For better or worse, Kyler Murray is the same player he's always been

Kyler Murray looks like the same player he was in 2022, and that may not be a good thing
Arizona Cardinals v Houston Texans
Arizona Cardinals v Houston Texans / Tim Warner/GettyImages

Kyler Murray’s performance against the Houston Texans was truly in the eye of the beholder. Those who believe that Kyler Murray is a top tier franchise quarterback could point to an explosive opening touchdown to Rondale Moore, or a dazzling escape from Texans’ pass rushers to score a crucial touchdown. For skeptics, Murray also provided footage of missing easy throws and getting the ball batted down. From the very beginning, Kyler Murray’s NFL career has been defined by its polarizing history and this week adds more fuel to the fire.

As much as the Arizona Cardinals organization changed in the last year, Kyler Murray has remarkably remained the same player. This means he has the same strengths (and weaknesses) as he’s always had.

Murray’s debut against the Atlanta Falcons quelled any doubts that he would be hampered by the ACL tear he suffered in December. “Murray Magic” has been on display in both contests by using his legs when the rest of the offense was stalling out. However, in Year 5 he has also demonstrated very little growth as a pocket passer and his tendency to turn the ball over persists, throwing an interception in both his starts.

No serious individual will argue against the talent of Kyler Murray, but the question that remains without an answer is if he is the quarterback to lead the Arizona Cardinals to their first Super Bowl victory. The reason this question is asked so often, and argued so aggressively, is because he is right on the fringe of being a Super Bowl caliber quarterback. Unfortunately, what people mean by "Super Bowl caliber" are all over the map.

Does Kyler Murray need to be an NFL MVP, a top five quarterback, or merely above average?

What we can point to is what Kyler Murray is getting paid as a proxy for how he ought to be performing. As of the writing of this article, Murray is the eighth highest paid quarterback in the NFL on an average annual basis. This puts him in the category of superstars such as Patrick Mahomes, Jalen Hurts, and Lamar Jackson.

At this level of pay the standard is that these are quarterbacks who are capable of carrying their team to the playoffs, regardless of the talent scattered around the rest of the roster. This is the tier of quarterbacks who are upheld as royalty because they are the superhero of the roster.

With so much of the salary cap committed, these quarterbacks need to be the reason their team wins, not just the reason they don't lose. If Kyler Murray is not reaching these lofty expectations, then he is not playing up to the salary the Arizona Cardinals signed him to.

At 2-9 the Arizona Cardinals are firmly in the race for the top pick in the NFL draft. Although no team wants to be picking this high, there is an opportunity to take advantage of a generational quarterback class. Be it Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, Michael Penix, or someone else there will be a league altering arm talent selected at the top of the 2024 NFL draft.

For all his highlights, Kyler Murray only has one playoff appearance in five seasons as the Arizona Cardinals quarterback. The Arizona Cardinals do not need to force themselves into drafting a quarterback if they do not believe in any of them, but it would be foolhardy to not seriously consider if there are better options for the future than Kyler Murray.