Having secured quarterback Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals coach Jonathan Gannon is optimistic about the team’s future.
Despite two missed field goals in the final three minutes of a 21-20 loss to Seattle on Sunday that dropped them to 4-13 for the second straight season, Gannon stated, “Good things are on the horizon.”
“I have never been more excited in my life to start an offseason. I am aware of this team’s potential; it is a tough, astute, and competitive team that is currently participating in important games. We outlined the expectations. Although the record is obviously not what we would have liked, we always put the team first.
Kyler Murray passed for a season-high 262 yards and a touchdown five days after Gannon referred to him as “our franchise quarterback.” With 9:48 left, Murray connected with Trey McBride on an 8-yard fake field goal to give the team a 20–13 lead. “A flawless pass,” McBride exclaimed. “He’s amazing.”
The questions surrounding Murray’s future—his history of injuries, the $35.3 million in guaranteed money left on his contract, and the fact that the Cardinals will have a top five pick in the quarterback-heavy 2024 draft—were all mooted by Gannon’s three simple words.
After Murray made his debut in Week 10 following his rehabilitation from a torn right anterior cruciate ligament sustained late in 2022, things took a significant turn as the season went on.
Murray Finishes Strong
In the final two games of the season, Murray turned in two of his best performances. On December 31, the Cardinals defeated Philadelphia 35–31, and with 32 seconds left, Murray led the team on a 70-yard drive that resulted in the game’s winning touchdown.
Gannon plays a significant role in it. The best thing that has happened to Murray since joining the Cardinals as the first overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft is his offensive scheme, which is known as “cram the ball vertical.”
Murray was no longer expected to save the team on his own, unlike his first five seasons, as it seemed to be in former coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense. Cramming it improves both Murray’s quarterbacking and the Cardinals’ team performance.
For the second straight game on Sunday, the Cardinals won the line of scrimmage. Against Seattle, they gained 466 yards of total offense, including 206 yards rushing. Against Philadelphia, they ran for 228 yards and finished with 449 yards of total offense.
Furthermore, the Cardinals possessed the ball for a substantially longer period of time during both contests. Against the Seahawks, they held the ball for 36:03, and against the Eagles, for 39:39.
“Stretching it up straight”
Against the Seahawks, running back James Conner amassed 204 yards of total rushing and receiving yards in addition to 150 yards of touchdown runs. This is the second straight game in which Conner has rushed for at least 125 yards. He only participated in 13 games, but he still finished with 1,040 yards—his first season with 1,000 yards.
Murray remarked, “It felt like there was nothing that they could do to stop us.” For the most part, it seemed like we were hitting all the right notes. There is a sense that there is a lot to look forward to at the end of the day, even though nobody wants to lose and we feel like we should have won that game.
“I’m thrilled about it,” I am aware that the guys have faith in “JG” and (general manager) Monti (Ossenfort) and what they are creating here. It’s a total 180, and I’m content. I’m content with where we are right now and am eager to start the next season.
Having spent almost his entire college and NFL career in the shotgun formation, Murray was a natural at taking snaps under center, which positions the running backs for a downhill start. He played under center for thirty snaps against Seattle, and he enjoyed the options it provided.
Murray remarked, “It just gives the defense a different look.” “I believe that (with) my mobility, agility, and ability to throw both inside and outside of the pocket, why not? In order to give the defense different looks and let the running backs run downhill, I can be as versatile as possible.
Snaps without issue beneath the center
Murray, who missed the first nine games due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee sustained in the 13th game of the 2022 season, left the Cardinals with a 1-8 record. Due to a Grade 2 hamstring strain, he missed two games in the past. In 2021, an ankle sprain caused him to miss three games.
Though his absence was anticipated, there was increased conjecture that the team might select a quarterback with its first pick. Caleb Williams of USC, Drake Maye of North Carolina, and Jayden Williams of LSU are 1-3 in the most recent draft projection by PFF.com.
Some considered his sizeable financial commitment to be a burden. Before the 2022 season, Murray agreed to a five-year, $230.5 million contract extension, which took the place of his rookie entry contract’s final year. As part of the new contract, he guaranteed $35.3 million of his $38.5 million salary in 2024 and, if he stays on the roster through March 18, the fifth day of the 2024 NFL calendar, he guaranteed $18 million of the $33.2 owed in 2025.
After the game in Seattle, none of that seemed to matter.
Gannon stated of Murray, “That guy is one of the reasons I’m really excited about going into the next year.” “The rival that he is. His desire to triumph. the colleague he is. His character and intangibles allow him to advance with this team and consistently play winning football.