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Film Study: Kyler Murray is the Cardinals future

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Ever since the 2015 NFC Championship game, things have gone downhill for the Arizona Cardinals. Their franchise QB retired along with their star head coach, Bruce Arians. Following Arians’ departure, the Cardinals turned to former defensive coordinator Steve Wilks to take over. A year later though, Wilks was on his way out of the door, along with former first round pick Josh Rosen (who the Cardinals traded up for.)

In the midst of that, Cardinals general manager, Steve Keim, was arrested on drunk driving charges and was on the precipice of losing his job. Keim had to do something bold to steady the waters and in early 2019, the Cardinals hired hotshot college coach Kliff Kingsbury. Kingsbury, for lack of a better term, is Shanahan-lite. Young, stylish and specialising in offence, all Kingsbury needed now was his quarterback to run the show.

In the 2019 NFL Draft, the Cardinals drafted the ‘undersized’ Kyler Murray out of Oklahoma. Met with it’s fair share of scrutiny, the pick was certainly a risk considering the Cardinals had drafted Josh Rosen a year earlier and had other needs that needed addressing. However, well into the 2019/20 NFL season and Kyler Murray is a OROY candidate, but more important than that: Kyler is the Cardinals next great hope.

Let’s take a look at what makes Kyler Murray the next great QB in the National Football League.

Week Ten @ Tampa Bay

The battle between Kyler Murray and Jameis Winston in Week Ten provided a sobering contrast in the conversation of young quarterbacks. If you just watched the game tape and didn’t know anything else, you’d guess that Winston was the flummoxed rookie and Murray was the eight-year veteran in complete control of the offence.


Immediately, Murray’s calm and cool demeanour jumps off the screen at you. The history that Murray and Kingsbury have is on full display here as Murray looks as comfortable in the offence as just about any quarterback I’ve ever seen. It’s especially impressive considering the amount of pre-snap motion and trickery that forms the basis of Kingsbury’s offence.

Here we see Kyler in a 2nd & 12 on the Cardinals 34 yard-line with 3:36 left in the first-half.

The Cardinals are in 11 personal (1 TE and 1 RB.) The Buccaneers are playing cover 2. As you’ll notice the Buccaneers FS is playing lower down in the box. This was an attempt by the Buccaneers to tempt Murray to attempt a throw down the sideline. After the ball is snapped, #39 instantly bails out of the box. Murray recognises that the safety is playing too close to the line of scrimmage and hits Andy Isabella on the streak route, right in the ‘turkey-hole’ as John Gruden, the creator of the Tampa 2 defence, calls it.


Kyler’s elite level arm strength is on full display here. Very few quarterbacks in the league can make this throw. Having a rookie QB that is confident enough to make this throw and actually has the raw talent to execute.

Sticking with the same game, we meet the Cardinals in a crucial down, 4th & 5 at the Buccs’ 44 yard line. Tampa Bay switches up their coverage to play man whilst blitzing five. As the pressure begins to get to the Kyler, the rookie QB stays calm, recognises the mismatch his veteran WR has on the smaller DB in man coverage and delivers a strike to where only Fitzgerald can catch it.












This play is arguably more down to Fitzgerald’s amazing catch, however, the processing power of Kyler to recognise the man coverage, locate the mismatch and sling a near perfect ball to the sideline on 4th down, just epitomises everything great about the Cardinals quarterback.

Week Nine vs. San Francisco

Week Nine presented a tough challenge for Murray as the rookie QB would face off against fierce division rival and best defence in football, the San Francisco 49ers. The Cardinals put up a gutsy performance, losing by 3 points – 25-28. Here we see Murray in the redzone, this is where most quarterbacks ‘earn their money’. As the field gets smaller, options become more limited and the windows get tighter.











The Cardinals run play-action, something that Murray can thrive off of as it gives him added time to throw and more ability to scramble into space. The pre-snap motion from #13 drags 49ers SS Jaquiski Tartt out of position and brings him forward, allowing Cardinals WR K. Johnson room to run in behind. Johnson beats FS Jimmie Ward inside, Murray recognises this and delivers a dart for the touchdown.

Looking at Murray’s throwing mechanics here is interesting. As he is moving off the play-action, he never steadies himself and plants his feet properly. This 20 yard throw is generated completely from his arm and his hips. Throwing a pass that fast and that accurate off your tip-toes just goes to show how much power the 5’10 quarterback can generate just with his arm.

Week Seven @ NY Giants

In a match-up between the number one overall pick and the number six overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Kyler Murray put on a calm, cool and composed performance in the rain away from home. Similar to the game against Tampa Bay, the juxtaposition between the two quarterbacks cannot be more apparent. Daniel Jones looks and plays like a rookie, full of turnovers and bad decisions. It would have been easy for Murray to have a bad game in the thundering rain @ New York, but the rookie kept calm and executed when he needed to (which wasn’t often as the Cardinals ran 38 times for 156 yards and 3 touchdowns.)

On another big 3rd down, the Cardinals need to pick up 6 yards at midfield. The Giants front four put pressure on Kyler and force him to step up into the pocket. A young, fast, athletic QB, like Kyler Murray, normally their first instinct here would be to bail. To immediately take off and scramble.











Murray does the opposite here. As he steps up, he lifts his head, puts his eyes downfield and hits tight-end Charles Clay in stride. Staying calm and manoeuvring under pressure in the pocket is an often overlooked skill at the quarterback position and is something that has formed the basis of many successful quarterbacks, i.e. Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo‘s, game.

To conclude, in Kyler Murray, the Cardinals have found the most valuable thing in pro sports – a franchise quarterback. Late night talk show host and American cultural icon David Letterman once said at Peyton Manning‘s statue reveal that “quarterbacks change the skyline of the city”. This could not be more true for the Arizona Cardinals and Kyler Murray. While the Cardinals may not find immediate success this season, what they are building provides great hope for Cardinals fans, and in the vast, scorched desert, Kyler Murray has built his own oasis at the University of Phoenix Stadium.

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