The 2018 Arizona Cardinals entered the 2019 offseason with a 3-13 record, which gave them the first overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Despite then-head coach Kliff Kingsbury saying at the time that Josh Rosen, the 10th overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, “is our guy”, Arizona traded Rosen to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for a second-round pick and a 2020 fifth-round pick after selecting Kyler Murray first overall in the 2019 draft.
Fast forward to today, and the 2023 Arizona Cardinals are in a similar spot. They have a 4-12 record entering the final week of the regular season, which has them picking fourth in the 2023 NFL Draft at the moment. There are three highly-touted collegiate passers being hailed as first-round picks in the NFL Draft world: USC quarterback Caleb Williams (the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner), North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye, and LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels, the 2023 Heisman Trophy winner.
However, Cardinals first-year head coach Jonathan Gannon made a strong, detailed proclamation about Murray and his long-term status in Arizona on Tuesday on the “The Burns and Gambo Show” on Arizona Sports radio, Gannon, laughing when asked, said “No, there is not [doubt].”
When the natural follow-up question of “So Kyler is your guy?” was posited, Gannon’s answer about Murray, who signed a five-year, $230.5 million extension prior to the 2022 season and then proceeded to tear his ACL that year, was even more clear.
“There is no doubt,” Gannon said, still chuckling. “I love this guy [Murray]. Number 1′ is our franchise quarterback. Being here with him for a year now, I’m more convicted than when I got here. Going through the process and our connection, developing a relationship with him. It was a little odd because you know you have your franchise quarterback, but he can’t play [missed first nine games of 2023 while rehabbing from a torn ACL suffered in 2022].”
Murray’s work ethic through his rehabilitation process for his knee impressed his head coach. He has thrown nine touchdowns and five interceptions in seven games back from his injury while completing 64.7% of his passes for 1,537 yards and an 86.8 passer rating. Murray hasn’t been afraid to maintain the rushing element his athleticism adds to his game, running for 211 yards and three touchdowns on 39 carries this season, good for 5.4 yards per carry.
“Seeing the work he put in, and the things we talked about this offseason about what he wanted to improve on and what I wanted to see him improve on, what he and I each think he does well, we wanted to make sure that stayed strong. He’s done everything we asked. I just feel like what he’s done and the work he has done to get to this point to play that type of football, wins or losses, play the football that he has coming off a knee [injury] and being in a new system. The competitor that he is, I have been very pleased with him.”
Gannon definitely appreciated his quarterback’s performance in the Cardinals’ 35-31 road victory against the Philadelphia Eagles where Gannon spent the last two seasons as defensive coordinator. With the team trailing 21-6 at halftime, Murray played nearly perfect football in the second half, throwing for 133 yards and three touchdowns on 13 of 14 passing to rally the Cardinals to victory. He finished the contest with 232 yards, three touchdowns and an interception on 25 of 21 passing. While the team will likely have another top-five pick this April, wins like the one the Cardinals had on Sunday against the defending NFC champions are a huge help in establishing Gannon’s desired culture in Year 1 in the big chair.