Jordan Year: Kyler Murray Primed for Breakout

Mason Kern

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray turned 23-years-old Friday. Entering his second NFL season, the stars seem to be aligning for a breakout yeat. Twenty-three is considered your "Jordan Year" after all.

Not sure what that is? Well, age 23 is commonly called this in reference to NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan — arguably the greatest player in his sport of all time — and his No. 23 jersey number.

Many people refer to their 23rd year of life as their "Jordan Year" as a result. And in Murray's case, it could not have come at a better time.

"I live, breathe and eat football," he said in June. "Me personally, I can't wait just to get out there with the guys, win games and ultimately the goal is to win a Super Bowl and bring a Super Bowl back to Arizona. That's what I plan to do and I know the guys plan to do that as well. It's amazing just watching film and seeing things that I didn't see then (as a rookie) or that I knew, but I just didn't see just because, obviously, getting acclimated to the NFL, the league, everybody's better. But even in meetings, seeing stuff and it'll be like, before a coach even says anything I already know, 'I should have did this,' or, 'I see that now.' The more you play, the more things click and I think that's starting to happen."

Most quarterbacks tend to progress instrumentally in the summer between their first and second season, leading to improved success as a sophomore professional. Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson won the 2019 NFL MVP award in his second season in which he was 23-years-old. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was identical — just a year earlier — winning the MVP in 2018 in his second pro season at 23-years-old.

Murray is hoping for a similar career trajectory in a year that has proved fruitful for those before him.

"We stayed in touch, would text him probably every once every two weeks or so and just see where he's at, what he was doing, just checking in," Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said earlier this week. "He's obviously put on some mass, you can tell he's bigger, thicker, I think he understood it's a long season. You're going to take a bit of a pounding and he wanted to bulk up in that area. 

"He's been throwing with his dad since he could walk and so that continued and he's been sharp so far in these walk-throughs. I think the mental side of it, the game is going to slow down tremendously. Just his operation, his competence level, his leadership and those are all things, even in the first couple of days of being around him, that you can see he's taken big steps. We just have to continue to take steps in the right direction."

Murray's physical improvements from this offseason have been noticeable. Not only to his coaching and strength staff, but to his teammates as well.

"Kyler's definitely bulked up," Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones said Thursday. "His arms and shoulders look a little bit bigger. He's also had a tan too, I always make fun of him. I say, 'You got a tan.' Kyler, he's definitely bulked up and that's going to be good for him, especially in this league. There's no quarterback that doesn't go through games without getting sacked. That's just the way it goes. He's fast, but when he has a little bit more meat on his bones, he can take hits. That's going to be good for him. And he's definitely a leader. When he speaks, guys listen and even when he was a rookie, so even going into his second year, I feel like that's going to even be more. I'm definitely looking forward to him to do that. To lead our offense to some more wins."

Even for those in their first training camp in Arizona, Murray has resonated with his leadership qualities and has made impactful impressions through this early juncture. He has earned the respect of the locker room and will seek to improve on his 2019 Offensive Rookie of the Year resume'.

"He's a competitor, he wants to be first in everything he does," Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins said earlier this week. "I knew he was, obviously, a great athlete, but I didn't know he was as competitive as he is. I think people might think, obviously, he's not the most outspoken person, but he competes in everything he does ... the guy wants to be first in everything he does.

"I'm thankful to play with a quarterback like that, that can make any throw anywhere on the field and has confidence to do it. And I think just from what I've seen, we're going to have a good time playing football together because, obviously, he's confident in his arm and the guy is very talented, very smart, high football IQ. What I've seen so far is someone with a very strong arm."

Building chemistry with some of the new guys might be the next step, but according to Hopkins, that bond has already begun to form. Hosting most of the offensive skill players in his hometown of Dallas, Texas, over the summer for private workouts certainly helped. 

"To form that chemistry, it's not just on the field, but off the field," Hopkins said. "Us communicating, texting each other, calling each other and just camaraderie. Something that is going to last for a long time, not just while we're playing football, but after football. My expectation is us becoming best friends and doing everything together because I have to be on the same page with my quarterback no matter what for us to be successful as a team, not just him and I. But Kyler has done a great job of leading and helping me get up to speed with what's going on with the playbook and everything. I think we're off to a good start."

Let the "Jordan Year" begin.

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