Kyler Murray is about to test the advancements of modern science with a return to the field Sunday. The Arizona Cardinals quarterback tore his ACL in December, and either is in a rush to secure his starting gig or auditioning for a role elsewhere if the team continues on its current trajectory. At 1-8, the season is already lost, and it would make sense to try to talk Murray out of it, but nobody knows what’s going in the Valley, ever, so I guess I’ll take a stab at it.
We’ll see if Murray’s ACL is more of an Adrian Peterson quick return to form, or a Joe Burrow situation where it took a few games to get back in the flow of things. The difference between Burrow’s bounce-back season after a brutal knee injury is he had a full season and got rolling to such a degree that he took the Bengals to the Super Bowl.
This Arizona year is over on the field, but off of it, owner Michael Bidwell is getting the Robert Sarver treatment. While I doubt it’ll lead to him selling the team — this is the NFL we’re talking about — the Cardinals haven’t come across as an organization that knows what it’s doing, or how to build around its current franchise quarterback.
If Murray’s return goes the way of Burrow, and the OU alum isn’t scrambling around like his old self until Christmas Eve, the tank for Caleb Williams will still be alive. That turns those final three games into a coin flip because who knows what’ll be at stake in Weeks 16-18.
There are prizes after Williams, yet this isn’t like last year when Houston lucked out because Carolina had to pick first. Giving Murray the keys to the Panzer only risks him clawing back leverage and his job, or torching the draft positioning that Arizona spent an offseason, and half a season chasing. If that’s what the team wants, OK, but why throw away wins?
Getting any kind of value for Josh Dobbs is great, and I guess the sixth- and (conditional) seventh-round pick superseded the gap week that Clayton Tune filled so miserably. New coach Jonathan Gannon feels like a pretty good hire, so perhaps the team is pivoting from tanking, and content letting Murray work out the kinks now instead of acclimating, and reacclimating at the start of next season.
If the Heisman winner is fully healthy though, he’ll sink the Cardinals’ lazily made plans. The knock on Murray has always been health, because he’s electric the first eight games, and then limps to the playoffs. So if the Cardinals take off, which could happen considering how many games they almost won with Dobbs under center, they’ll be right back in draft purgatory.
Despite their one victory, the team is just two Ws from being out of the top 10. Who knows how patient Murray will be after an arduous contract negotiation in 2022, and regardless of how good, or bad he looks, suitors will line up for his services.
There are plenty of rosters one competent QB away from a Super Bowl. (What up, Matthew Stafford?) Arizona is not one such club. At least not this year, or likely the next.
If I were Murray, I’d want to play. He knows this is an audition as much as anyone, and considering the status of the owner — and the owner himself — no wonder he’s keeping his options open. The reason I continue to mention Bidwell is that neither Caleb nor his father, Carl, sounds interested in going to a clown show.
Say another toxic workplace story leaks, this season’s experiment with Murray goes poorly, and not only is the team shopping him after still finishing with the best odds, but he asks out himself. What do you think Kyler is going to say to Caleb when he calls — and he will call — to get some background?
The Cardinals better figure out what the plan is, and quick, or else the only Lincoln Riley protege they’ll be in the running for this offseason will be Baker Mayfield.
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