What do Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Stafford have in common?
If you guessed, “they don’t play for a team president or general manager who saddled them with a ridiculous contract clause that became a national embarrassment,” you would be right.
Also, if you guessed, “they play for franchises that have been to and won multiple Super Bowls in their history,” you would be right.
Also, also, if you guessed, “they’ve never had to stand in front of the world and defend their work ethic like Kyler Murray did,” you’d be right again.
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KYLER MURRAY:: Cardinals remove language from contract
Murray found himself as the main character on social media and across the traditional sports media landscape when it came out that he had a clause in his contract that required him to spend four hours a week on “independent study” for upcoming games. That clause has since been removed, according to NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport.
“After seeing the distraction it created, we removed the addendum from the contract,” the Cardinals said in a statement late Thursday, according to Rapoport (and ESPN’s Adam Schefter) on Twitter. “It was clearly perceived in ways that were never intended.”
The Cardinals did not immediately respond to an after-hours request seeking comment from team president Michael Bidwill.
It’s a good thing the language has been removed from the deal, but the ink stain remains.
‘It’s almost a joke’
Kyler Murray was insulted, and rightfully so.
“To think that I could accomplish everything that I’ve accomplished in my career and not be a student of the game … it’s disrespectful and it’s almost a joke,” Murray said in an unscheduled news conference Thursday morning.
Questions about work ethic are the sorts of things that Black athletes have had to face for generations. So Murray’s sensitivity is understandable. When you’re a minority doing something minorities don’t typically get to do, it’s hard to distinguish reasonable criticism from bias.
In this case, the clause raised questions that were patently unfair.
As if there’s nothing cerebral about what Murray does … as if he’s simply a naturally gifted athlete … as if he didn’t train constantly to create the speed and quick-twitch abilities that leave defenders looking like clowns … as if he was just born with the kind of laser-point accuracy that would allow him to pop fleas off a dog’s back from 30 yards … as if none of that requires countless hours of work, preparation and strategy.
Think about it, maybe some quarterbacks need to spend less time sitting on their butts watching TV and more time training with battle ropes, doing plyometrics or working on functional mobility? Do they have “independent workout” clauses in their contracts?
Anyway, why would Kyler Murray need to watch endless hours of film when he can turn most every snap can into a run-pass option?
How many times have we seen Murray drop back, break away from an edge rusher, press the line of scrimmage, wait for a safety to commit, and zing a pass right by the poor, hapless defender’s ear if he bites up, or sprint for a first down if he stays back? Doesn’t that count as “reading a defense”?
‘They ain’t winning the game’
News of Kyler’s clause comes at the same time Lamar Jackson is facing familiar criticism from an anonymous defensive coordinator.
“If he has to pass to win the game, they ain’t winning the game,” the coward … errr, anonymous coordinator, said according to Mike Sando of The Athletic. “He’s so unique as an athlete, and he’s a really good football player, but I don’t give a (expletive) if he wins the league MVP 12 times, I don’t think he’ll ever be one as a quarterback. He’ll be one as a football player, but not as a quarterback.”
It just goes to show how far we have to go before we can be sure that players are all being treated the same.
If I’ve learned anything from speaking to dozens of coaches, coordinators and quarterbacks over my career it’s this: Coaches have to tailor their system to their players, not the other way around.
John Elway, Ben Roethlisberger and Steve Young all were mobile quarterbacks. All three won Super Bowls. So don’t try to tell me that dual-threat guys can’t win.
Ultimately, I’m grateful that the clause was removed from Murray’s deal, but the ink stain will take a while to wash out.
Murray shouldn’t have had to defend himself like that.
By the way, what do Murray and Jackson have in common?
If you guessed that “they deal with distractions that other quarterbacks don’t have to,” you’d be right.