The Collateral Damage of Kyler Murray

A few weeks back the Cardinal franchise was celebrating a 34-33 win over the sinking 1-5 Atlanta Falcons. This on the heels of a 26-23 victory over the winless Bengals lent extreme optimism out here in the desert. Kliff Kingsbury’s crew went from an 0-3-1 record to 2-3-1 in a matter of 8 days and local media was waxing philosophically how this team had turned a corner.

Had they???

Murray led a last second drive in The Queen City that allowed the Cardinals to escape with a win over the NFL’s 31st ranked defense in Cincy.  Then came the nail biter as Murray & his offensive mates hung on for dear life as a 27-10 lead evaporated as Matt Bryant’s field goal sailed wide left preserving a 34-33 win. The Falcons came in with the 27th ranked defense.

Now follow that up with a surprising 27-21 win in New York where backup RB Chase Edmonds flashed in relief of starter David Johnson. Behind his 126 yards rushing and 3 TDs the offense didn’t have to depend on Murray (14 of 21 for 104 yards) throwing a wet ball too much in a driving rain.

This brought their record to 3-3-1 although it came at the expense of the Giants 28th rated defense. Arizona had fashioned a 3 game winning streak with improved play from Kyler Murray. He had thrown for 697 yards completing 61 of 90 throws and 3 TDs and no interceptions.

Just feet from the action you can tell how diminutive Murray is.

The Cardinals beat a few down on their luck teams and we knew we’d find out where this offense truly was once they played at New Orleans, host the 49ers and then go to Tampa then San Francisco before they make it to their bye. At the time these are the 5th, 1st, 23rd and 1st ranked defenses and all 3 have played lights out in recent weeks.

Now here we are halfway through that gauntlet and the Cardinals dropped 2 straight to the Saints 31-9, and the 49ers 28-25 on Halloween Night and are behind 10-6 on the road in Tampa.

One aspect of attending the Halloween matchup with San Fran is being close enough to get a sense of size. Or rather lack there of….  At the goal line awaiting an instant replay review, super rookie DE Nick Bosa was standing next to Kyler Murray and it looked like a big rother walking his little brother to school. Yes it’s great to cheer for the little guy but the NFL is the land of giants.

All night Murray was on the move amid the moving redwood forrest that was the 49er defensive line. He was sacked 3 times, hurried on 7 other attempts and on 3 occasions, Murray had to hookslide on scrambles in front of corners Richard Sherman & Emmanuel Moseley. Each corner even dwarfed him to the point he never tried to make either miss or power through an arm tackle and pick up a 1st down.

Keep in mind this is Murray at his quickest and most nimble. He can’t make the plays on the run a Lamar Jackson can do and he has to develop in the pocket. He has nice touch but as Defensive Coordinators really game plan against him, can he keep his touch over a complete football game. In today’s game the telecast announced that 31 times Murray and the Cardinals had been in the RedZone and come up with just 11 touchdowns. The worst in football. Defensive Coordinators are able to knock Murray off rhythm for a half as in most games the Cardinals are off kilter in the 1st half…only to scramble back in the 2nd and falling short in the games they lose.

So Murray picks up a lot of fantasy stats in garbage time…not stats that equal winning football. Huge difference!

Some of this is Kyler Murray’s fault but more of it is Kliff Kingsbury’s.

Murray shows tremendous flashes with great throws but there are too many sporadic 3 and out series. However Kingsbury never puts Murray under center where he could use his voice cadence to slow the pass rush. He also doesn’t put him under center where he can call half rollouts that can also slow the pass rush. In the Pistol you can’t run “Waggles” nor standard formation (2TE/1RB or 2RB/1TE) calls that brings 1 and possibly 2 additional Linebackers on the field and open up Murray’s throwing windows past 15 yards.

Yet that is too sophisticated for Kingsbury who is one of these analytic football coaches completely overcoaching the game and undercoaching situations. You’d think he was calling plays as though he is coaching football on Playstation or XBox Madden. Very few adjustments and shows why his hiring was questioned by those who never believed in him or his system when it never produced a winning record in the Big XII.

A collegiate conference that doesn’t play defense!

For The Chancellor of Football this all feels like “The Old Ball Coach II” when Steve Spurrier was supposed to revolutionize the NFL back in 2000 or The Run & Shoot offense only to fall flat on their faces when NFL Defensive Coordinators drew a bead on what they’re offenses couldn’t do.

Another is this penchant for hiring these “fast talking” young analytic football coaches a la Sean McVay who come in with a fancy Pistol formation and play call sheet and inability to react and make adustments in their offense when they face a defensive guru like a Bill Belichick. Or make adjustments to the elements or team’s defensive strengths. These guys are a thorn in the side of long time front line coordinators looking for head coaching jobs in the NFL. Same for many former black players who are not being afforded the chance to enter the coaching ranks with the “Rooney Rule” at these guys expense.

So teams are coming full bore on the Cardinals offense to chase Kingsbury back to college and Murray is the collateral damage. Remember in his 2nd preseason game showcased on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” when Murray, as the game concluded, asked several Raider defenders why the Raiders DC kept blitzing him when he expected a vanilla defensive game plan?? Its been relentless ever since.

Will Kingsbury adjust and learn the pro game?

Will Kingsbury alter his game plan away from the same formations and alter their plan of attack to protect Murray??

Will Murray be able to take the punishment before NFL defenses either beat the speed out of him or chase him back to baseball??

Interesting questions that history has shown direction but we have to let play out in real time. Asking “The Chancellor of Football?” We’ve seen this before and doesn’t think so. Kingsbury calls too cute a ball game just like Matt Nagy in Chicago. They’re too in love with playing to the point they are geniuses instead of adjusting to what will make their team’s successful. Then just like “The Old Ball Coach” they will be chased back to college.

This just in: The Arizona Cardinals just lost their 3rd straight, 30-27 to Tampa, and now drop to 3-6-1…and now travel to 8-0 (haven’t played this week yet) San Francisco with the NFL’s #1 defense. Yikes!! Kingsbury and Murray…your mission, should you choose to accept it…

Thanks for reading and please share the article.

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