The sky fell on Kyler Murray Thursday night.
The No. 1 overall pick struggled against the Raiders – he completed 3-of-8 passes for 12 yards, was called for three penalties and took a safety – and before Murray reached the locker room at halftime, there were delirious demands for Brett Hundley, Josh Rosen, Tua Tagovailoa and probably Kurt Warner to replace him as the Cardinals’ quarterback.
Welcome to the NFL echo chamber, kid.
“It gets frustrating when there might not be anything open and we go out there and look how we looked last week, and people are talking about you,” Murray said. “But you’ve also got to understand, like I’ve said, that it’s preseason, and we were running like literally six or seven plays. There is nothing to be too negative about because we know what’s really going on.”
There is a narrative that Murray is an untested phenom who might crack at the first sign of adversity, and it already feels like there is a higher-than-usual focus on how he bounces back in the third preseason game Saturday against the Vikings.
It’s true Murray’s life to this point has been a bit of a fairytale – high school legend, Heisman Trophy winner, top-10 draft pick in baseball and football – but his career has not been drama-free.
Murray didn’t win the starting quarterback job at Texas A&M as a freshman, and after splitting time with Kyle Allen that season, he transferred to Oklahoma. There he redshirted and then sat a second year behind Baker Mayfield. Compared to that, a poor preseason game is but a blip.
“I wouldn’t say I failed, but obviously I didn’t do as well as I planned,” Murray said. “For me, I look at it as a learning experience.”
Wide receiver Christian Kirk arrived at Texas A&M with Murray, seeing firsthand the hype and the eventual fall.
“With him, being at the top for so long and always being No. 1, it’s good to kind of see what it’s like when you’re not in that position,” Kirk said. “It puts things into perspective, and it definitely did for him. It was a little added motivation for him.”
Murray bounced back just fine, and Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury believes those tough times will help his rookie signal-caller as they begin this NFL journey together.
“He’s had a ton of success, but this is a humbling sport and a humbling game,” Kingsbury said. “You’re going to go through some ups and downs. Everybody does and everybody has. He understands that. He has a good feel for who he is trying to be as a player and as a leader and the face of this franchise. Some of those things he went through during those couple years of sitting out and it not working out at A&M as much as he would have liked, will definitely serve him well.”
Murray went a combined 57-3 in high school and college. In the NFL, wins are much harder to come by. Kingsbury has coached a number of high-profile quarterbacks – Murray, Mayfield, Patrick Mahomes – and they have all dealt with losses the same way.
“They despise losing,” Kingsbury said. “It makes them physically ill. Can’t sleep. Can’t eat. And that’s what you want.”
So maybe Murray won’t be super pleasant to be around at times this season, but the Cardinals are confident everything will work out in the long run.
It did for Murray the first time around.
“I think it honestly prepared me for this moment, because I did have to sit out and see how the game works with a lot better players,” Murray said. “I think it helped me a lot.”
The top images from Cardinals training camp, which ended on Sunday