Gosh, it seems like a lot has happened in one week of training camp. Good thing there is a mailbag. Questions have been edited for length and clarity. As always, you can send in a question for a future mailbag here.
From Mark in Pinetop:
"Hey Darren props for all you do and tolerate in regards to the mailbag. I want to ask about Kyler's maturation process. I believe he will win a Super Bowl when this happens, not if but when. But when he comes forward with a situation like the four-hour contract clause, he showed he has some way to go. I love the fact he addressed it. He straightened us all out on the fact he is not getting it done on talent alone. Thank you Kyler. But mature men never consider negative comments as criticism."
I'm going to have to agree to disagree on this. First of all, the definition of criticism is negative comments. You can argue what is constructive or not, but they are always negative. You might be able to get a positive result out of criticism, but there is no such thing as positive criticism. Also, I don't care what your job is or what you are being paid. If you endured essentially 72 hours of constant criticism about all facets of your life, and it was done on both a local and national stage -- ESPN didn't have a show for almost an entire week that didn't mention Kyler if not long, harsh segments about him and the team -- I'm gonna guess you're not going to sit in the corner and just say, "You know what? It's good for me."
From Troy Ezeh:
"Looking back at Kyler's contract is there a reason why Management doesn't structure the contract so that the cap hit is spread out more evenly? For instance with Kyler's new contract, the cap hit in year 2022 ($12.7M), 2023 ($16M) then in 2024 it jumps all the way up to $50M+. I know we have a lot of room to work with 2022 & 2023 but if we continue having sub par free agency signings similar to this past offseason, what's the point of having a two-year window with cap and then taking such a hit 2024 onward until the end of his contract?"
Couple reasons I would think. One, the league is always about the next couple of years. A lot can and does change in two years. They have to be able to maneuver now (and next year) and not muck up 2022 for something that might happen in 2025. Second, the cap is supposed to significantly jump in 2024, which will provide a cushion for a bigger number. Finally, contracts can always be adjusted to lower the number if needed -- you just have to understand there will be dead cap money somewhere down the line.
From Jake Buell:
"Kliff's comments about Kyler being better at studying than he use to be and 'that's how I judge it' is incredibly damning of Kyler. You know why? It says that Kyler still stinks at studying. He use to be way worse. He still stinks currently, but is better than he use to be, that's all that matters. No. You don't judge Kyler compared to how he used to be."
What's the point of improvement if it isn't measured by where you have come from. I understand this whole thing has caused a kerfuffle, but it has seemingly opened a door to people who make it sound like Kyler belongs in the laundry list of starters in between Warner and Palmer and that makes zero sense to me. He hasn't quite had the success of Kurt and Carson team-wise, but individually he has.
From Erill Pushkar:
"I like how genuine Kliff is. He seems to always speak his mind. However I think sometimes it comes across a little aloof and he's just 'along for the ride' rather than the head coach. In commenting on both the Kyler and Hudson situations, he had similar sentiments in that he would just cross his fingers and pray. Which is a true statement. He had no control over those situations. Again, he's a very honest guy. But in terms of optics, he never seems to be in control. He's always just hoping things work out, rather than presenting a confident assurance that he has a plan. That's an area I think he still needs to grow."
Couple things. One, I don't think he always speaks his mind, not in public. I wish he did. He pretty much keeps things close to the vest. In the two cases you reference, if he had just said, 'we're working on it' or 'we worked on it' and nothing else, you get no information and I don't know how that breeds any more confidence. I know this -- the guy the players and coaches see behind the scenes is a guy who has a plan for them. But he doesn't have much interest in sharing that with the public at large. Can he still grow with his public face? Sure. He's still growing in a lot of coaching areas, I'd think.
From Joseph Bloom:
"I find it interesting that Rodney Hudson agrees to return just as Kyler gets his payday. Do you get a vibe these two issues were tangentially related? It looks on the surface Hudson helped his QB get paid. Any inside scoop?"
Not sure how they would be related or how Hudson's indecision would've created contract leverage. That doesn't make any sense to me. Kyler was getting the deal regardless of Hudson's status.
From JPR Cards:
"I was a little dismayed the Cardinals felt they needed to specifically write a 'studying film clause' into Kyler Murray's new contract. They also had to specify things such as he was not to play video games, go on the internet or watch television while he was studying film. Would you agree that it seems clear that the team does not believe he puts enough time into studying film and breaking down game plans? I think Murray is extremely talented and has a high ceiling but this seems like a bit of a red flag to me."
I have not had an opportunity to ask anyone who would know of the genesis of the clause. I don't know if it is a fear that he doesn't put in enough time. He also has a clause about showing up to voluntary work in the offseason; he has worked in the offseason but he has normally done it on his own. And for Kyler, if he figured he was already doing the work, maybe it didn't matter to him to have the clause if it meant they would get the contact executed. No one is being specific about the contract talks.
From Blaine P:
"Darren, after evaluating the Cardinals regular-season schedule, prior to training camp and preseason, I wanted to send in my projection for the Cardinals record. I am projecting the Cardinals at 7-10. Absolute best 8-9. Third in the NFC West, obviously no playoffs this year. At least now I am on record and after the season can say I told you so. If wrong, I will say so."
An odd declaration, but OK.
From J Moore:
"Hey Darren. Something that's sort of been under the radar with all the other offseason stories is the team's dismal home record. I don't know how you solve for a team playing worse at home than away, other than taking a more than a hard look to at your 'home routine.' Has there been any talk on shifting training camp away from their crown jewel? I know it's probably a cost saver but there's something to be said about having too much familiarity. I know the Flagstaff tradition ended badly but getting the guys away at least for the first several weeks has it's advantages. If not Flagstaff then why not Prescott or heck even somewhere in Colorado or California?"
No, they are going to camp at the stadium indefinitely. Going elsewhere isn't just about money, it's also about logistics. Players hate it. Flagstaff was fun in parts, but fans also get more chance to see the team now. I don't know why the struggles at home occurred but I don't think it's camp. This team went to the NFC Championship game in 2015 after camp at State Farm Stadium.
From Ja Nunen:
"Hi Darren. About that MVP WR they signed from the USFL, I'm happy they are making moves. Would be nice if they signed a cornerback someday. It's frightening how little depth our CB room has. But as far as receivers, great. The guy is 5-foot-8 and this is starting to feel like a giant prank. I'm not kidding when I say we might have the shortest modern day roster ever. It's stunning how diminutive our team is."
Bolden was brought in as an option for not only receiver but as a return man. The Cardinals receivers don't have a lot of height as a whole, but when they are on the field, all the short ones won't be out there at the same time.
From Andy Stands Up:
"Hey Darren, longtime listener, first time caller. I'm guessing you'll have a few questions/opinions on the Murray game-studying clause. Your take? Also, maybe time for Peters and/or Alford?"
I don't think Corey Peters is coming back. Robert Alford still might, but we will see. I think they are going to be smart about what they spend there, especially for an older cornerback. As for the clause, I understand why it caused a firestorm. I would guess that Kyler didn't think much of it, since he figured he was already doing it and just wanted to get the deal done. That's my guess at least. I understand all the questions, although I do find it disingenuous when some claim the only reason they are talking about Murray's study habits/work to learn the game was only because of this clause coming to light. I could easily find 10 examples from local and national media wondering about that over the last couple of years. Heck, even before the clause was reported there were plenty of people wondering if Kyler was worth the contract.
From Chris Robertson:
"What is your favorite Larry Fitzgerald moment?"
Probably has to be his 64-yard Super Bowl TD. I thought the Cardinals were going to win a title in that moment. I truly did. (Although hanging out at his house in Minnesota for this story was also pretty memorable.)
From Rich Sousa:
"Attended the first open practice of the season. Great time. Two questions, to me it appears that Eno Benjamin has got an extra burst this year. What'd you think? After the practice, my son was getting some autographs. While many graciously signed, others ignored the requests of the fans. Does the team assign the players on when to give autographs? Meaning like 'Today JJ, Kyler, Zach, please take some time to sign, all others you're free to leave after practice.' "
On the two big Saturday practices -- Back Together Saturday and Red and White -- all the players are supposed to participate. But yes, on the other public days, they designate a position or two to sign. As for Benjamin, I don't know if his burst is any better. I do think he has a chance to make an impact on this offense this season.
From Naha Savalaoopu:
"Do you remember RB Reagan Maui'a? He was scary. 5'11 270. They don't make them built like that anymore."
I do remember Reagan. In fact he was one of the many alumni who came to the "Back Together Saturday" practice and was introduced on the field before practice.
From Trevor Hansen:
"We love going to the Red and White practice and my kids love getting things signed and interacting with the players. Last couple years there hasn't been any interaction. Will the players be signing after the practice like they used to?"
Yes. Covid protocols have been lifted and players have again begun signing autographs after public practices.
From Doc Mackenzie:
"A word from my professional about helmets. I'm an optometrist. We take industrial vision lighting colors etc. I was also on a safety council for six years traffic safety water safety etc. All emergency equipment is bright yellow or bright orange because it's the easiest to see. Even red disappears in rain or when it gets dark. The helmets should be the brightest color they can be so if a quarterback is about to get killed and has a quarter of a second to make a decision and find a receiver. Black is the worst color you want."
Black is cool. Bright yellow or bright orange are not. And they would clash like hell with the jerseys.