Arizona Cardinals: Kyler Murray is more important than tanking

Each win in 2023 creates optimism for 2024
Los Angeles Chargers v Arizona Cardinals
Los Angeles Chargers v Arizona Cardinals / Christian Petersen/GettyImages

The Arizona Cardinals have played as the worst team in the NFL through nine weeks but are about to look like a very different roster. Kyler Murray is fully recovered from his torn ACL and after a couple weeks of practice he is now scheduled to return to the Arizona Cardinals this week against the Atlanta Falcons.

Fans may be finding themselves in a bit of a conundrum. A top pick would guarantee the Arizona Cardinals a generational prospect like Marvin Harrison Jr, but the Arizona Cardinals also need to see at least a couple of wins with Kyler Murray at the helm if they are to have confidence in him for the future. Would winning now compromise the team’s ability to build for the future?

My response is a firm no. No player’s performance is more indicative of the success of the rebuild than Kyler Murray’s. He was drafted to be a franchise quarterback, was paid like a franchise quarterback, and he carries the weight of the offense on his shoulders like a franchise quarterback. Kyler Murray playing up to his expectations opens up immense flexibility to build around him. If the Arizona Cardinals have to go back to select a new signal caller, that brings the rebuild back to step one.

A successful Kyler Murray in the latter half of this season means that the Arizona Cardinals could position themselves for playoff contention as early as next season. If this means the team plays themselves out of the Marvin Harrison Jr sweepstakes, it is a small price to pay for the comfort of knowing that the Cardinals have the most important position on the field locked down.

Whether the Cardinals have the 1st pick, 4th pick, or 10th pick, Monti Ossenfort will make the call

While it is easy to become enamored with the idea of a top pick being the salvation for a struggling franchise, it is not a prerequisite for building a strong team. It is not the draft position that determines future outcomes, it is the general manager who is making the selection.

Review any NFL draft and one will see that franchise altering talent is not limited to the top three (and that a top three pick need not guarantee a franchise altering player). Regardless of position, Ossenfort will have to identify who is the next Jalen Carter, Micah Parsons, Penei Sewell, or Sauce Gardner of this draft class.

Kyler Murray is the engine of this rebuild. His performance will determine if the Arizona Cardinals can accelerate the steps needed to be taken seriously once again. Fans should be rooting for wins now because they will translate into wins for the future.

The second half of the season will serve as a measuring stick for where the team is right now and how far they still have to go. Everyone should be rooting for the Arizona Cardinals to close that gap as quickly as possible.