Arkansas fans might remember facing Kyler Murray back during his days at Texas A&M. After all, the Razorbacks are the only team that season to hold him to 0 passing yards in colleges.
In actuality, it might have been Kevin Sumlin who found a way to hold down possibly the greatest high school quarterback ever during his freshman year. Murray played in eight games for Sumlin as part of a loaded quarterback room that quickly dispersed at the end of the season.
The young man who was thought to be a football savant when coming out of Allen High School in the Dallas-Fort Worth area couldn't do better than 50% completion percentage in three of his games while finishing below 60% on 121 attempts for the season. He had more interceptions than total touchdowns through the air and on the ground.
In his final two games as an Aggie against Auburn and Western Carolina, Murray threw five picks while completing 35-of-62 passes. That's an interception on every 12th pass once he was given the reigns, three of which came against FCS Western Carolina of the Southern Conference.
What we later learned, which was highlighted this week with reports that the Arizona Cardinals had to put a clause in his contract that requires him watch four hours of game film per week without the distraction of cell phones, TV and video games, is that Murray thinks he is so naturally gifted that he doesn't have to spend time studying teams.
“I think I was blessed with the cognitive skills to just go out there and just see it before it happens,” Murray was quoted as saying in New York Times profile this past December. “I’m not one of those guys that’s going to sit there and kill myself watching film. I don’t sit there for 24 hours and break down this team and that team and watch every game because, in my head, I see so much.”
His lack of study habits, which were a disaster against SEC defenses, were able to get him by against Big 12 defenses sorely lacking swaths of NFL talent three seasons later.
In Murray's Heisman season, his completion percentage ran between 73-79 percent for nearly every Big 12 game. However, when his "cognitive skills" had to figure out Alabama, he helped send the Sooners packing with a 19-of-37 passing performance, less than 20% his Big 12 completion output.
It should have been a red flag of self awareness for Murray to realize he will need to develop a habit of studying film to understand specific player habits to better his game and consistently showing poorly against schools heavy with potential NFL talent.
Knowing that LSU's JaMarcus Russell was able to succeed against SEC defenses through his natural talent, but failed miserably in the NFL because he famously wouldn't watch tape should have been enough. Once Raiders' coaches started sending blank tapes home with Russell to "study" to catch him lying about watching film so they could confirm why they suspected he was failing on the field.
It was a major factor, in addition to laziness in other areas, that ended his career abruptly as one of the greatest busts of all time.
Knowing a quarterback who was naturally better than him couldn't coast his way through the NFL should have set off alarms, but apparently not.
Now, with a "divorce" clause that voids his $230 million contract if he doesn't legitimately study film four hours per week, Murray has placed himself in line to potentially become the next JaMarcus Russell should he not get past his aversion to a level of studying that for a quarterback is an expectation so low that it's shocking a player has to be told to do it, much less require a contract clause.
When it comes to situations to watch in the NFL with SEC ties, this will definitely be the most intriguing. If Murray can't put down the games and become the most minimal of students, he might find his paycheck suddenly become equal to his passing yards against Arkansas – $0.00.
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