You’ve likely heard the word intangibles thrown around when discussing NFL quarterbacks. Arm strength, accuracy and mechanics are what scouts observe and measure when deciding who could make a great QB, but that notorious “it factor” is what separates the good from the great. The Cleveland Browns placed all their chips on charismatic leader Baker Mayfield, and it’s already paying off on Lake Erie.
Kyler Murray can ball. The No. 1 overall pick by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2019 NFL Draft went from a little-known transfer from Texas A&M to a Heisman Trophy winner and first-round pick in two professional sports. The potential financial gain from that stardom pulled took Murray away the baseball diamond and has put him onto one of the worst teams in the NFL.
Kyler Murray signed his four-year rookie contract worth $35.2 million of fully-guaranteed money. According to multiple reports, his new deal includes a $23.6 million signing bonus and has a fifth-year team option. There’s no turning back now, and Arizona’s GM Steve Keim has already named Murray the team’s starting quarterback for Week One.
In 2018, Arizona ranked dead last in points per game (14.1), yards per game (241.6) and gave up 52 sacks, which was fifth-most in the league. Not exactly inspiring numbers for a rookie quarterback.
Do you think new head coach Kliff Kingsbury, who had a losing record (35-40) coaching college football at Texas Tech, suddenly makes this team a contender that will allow Murray the time to develop as an NFL quarterback?
It’s going to take a lot more than natural talent to save the rookie.
I did a Google search for ‘Kyler Murray “intangibles”‘ just to see what people were talking about when it comes to the mental aspect of his game. The very first article is about Kyler Murray’s intangibles on a baseball field.
The second article? It included a quote from longtime NFL scout Charley Casserly. Before the draft, NFL teams were talking about Murray in such a way that the former NFL general manager called them “the worst comments I ever got on a high-rated quarterback.”
“Leadership — not good. Study habits — not good. The board work — below not good. Not good at all in any of those areas, raising major concerns about what [Kyler Murray] is going to do. Now, people will say we’re going to compare him to Mahomes. We’re going to run an offense like Mahomes, we’re going to run an offense like Baker Mayfield … But those guys are much different. Those guys, you never questioned them about their ability on the board, you never questioned their leadership ability, their work habits. They were outstanding in those areas. This guy is not outstanding in those areas and it showed up in the interview.”
— NFL Network’s Charley Casserly
Murray choosing football felt like a classic case of an impulse buy. His stock was high, everyone said he’d make a ton of money and get drafted number one, and that was that.
But he was terrible in pre-draft interviews. He really only had one full season of college football experience, which for other quarterbacks, like 2019’s 15th-overall pick Dwayne Haskins, cost them millions of dollars. Murray’s redshirt junior season in the wide open Big 12 Conference highlighted his athleticism and natural talent, but teams completely ignored his mental testing and how he conducted himself when meeting with them.
Obviously he can play, but we’ve seen this kind of narrative before.
Did anyone notice that Murray’s stats with the Oklahoma Sooners last year were oddly close to Sam Bradford’s 2008 Heisman season, which launched him to stardom? Despite durability concerns that every team knew, the St. Louis Rams swept that under the rug and picked him No. 1 overall anyway.
- Bradford: 4,720 passing yards, 55 total touchdowns, 67.9 completion percentage
- Murray: 4,361 passing yards, 54 total touchdowns, 69.0 completion percentage
It’s impossible to predict if Kyler Murray, the ninth overall MLB Draft pick in 2018, would have blossomed into an All-Star MLB outfielder with the Oakland Athletics. That answer, and his baseball contract, are going to be lost forever. Murray has all the momentum in the world, but Arizona has problems that could make his rookie season and career with them a lot worse than we think.
When that pressure comes, will the NFL’s top pick be able to carry his team, put on his “team leader” hat, and handle it all with ease?