Maybe we should thank Michael Bidwill. For embarrassing Kyler Murray and paying him at the same time. For doing the heavy lifting that should’ve been done by his coaching staff years ago. For making agent Eric Burkhardt sign off on an unprecedented Independent Study addendum, the first time in history a team is forcing a player to study football in his spare time or risk losing over $100 million in guaranteed money.
The contract stipulates that Murray must not be distracted while studying. He must not divert his attention to video games, television or other streaming content. It sounds like a parent disciplining a child or the requirements of online traffic school. It’s embarrassing for everyone.
In the aftershock, Murray has been branded as an entitled, immature introvert who believes he doesn’t need to watch film on upcoming opponents. The reactions from NFL types range from shock to mockery. This story will follow Murray everywhere he goes in 2022, along with those cameras from “Hard Knocks.”
By insisting on this unprecedented contractual language, the Cardinals effectively went public with their mistrust of Murray. They knew this clause would cause headlines and talking-head hysteria. The story broke about an hour after Murray signed his contract, meaning a reporter was breathlessly waiting for the document to drop, to go treasure hunting for those player concessions Steve Keim casually mentioned during Friday’s press conference.
To be fair, Murray warned us all in a late December interview with The New York Times, in a stunning display of hubris.
“I think I was blessed with the cognitive skills to just go out there and just see it before it happens,” Murray said. “I’m not one of those guys that’s going to sit there and kill myself watching film. I don’t sit there for 24 hours and break down this team and that team, and watch every game because, in my head, I see so much.”
That’s almost worse than Deandre Ayton admitting to ESPN that his video game addiction restricts him to two hours of sleep a night.
There are so many questions. If Murray accepted four hours of mandated weekly homework, did Bidwill ask for eight? Does Kliff Kingsbury’s offense stagnate by the end of the season because he doesn’t implement waves of fresh material, the stuff that forces quarterbacks into panicked states of home study?
Remember, former Cardinals star Carson Palmer once said he had to learn 171 plays in five days to fully operate Bruce Arians’ offense. Former NFL star Rich Gannon said a quarterback must spend at least 12 hours a week on independent study or he’s not preparing properly.
This much is certain: Murray needs to grow up. He needs to better understand the implications and expectations attached to a franchise quarterback. But he is not alone.
This whole episode reflects poorly on Kingsbury’s lack of institutional control. For three years, Murray has felt empowered to pout, allegedly point fingers, even quitting on his team near the end of that playoff debacle in Los Angeles. Because he’s never once feared the head coach or the repercussions. Those charged with developing Murray have enabled their prized quarterback instead, and they share the blame.
Of course, Bidwill didn’t have to insist on the Independent Study clause, the one that has brought much scrutiny and incredulity to the Cardinals at the commencement of training camp. But I’m guessing he’s still livid with the tactics of Burkhardt, who had the gall to question the Cardinals commitment to winning in that infamous single-spaced statement, even though he had the client with the questionable work ethic.
Enforcement of the addendum seems dubious. Attempting to void a lucrative contract based on missing homework assignments would spark a firestorm from lawyers inside the NFLPA. But at the very least, Bidwill has guaranteed Murray will prepare better from this point forward. He put Murray in the crosshairs with terms the quarterback willingly accepted, addressing the problem in a very transparent manner. In return, he forked over $230.5 million to Murray, in a deal where the other guy had all the leverage.
Unlike Buffalo and Josh Allen or Kansas City and Patrick Mahomes, there is no sense of mutual celebration in Murray’s contract extension. But at least this sorry saga ends with Murray reporting on time to training camp. There are many owners who would’ve balked, using the incident as justification for miserly behavior, as reason to not fork over nearly a quarter billion dollars.
Bidwill wrote the check and rolled the dice. Which means he’s successfully learned the No. 1 lesson of professional football, an owner acutely aware that hope dies quickly in the NFL without a franchise quarterback. Even the ones who need finishing school.