Kliff Kingsbury confirmed on Tuesday what everyone understood Monday night -- that quarterback Kyler Murray suffered a non-contact ACL tear in his right knee against the Patriots and his season is over.
"It was a tough night," the Cardinals coach said.
Now comes the difficult part -- the long rehab, particularly for a quarterback whose legs are a large part of why he is so effective.
Kingsbury declined to get into specifics of his conversation with his QB, other than he let Murray know how much he is appreciated in the organization and that he would have support as he comes back.
"It'll be a new challenge for him, but talking to him (Monday) night, he's up for the challenge," Kingsbury said, adding that Murray "wants to come back bigger, stronger, faster than ever."
Kingsbury didn't have much information beyond the knowledge the ACL was torn. It is too early to set any kind of timetable, including surgery. The coach wasn't aware yet if there was any damage beyond the ACL.
But the recent return from an ACL tear by Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow gives Murray encouragement, Kingsbury said.
As for the concern Murray's effectiveness could be harmed long-term because he relies on his legs so much, Kingsbury said those things can't be answered until after the rehab process.
"That's part of the challenge," Kingsbury said. "Both of us heard enough (doubters) this year to be highly motivated for the offseason."
Veteran Colt McCoy takes over as starter. Assuming McCoy starts the final four games, his six starts this season will be the most he's had since he had 13 in 2011 in his second year with the Cleveland Browns. Kingsbury's confidence has always been high with McCoy, and said with regular preparation, McCoy plays at his best.
"I've played for a long time and you've always got to be ready," McCoy said. "You never want to see the guy in front of you go down."
The thought of the offseason and how Murray's injury impacts that work isn't front of mind for Kingsbury in the moment, not with four games left starting with a trip to Denver Sunday.
The team will sign another quarterback, Kingsbury said, as a body to get behind McCoy and Trace McSorley. That will reportedly be Carson Strong, who was with the Eagles briefly after signing there as an undrafted free agent.
Kingsbury also didn't have an answer about where Murray would ultimately to his rehab, whether it would be at the team facility or at Murray's home in Dallas, but "I'm sure whoever it is with it will be done well."
The 24-hour period was a hard one for Kingsbury. Murray was lost for the season, the Cardinals lost, and then Kingsbury's college coach and mentor, Mike Leach, died after suffering a heart attack over the weekend.
"It's good to be around the guys," Kingsbury said. "It's kind of a safe space to be."
Now he has to devise a way to work without his QB1 for an extended period of time, likely into the 2023 regular season.
Not that Murray and the Cardinals wouldn't want to move on from 2022 anyway, after a year in which Murray's contract situation dominated the offseason and then the in-season work never got right. The trio of Murray and wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Hollywood Brown ultimately played just one game plus three plays together all season.
"A difficult year from the beginning from training camp with the wrist (injury) then Covid and having tough stretch and not playing as well as I thought we could," Kingsbury said, not even noting Murray's hamstring injury.
"I really thought against the Chargers it was a little bit better and was excited about these final five games. To not be able to build off that was disappointing."
MULLEN RELEASED AND INJURY UPDATE
The Cardinals released cornerback Trayvon Mullen on Tuesday, giving them two open roster spots. …
Kingsbury said it was unlikely defensive end Zach Allen (hand) will be able to play against the Broncos on Sunday, although cornerback Marco Wilson (neck) should be OK.