In the 24 games since the Arizona Cardinals started 7-0 in 2021, the team is 8-16. They were embarrassed by the Rams in the playoffs, Deandre Hopkins had to sit out six games due to a positive PED test, Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury either think their dysfunctional relationship is normal or are apathetic toward it, and now the franchise QB who just received a massive contract extension has a torn ACL.
The Oklahoma/Lincoln Riley product has produced more than a few jaw-dropping highlights, and a lot of them are a product of his insane mobility. There was the two-point conversion against the Raiders this season when he scrambled around for five minutes and 84 yards on the way to an improbable comeback. The Hail Mary to Hopkins against Buffalo a year ago was one of the craziest plays I’ve ever seen an NFL player make.
While we know the coach is most likely gone, the bigger uncertainty is Murray. A torn ACL isn’t the death knell that it used to be. He very well could return to the field and be the same explosive athlete we’ve seen win games and go to the playoffs despite an undefined scheme and average-to-above-average talent. (Outside of Hopkins, of course.)
If he’s not though, and his ejector seat no longer works, the Cardinals will be paying a 5-foot-11 guy with a history of injuries a stupid amount of money. The non-contact injury might be the first time Murray’s season has prematurely ended due to injury, but it’s far from the first time he’s limped to the finish line.
I’m going to throw out 2022 because it’s been a shit show since the jump with Hopkins out and the coaching situation. However, in Murray’s first three years, he’s 16-9-1 in weeks 1 through 9, and 6-15 in any game Week 10 or later. There could be a plethora of factors that contribute to the late-season dips — opposing staffs have plenty of film to study, Kingsbury’s inability to adapt, the strength of schedule, etc. It would be disingenuous not to mention the quarterback though.
Yes, a new coach and added talent after a lost 2023 season could be a nice reset for Murray. Shit, maybe they keep Kingsbury as a lame duck in hopes of reuniting Murray and Hollywood Brown with Riley after the USC coach’s star gets too hot to ignore.
Or, they could bottom out the next four weeks and hope 4-13 is bad enough to get them into the top three and a shot at another franchise QB. Denver has no reason to lose games as they don’t have a pick. Arizona might be able to settle for top four with Justin Fields on the Bears, but I wouldn’t want to risk Chicago trading out of that pick. There’s no way in hell I’m taking Will Levis. Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud are different ball games.
It sounds fucking ludicrous considering how hard it is to find a star quarterback. Yet, the downside for Murray is Robert Griffin III in Washington. Losing half a step might be negligible for Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. Their games are designed to be played from the pocket. Carson Wentz can no longer pull off the impossible, which is why he’s now a career backup like RG3 was post-knee injury. Murray’s two-sport athleticism is why he’s able to do what he does at his size. Get rid of that and what do you have?
Currently, these are what-ifs; Murray’s contract is a certainty. Arizona was extremely shrewd in how they handled Josh Rosen, taking Murray with the No. 1 pick a season after drafting Rosen at 10 overall. Faced with a similar situation, I think they have to consider this might be the best, and last, opportunity to sell high.
Think of the haul Seattle got for Russell Wilson, Detroit received for Matthew Stafford, or Houston got for Deshaun Watson. The Cardinals could get off a potential albatross contract, get a possible franchise guy on a rookie deal, and have a boatload of assets to put him in the best situation possible.
Trading Murray sounds extremely cutthroat, and it is, but oftentimes that mentality is rewarded in the NFL.