The Hype Is Real, Deserved for Kyler Murray, but Patience Is Key with Rookie QB

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterJune 14, 2019

Arizona Cardinals' Kyler Murray works out during an NFL football organized team activity, Monday, May 20, 2019, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Matt York/Associated Press

You know the story.

The Arizona Cardinals hired Kliff Kingsbury, who failed to turn around Texas Tech, his alma mater, before taking the offensive coordinator job at USC, and the football world immediately connected the dots to Heisman Trophy-winning, mighty-mite-sized quarterback Kyler Murray.

People said it wouldn't happen. Arizona executives even took to Twitter to warn against theories that the team liked Murray enough to tell him to play football over baseball—a story that can now be confirmed.

But the Cardinals did draft Murray. The former high school star who didn't find success at Texas A&M did join the head coach who tried so hard to recruit him to Texas Tech. Kingsbury and Murray are a match made in heaven, or so they said. But one big question looms over the small quarterback and new head coach: Will it actually work, and how long will ownership and the league give outliers like Kingsbury and Murray to figure out the NFL?

Most rookie quarterbacks, especially those drafted No. 1 overall like Murray was, are expected to get onto the field early. Baker Mayfield, last year's No. 1 pick, sat for three games before becoming the starter, but it was painfully clear that former head coach Hue Jackson made a monumental mistake in not starting him. 

Before Mayfield, Jared Goff started roughly half a season as the No. 1 overall pick, but the next quarterback drafted, Carson Wentz, started all 16 games. Both took their teams to the playoffs in their second seasons, and both have seen their teams play in Super Bowls.

Jared Goff, fellow NFC West QB and starter for the reigning NFC champ Rams, struggled in his rookie season.
Jared Goff, fellow NFC West QB and starter for the reigning NFC champ Rams, struggled in his rookie season.Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press/Associated Press/Associated Press

Jameis Winston, Andrew Luck, Matthew Stafford, Cam Newton and Sam Bradford all got onto the field early, but patience wasn't preached when any of these young signal-callers struggled. 

Goff is a great example of what happens when a rookie quarterback struggles. Despite the fact he was playing in a bad situation under Jeff Fisher and on a team that had recently moved from St. Louis to a temporary facility in Los Angeles, Goff was flogged on Twitter and sports talk shows as he struggled to an 0-7 record as a first-year starter. There were tweets and articles calling him a bust or saying the Rams should have drafted Wentz instead. Goff wasn't given time to learn or acclimate. The football world demanded production immediately. Since then, Goff has lost just nine games while leading the Rams to an NFC championship in 2018.

There were other rookies who came in hot and received huge praise—think Mayfield, Newton, Luck and Wentz—but Murray's situation is closer to Goff's. Both are coming from Air Raid-style offenses and being asked to adjust to the NFL. Murray, unlike Goff, is also entering the league as essentially a one-year starter in college. 

New Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury got to handpick his QB of the present and the future.
New Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury got to handpick his QB of the present and the future.Rick Scuteri/Associated Press/Associated Press

No matter how pretty of a fit Murray is in Kingsbury's offense, the NFL will adjust. Defensive coordinators are too smart not to. NFL defenders are faster, smarter and stronger than anything Murray has seen. And no matter how well his first season goes, there will be struggles. Baker had them. Lamar Jackson had them. Sam Darnold, too. Josh Rosen had so many that he was traded once Murray replaced him.

A rough season, especially in the NFC West, should almost be expected. Rookies aren't supposed to set the league on fire and change the position when we're talking about a hallowed spot like quarterback. When that quarterback has to face defenses like Seattle, San Francisco and the L.A. Rams twice each, bumps in the road will be common. That's why scouts, coaches and opponents won't stare at the stat line or the win-loss record this year. We will be watching to see how Murray handles adversity. Will he buckle and want to run back to baseball, or will he do what he did when Oklahoma opened the quarterback job last summer and rise to the challenge while making himself better?

Working in Murray's favor is his proven ability to overcome the odds and outplay all expectations. Another asset is a supporting cast featuring a future Hall of Fame wide receiver in Larry Fitzgerald, a healthy running back in David Johnson with All-Pro potential and a young crew of pass-catchers (Christian Kirk, Andy Isabella and Hakeem Butler) who will make the Cardinals passing game one of the league's most versatile and athletic. He has the help to succeed.

Murray (middle) with fellow rookies of the 2019 class, WRs Hakeem Butler (17) and Andy Isabella (89).
Murray (middle) with fellow rookies of the 2019 class, WRs Hakeem Butler (17) and Andy Isabella (89).Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press/Associated Press

Rookies struggle, and it remains to be seen if Kingsbury's offense, where spacing and speed are so valued, will even work in the pros—which is why patience should be preached with Murray. Let him learn on the job. Don't be that person deleting tweets if he starts slowly in his first year with an offensive system the NFL hasn't seen before. Wait to fire off an opinion until we see his transition. Because Murray's rare athleticism and smooth passing instincts deserve tolerance to develop.

Time will be the only indicator of success for Murray in the early stages, but think of this article as we watch one of the most exciting prospects since Michael Vick.

                         

Matt Miller covers the NFL and NFL draft for Bleacher Report.

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