Entering their third season in the league together, the combo of Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray carries high hopes for the Arizona Cardinals. Now, the Cardinals are fully expected to make the playoffs thanks to a handful of strong additions across the depth chart.
However, with any professional football team, those expectations will mainly be guided by their head coach and quarterback. Dating back to Kingsbury's recruitment of Murray coming out of high school, the two have simply clicked with each other in ways only other coach and quarterback tandems across the league could dream of.
Now, both find themselves at the highest level with the same goals: Win the division, make the playoffs, and win a Super Bowl. Each of those goals have been especially elusive for Kingsbury and Murray through their first two seasons.
Murray's downfall have been his turnovers and the sometimes inability to avoid them like he avoids defenders. Kingsbury's long been criticized at times for his play-calling and his overall ability to manage a game.
Going into 2021, however, the tide is expected to shift for the better, and that starts with the evolved communication between Kingsbury and Murray.
Murray's Mental Approach
"I think when you first get here, you try to install the offense and get on the same page with all that X's and O's talk," said Kingsbury on Friday.
"Now, it's much more philosophy, leadership, team-oriented type of talk between us. "
Murray enters a pivotal third season as Arizona's quarterback, a year notorious for truly showing whether or not a player can play at a high level. After Year 3, a team has to make a decision on exercising a first-round pick's fifth-year option and, invariably, chatter seriously begins about a contract extension. Kingsbury spoke about Murray's growth and maturation since arriving to the organization:
"Going into Year 3, I just feel like he really feels like it's his team now," said Kingsbury.
"That ownership aspect has definitely grown and he's handled himself that way (when it comes to) adversity. Just in practices if things don't go well, he's handling that type of ups and downs a lot better than those first two years when I think he felt the weight of the world where he had to be perfect every play.
"He understands now, in this game, it's not about that, it's about finding a way at the end."
Murray on Relationship with Kingsbury
Murray, a serial winner through a majority of his football career, consistently strives for perfection on every single play. Kingsbury spoke of shaking that mentality and understanding the mental side of playing the quarterback position:
"Particularly a kid who's never lost, you know, literally never lost in high school. Very few games in college, had very few subpar games," said Kingsbury.
"So you get to this league and you're the No. 1 (overall) pick and you're trying to build a team, you're gonna have some ups and downs, but he's handled it well, he's responded every step of the way. He's definitely in his best place mentally going into this camp."
After the 2021 season, as noted, the Cardinals will be able to pick up Murray's fifth-year option on his rookie contract. Negotiations for a new deal at a premier position such as quarterback never come cheap, and Murray's expected deal could see a large amount of commas.
"Yeah, I think we're all hopeful that we get that opportunity to do it because that means we had a heck of a season and we all know the talent is there," Kingsbury said. "The progression has been great, (he's earned) Rookie of the Year, Pro Bowler, and we all hope we can all take the next step."