torn ACL, source said. Murray is driven to get back quickly, a source said, although the coaching staff continues to reiterate that it wants him to be fully healthy before seeing the field, as the group plans to grow together over the next several seasons."
For as critical as I've been of Kyler Murray, I can't help but see this as a legitimate change. This feels like more than your typical rose-tinted glasses offseason puff piece to get the fan base excited.
We're talking about a guy who needed to have film study written into his new mega contract, got called out by multiple people affiliated with the franchise for immaturity, and frankly, needed to be humbled. It was never a question of talent. And this hasn't been based on my own experience or personal knowledge of who Kyler Murray is as a dude. You just start to notice a pattern after a while and can't help but get a little frustrated, even as someone who's not a fan of the team, at such an elite athlete essentially underachieving at the dawn of his career.
...All that out of the way, my tune has changed on Kyler ever since the end of the season. Some of his "competitive" antics and sideline histrionics weren't great. Then again, it was clear Kliff Kingsbury was a little in over his head as the coach. Ex-GM Steve Keim had some shady off-field shit going on and in the meantime was constructing a terrible, nonsensical roster.
Once that NFLPA report card dropped, it was easier to understand how inept the Cardinals are as a football operation. Combine all that with the ongoing scandal involving owner Michael Bidwill...and yeah. It's a mess.
Maybe I'd check out and lose myself in the escapism of video games if I were Kyler Murray in that situation, too. Sheesh.
So now with Kyler rehabbing from a torn ACL and the chance to dive into a new playbook that isn't so beholden to his Air Raid college system, we're about to see what he's truly made of. So far, Kyler is showing signs of buying in — which, again, I can't blame him as much as I did before for not doing so — and it seems everyone in the organization is responding well.
If Kyler gets good enough protection, is fully healthy, gets this new offense down pat, and the Cardinals capitalize on what will likely be two high picks in the 2024 draft, they're going to be in serious business. Imagine a scenario where, say, Arizona winds up with Ohio State receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. to pair with either a top defensive prospect, another excellent offensive lineman, or Georgia tight end Brock Bowers.
At least on paper, the Cardinals had a great draft. We just saw in 2022 how a phenomenal rookie class helped the Seahawks go from a widely perceived multi-year rebuilding job to somehow in the playoffs in the blink of an eye. Could Seattle's NFC West rival pull a similar trick this year? I have my doubts about how competitive Arizona can be. Nevertheless, it sure sounds like the face of the franchise is leading by example in a much better way than he has before.
I think Kyler Murray recognizes the sense of urgency, and whenever he does return to the field, I'll be excited as all hell to see him do his thing. In addition to being an electrifying runner, Kyler's throwing mechanics are among the most aesthetically pleasing in the entire league. I just want to see him hit his full potential. Looks like the Cardinals have more competent folks in key posts than before to ensure that happens.
Finally, I wanted to call this to attention. It was difficult to decide how to frame this blog but ultimately I think this is the right call. Beyond Kyler's football-related happenings this offseason, this is bigger than that. He's donated a total of $25,000 to support victims of the recent Allen, Texas, mall mass shooting. That's the city where Kyler attended high school. In the wake of such an awful tragedy, it's great to see someone with Kyler's influence step up like this. Wholeheartedly agree with what Kyler posted. When is this shit gonna stop?