Being a Heisman Trophy winner and a quarterback has never signaled undoubted success in the NFL. In recent memory, mediocrity has been a high point for most of the recipients and the low points are very low. For every Cam Newton there’s a Matt Leinart. Where Kyler Murray fits in to this equation remains to be determined, but the gravity of the situation is undeniable.
Kyler Murray’s decision to turn his back on baseball and focus his sole attention on the NFL has me wondering if he thinks he’s the guy to change the tide. He did not do this quietly, he publicly committed his life to football and, without even mentioning the Oakland Athletics, he bid the infield adieu. That is a bold statement.
I get it. Passion is passion. If he doesn’t test what he can achieve in the NFL, he may be left wondering what could have been for the rest of his life. I. AM. HERE. FOR. THAT. However, there is more to this than just a love of football.
In the back of his mind (or, right at the forefront), he might be thinking he could have a long, career in MLB. Maybe he’d be a legend, good enough break some records, be a name and contribute to the story of baseball. The complacency and comfort of a lower impact sport might not breed a desire to give it all up to return to the gridiron. He’d face the daunting task of getting back into NFL shape, the high risk of injury and of course, potential failure. He’d lack the proof of superiority that comes with the combine and draft and, if he did make it back, he’d most likely take a huge pay cut and warm a bench as a 2nd or 3rd string QB. The only way this situation works is if he reverses it.
Here’s the scenario: Kyler Murray is drafted in the first round. Is he a starter? Possibly. The Dolphins could start him. Washington has to take a look considering Alex Smith’s health. The Jaguars will be in the mix, as will the Raiders if they’re smart (spoiler: they aren’t). This is the NFL. Teams are always looking for the next franchise quarterback, even if they already have one.
Whether or not he becomes a starter, he has the option of stability and longevity in another sport and this should be a legitimate concern for any team that drafts him. If he starts and is not on a trajectory to greatness, or he gets hurt, he could just bow out and return to baseball. The kid has the MLB wrapped around his finger to the point where the A’s aren’t even that mad that he left. He’s poised to become the first athlete to be taken in the first round of both the MLB and NFL and that is heavyweight status. If Kyler Murray wants to go back to baseball they’d welcome him with a warm embrace. He has the stage set, so why is everyone ready to give him a standing ovation before the curtain goes up?
Read the press around his decision, and everyone is saying, “Ignore his size”, “watch him take down the 40-yard dash”, or the bevy of analysts who have tagged Kyler Murray as a guaranteed top-10 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. It baffles me that these writers, analysts and agents have such short term memory. RGIII rocked the 40 yard and ended up on a one-year contract as the third-string QB for the Ravens in 2018. Manziel ran a flash 40 too and we are all super up-to-date on how that turned out. Tim Tebow burned out pretty quick and then headed to NCAAF commentating before jumping into baseball. Every one of these guys (and I could go on) were pegged as legends and they all were one-year-wonders, or worse.
There needs to be more logic, reason, and a dash of cynicism before we all jump into Murray’s basket full of eggs.
Do I blame the guy for wanting glory, or enjoying the mystique that the agents, the media, and analysts are creating for him? Nope. If I were him I’d probably play this the same way. However, does that give any team a solid indication of his commitment to football? It doesn’t.
The potential of Kyler Murray being fully committed to football is equal to him leveraging this entire situation to get the most money possible from the Oakland Athletics.
I am not saying I am right about any of this. It’s fair to believe that his passion for football, his snub towards MLB, and his talent are all real and lasting. I want nothing more than to see Murray be the guy who breaks the Heisman curse, who lives up to the hype and proves me wrong. What I am saying is that I am bored of this cyclical spectacle of young QBs who are boosted onto a pedestal they can’t get down from unless they fail. The best we usually end up doing to immortalize them is giving them a spot on a sad Top 10 list. I’m saying proceed with caution; be skeptical and employ critical thinking. It’ll soften the blow when we see Murray throw an interception one day and, catch a pop-fly the next.
Lindsay Van Gyn has a masters degree in sports communications focusing on the NFL. She is a passionate writer who focuses on the cultural intersection of sports, statistics and fans.