The selection marks both a stunning one-year rise by Murray and a full change of direction for the Cardinals, who 12 months ago spent a first-round pick on a different quarterback, Josh Rosen.
Now Murray is the future, giving new head coach Kliff Kingsbury the dual-threat athlete who excelled in his offense when he was in charge at Texas Tech. Kingsbury’s most famous pupil was reigning NFL Most Valuable Player Patrick Mahomes.
The Cardinals hired Kingsbury to revive the moribund franchise because of the belief his wide-open offense will succeed in the modern, pass-happy NFL.
Rosen, who arrived with much promise as the No. 10 pick of the 2018 draft out of UCLA, is now either trade bait or in for a fight for relevance. He is a more traditional pro-style quarterback. His play as a rookie season was disjointed, completing just 55.2 percent of his passes and throwing more interceptions (14) than touchdowns (11), although he played behind a woeful offensive line and had few weapons to work with.
A year ago Murray was still relatively unknown. He’d spent the 2017 season at Oklahoma backing up Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield, who would also go No. 1 overall to Cleveland.
Since then, Murray won his own Heisman, led the Sooners to the College Football Playoffs and showed an explosive enough game that he backed out on a contract with Major League Baseball’s Oakland Athletics and entered the NFL draft.
Murray completed 69 percent of his passes at OU and threw for 42 touchdowns against just seven picks. He also rushed for 1,001 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Despite being 5-foot-10, Murray joined Mayfield at the top of the draft, the first time two players from the same school went No. 1 overall in half a century – USC’s Ron Yary and O.J. Simpson went first overall in 1968 and 1969 respectively.
The Cardinals were also linked with top defensive end Quinnen Williams of Alabama and Joey Bosa of Ohio State. Despite defensive needs, they decided to give their new offensive-minded coach the kind of quarterback he covets.
If Murray turns out anything like Mahomes, then this selection will go down as a major day in Arizona history.
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