Kliff Kingsbury has known Kyler Murray since Murray was 15 years old, trying to recruit him to play for Kingsbury’s Texas Tech team.
Murray never did pick Kingsbury’s school. But Thursday night, Kingsbury got the quarterback after all, when the Cardinals selected Murray, the Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma, with the first overall pick in the NFL draft.
“It’s something we’ve talked about for a long time,” Murray said. “God works in mysterious ways. For me to play for him now is a surreal feeling.”
Kingsbury, not surprisingly, was ecstatic. General Manager Steve Keim acknowledged he originally needed convincing. It’s the second year in a row the Cardinals spent a first-round pick on a quarterback, after taking Josh Rosen in 2018.
“I’m not going to lie to you, I was reluctant,” Keim said. “I did not want to watch the tape, I did not want to fall in love with the player. I watched more and more, saw the things he can do. As I continued to get to know the person, as we did all our homework, our due diligence, the more and more I became convinced this was the right guy for us.”
Murray is considered a perfect fit for Kingsbury’s offense despite his 5-foot-10 stature – a frame, along with his 207 pounds, that has people comparing him to Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. But for Kingsbury and Keim, Murray has the potential to be much more.
Keim said that while he’s seen quarterbacks who as good as Murray throwing the football, and some as good as Murray running the ball, he’s never seen one player do both. That’s the player Kingsbury has chased since Murray’s high school days.
“He’s a dynamic talent, a unique talent that I don’t know if anyone has seen,” Kingsbury said.
It does leave a complicated situation at quarterback. The Cardinals did take some calls about potential trades for Rosen, but none that Keim considered reasonable offers. While there is a chance Rosen could still be dealt during draft weekend, Keim said he would “absolutely” be comfortable if Rosen remained on the roster into training camp.
Keim noted teams often need depth at quarterback, citing the Cardinals in their 2014 playoff game with third-string quarterback Ryan Lindley as starter after injuries to Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton.
Besides, Keim said, “we’re not going to get in the business of just letting good football players walk out of here.”
Kingsbury did talk to Rosen before the pick Thursday to tell him what the Cardinals would be doing. Murray said he knows Rosen from the high school all-star camp circuit, saying the two had been cool. That was, of course, before the two found themselves on the same roster.
“Us being teammates now, I can’t control anything but going in there and working hard,” Murray said.
Even with Rosen in place, Murray was long considered the favorite for the Cardinals as the top pick because of Kingsbury. Murray had been a first-round pick of baseball’s Oakland A’s and had signed a contract, with the provision the A’s would let him play one year of college football.
Murray, who had sat as the Sooners backup behind Baker Mayfield – who was the No. 1 overall pick to the Browns in 2018 – exploded on to the scene. He completed 69 percent of his passes for 4,361 yards, 42 touchdowns and only seven interceptions, in addition to rushing for 1,001 yards (7.2 yards per attempt) and 12 more TDs.
“I want to be the best ever to play this game, but it’ll take a lot of hard work and dedication,” Murray said. “I’m ready to do that.”
Even though Murray never played at Texas Tech under Kingsbury, Kingsbury continued to text him often, sustaining the relationship. Kingsbury said after seeing the success of Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield, he thought Murray was “the next guy” and he wanted to encourage Murray.
Now Kingsbury will be the one trying to get Murray to that level.
“God works in mysterious ways,” Murray said “Me choosing to play football, Coach Kingsbury getting the job in Arizona, having that relationship, it’s crazy to think I’m playing for him now.”