There’s no way around it.
On Thursday, they did what many have been expecting them to do for months: They drafted Murray, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, with the first overall pick of the NFL draft. They did so a year after drafting quarterback Josh Rosen No. 10 overall.
The risk in that alone is incalculable.
Rosen has vowed to prove the Cardinals made a mistake, and the scorned former UCLA quarterback could grow into one of the best at the position.
Yes, Rosen had a miserable rookie season: He threw 14 interceptions against 11 touchdowns, the offense looked discombobulated, points were at a premium and Arizona finished 3-13. To be fair, it wasn’t all Rosen’s fault. He was playing under a first-year head coach in Steve Wilks and for an offensive coordinator — for the first seven weeks — in Mike McCoy, who was forced on Wilks by the front office. After McCoy and his exorbitantly large playbook were fired, Byron Leftwich took over. He is an up-and-coming coach but had no experience as a coordinator.
By the end of the season, Rosen was playing in front of a half-full State Farm Stadium — and team president Michael Bidwill noticed.
He fired Wilks and replaced him with Kliff Kingsbury, the former Texas Tech coach who went 35-40 during six years in Lubbock. Despite the record, he’s known as a young quarterback whisperer with Johnny Manziel and Patrick Mahomes on his résumé. Bidwill has made it known he wanted an offense-minded head coach, a la Sean McVay. He got that in Kingsbury.
And on Thursday, Kingsbury got his guy.
He recruited Murray out of Allen High School in suburban Dallas starting in 2012, and the two have remained close. Murray also played in a version of the Air Raid offense — which Kingsbury ran at Texas Tech and has since brought with him to Arizona — while at Oklahoma.
To some, he is the perfect fit for Kingsbury.
But he’s only the perfect fit if he wins. And if Murray can’t win, stay healthy and perform, then the Cardinals might have just committed one of the biggest blunders in modern draft history.
Missing on a franchise-changing player can set a team back for years. And by taking Murray, the Cardinals might have committed the same mistake in consecutive drafts.
Wins and losses aren’t the only things in jeopardy by drafting Murray.
If Murray doesn’t pan out, then this season, and probably the next two or three after, could be on the line.
General manager Steve Keim’s job should also be on the line. He’s the one who’s ultimately responsible for the draft, even if Bidwill has to sign off on it. But after last season’s disaster, picking the wrong quarterback again might be the reason he’s handed a pink slip.
Depending on how the Cardinals perform in 2019, Kingsbury’s job could also be on the line. At least, it should be. If the Cardinals go 3-13 or worse, how could the team justify keeping Kingsbury after firing Wilks for the same record? That wouldn’t be a popular decision in the locker room.
But if Murray works out, if he wins, if he turns into the quarterback many believe he can, then all the worry, all the risk is moot.
That’s why the Cardinals need to be right on Murray.