Kyler Murray’s Cardinals face an inevitable rebuilding as a lost season becomes a reality

Sean M. Hafey / Getty Images

With or without quarterback Kyler Murray, the Arizona Cardinals are a flawed team.

Monday’s 38-10 maneuvering by the San Francisco 49ers in Mexico City showed one team on the rise and the other going in the wrong direction. Murray’s eventual comeback from a hamstring injury would not save the season after a disappointing 4-7 record.

Kliff Kingsbury’s entire tenure as head coach of the Cardinals can best be described as disappointing. Well, maybe not – if anyone has actually paid attention to how he performs as a college coach.

At Texas Tech, Kingsbury has won 47 percent of its games. With Monday’s loss, the Arizona coach’s winning percentage is… wait for it… 48 percent (when rounded off).

Combined with some of the league’s worst drafting by general manager Steve Kim, owner Michael Bidwell should have gotten to the point where a roster cleanup during the upcoming holiday season is a possibility.

Currently, Arizona seems to have been pulled and outmatched in most cases. Last week’s upset victory led by Colt McCoy doesn’t change the fact that the Cardinals have been mostly bad this season. Besides, the Los Angeles Rams are one of the few teams that have experienced a bigger disaster.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo salutes Arizona Cardinals coach Cliff Kingsbury after the 49ers defeated the Cardinals 38-10 in an NFL football game Monday, November 21, 2022, in Mexico City.  (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

AP Photo/Fernando Plano

The team’s four victories came over opponents with a record of 13-29. Aside from last season’s stellar 7-0 start, the Cardinals had mediocre to poor football. Kingsbury have certainly inherited the worst line-up in the league, but sustained improvement has not been seen over the past four years. The opposite happened.

The decline began on October 28 Thursday Night Football Meeting with the Green Bay Packers last year. From that point to today, the Cardinals have a record of 8-14.

A look at the roster shows how talentless Arizona really is. Four legitimate building blocks seem to be in place, starting with Murray. Wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Marquise Brown, as well as safety Budda Baker, make up the other pillars of the team.

Questions and jokes about Murray and his commitment to playing quarterback at the NFL level are moot because the Cardinals signed the 25-year-old signal caller to a five-year, $230.5 million contract extension that out of last season. Technically, that part of his current deal has yet to begin. He is the man for the foreseeable future, and he should be.

Whether or not Murray is a movie junkie, no one should be blinded to the fact that he is a naturally talented athlete who has endured offense at some points throughout his career.

An explosive arm talent coupled with a massive escape and special movement in the open field makes him difficult to tackle opposing defenses. The 2019 NFL MVP is a different caliber of athlete than most players who play the position, and it shows.

Is Murray perfect? far from it.

But the franchise has built upon its natural talents in a league where players of similar skills are more prevalent than ever. The NFL is now a league where most of the damage is mostly off the hull when play is extended.

The fact that Kingsbury didn’t get the most out of his hand-picked quarterback after making him the No. 1 overall pick three years ago, mainly because he’s supposed to fit a coach’s system on the tee, says more about the player than him. not sponsored.

Injuries played a role, of course. Murray missed three games last year with an ankle injury. But the biggest problem seemed to be the resentment that developed between the quarterback and the team’s mental confidence based on how the team finished last season.

Perhaps Murray is as “self-centered” and “immature” as ESPN is Chris Mortensen Transferred in February. Internal strife did not prevent Bidwill from delivering the aforementioned mega deal.

With that, the choice became clear. If the Cardinals had to make any changes, it would be for the staff, not those behind the center. To build properly around Murray, Arizona has to do better. Keim did a woeful job of doing so.

Keim became the Cardinals’ general manager in 2013. Since then, he has drafted Jonathan Cooper, Dion Buchannon, DJ Humphries, Robert Nkemmedichi, Hasson Reddick, Josh Rosen, Murray, Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins in the first round. Yikes. This year’s top pick, Trey McBride, made little or no impact.

A general manager’s batting average might not be so bad if this were Major League Baseball. In the NFL, a team can’t smell it a few times during the opening frame and not see its lineup start to fall apart.

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - NOVEMBER 21: DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Arizona Cardinals catches Charvarius Ward #7 of the San Francisco 49ers during the first half at Estadio Azteca on November 21, 2022 in Mexico City, Mexico.  (Photo by Sean M. Hafey/Getty Images)

Sean M. Hafey / Getty Images

At the moment, Hopkins is the only real threat in the passing game. Since returning from a six-game suspension, the five-time Pro Bowl selection has had 45 receptions for 487 yards in five contests.

More help should be provided once the Browns are fully set to return from injured reserve after missing the last five games with a foot injury.

Those who foul Murray and his skills center players are also in shambles. Arizona has endured seven different offensive starting lineup combinations so far this year. The instability in the trenches was to be expected based on the fact that Keim allowed an aging group into the season without adding major reinforcements.

Rodney Hudson, Justin Pugh, and Kelvin Beachum Jr. are all 32 or older this season. Two of the three are on injured reserve, as is another guard, Will Hernandez.

A poorly constructed offensive setup stagnated any kind of development the coaching staff expected.

Glendale, AZ - AUGUST 21: General Manager Steve Kim of the Arizona Cardinals during an NFL preseason game at State Farm Stadium on August 21, 2022 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Ravens defeated the Cardinals 24-17.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Christian Petersen / Getty Images

On the other side of the ball, the Cardinals had no answers for the 49ers. San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo looked as good as he did all season when he worked through his lead and even extended a few plays that turned into big gainers. Christian McCaffrey and his running mates also averaged 5.7 yards per carry.

JJ Watt may be a big name, but he is no longer the player he once was. To be fair, the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year set an impossible standard. Instead, it is Baker who sets the tone for the group.

“The Budda team requires that we all play to a certain level, maybe more than some coaches do,” Collins told The Athletic’s Doug Haller.

Something has to change in the coming weeks. The impassioned pleas of Baker and his ilk will not go far. The Cardinals will not be favored in many of their remaining games.

Next week’s meeting with the Los Angeles Chargers should be considered a pass if Murray is fit to play. After their bye week, the Denver Broncos look like the only truly winnable game.

The Cards could sneak away with one against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Atlanta Falcons, but these two NFC South participants have a lot on the line as they battle for a division championship. Six or fewer wins is a good start to knowing it’s time.

Kingsbury’s approach did not work. Another person leading the front office can make a huge difference. As the face of the franchise, it falls to Murray to answer the call of duty.

Brent Sobleski covers NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @employee.

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