Kyler Murray is young, talented and improving. It’s a mixture the Cardinals have not had at the quarterback position since relocating to Arizona in the late 1980s. Not that they haven’t tried.
General manager Steve Keim has seen several promising passers come and go since he joined the organization around the turn of the century. Jake Plummer, Josh McCown, Matt Leinart and Josh Rosen ultimately proved to not be franchise quarterbacks.
Murray’s first two seasons suggest otherwise.
“It’s the little things,” Keim said, per the Cardinals’ website. “Whether it is seeing the field or playing with a little more consistency. Knowing we have a guy who is a game-changer and a special player, he is a rare competitor. I have no question he will continue to grow and develop in all those areas.”
That would elevate him to the game’s elite. The dual-threat QB was already better across the board a year after winning Offensive Rookie of the Year. His completion percentage, passing yards per game and per attempt, rushing yards and touchdowns on the ground and through the air all went up fair amounts, while his sacks were dramatically down.
Such growth has given Keim, if not the entire fan base, reason to believe in the Cardinals’ future. It was only two years ago that they entered the offseason holding the No. 1 pick in the draft. Reaching the postseason is now an expectation.
“I would say my confidence at the position and in general is at a real high,” Keim said.
The next step, of course, is winning. The previous two times a Cardinals QB made the Pro Bowl — Kurt Warner in 2008 and Carson Palmer in 2015 — the team made it to at least the NFC title game. Arizona improved by three wins in 2020 but still finished just 8-8 and outside the playoffs. That has seemed to stick with Murray more than his personal strides.
“Emotionally (last season) was definitely frustrating, especially for a guy like me,” Murray said. “I want to win. Not going to the playoffs is weird for me. I know it’s the NFL and I haven’t been yet, but … I’ve always played past the regular season, in every sport. It’s different. I am definitely not looking to get used to that.
“It’s definitely upsetting, lot of anger and frustrating when you are losing those games you think you should win. At the same time, I’m a self-motivated guy. I take all that as motivation.”
Keim has been motivated, too. He invested heavily on restocking the defense and offensive line this offseason while adding complimentary weapons like wide receiver A.J. Green, running back James Conner and rookie wideout Rondale Moore. The window to capitalize on Murray’s first contract might only be open for another year.
“Carson Palmer was a guy who excited us and did all the right things,” Keim said. “And then there were some things, as time went on from a durability standpoint, you were concerned if he could stay healthy. But he played at a high level and did a lot of things, was a great leader.
“Now, with a guy like Kyler Murray, the thing that is so exciting for me is having the opportunity to build around a young player, a guy you can grow with as an organization and as a roster. And there are different things you can do, especially with a rookie contract, as opposed to a veteran who is making a considerable part of your salary cap.”
Keim did it, and Murray has been doing it. Now the Cardinals have to do it.
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