GLENDALE, Ariz. — When Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray and coach Kliff Kingsbury sat down to talk during Murray’s first two NFL seasons, their conversations were football centered — the offense, scheme and strategy.
As Murray begins his third training camp, the chats between quarterback and coach have matured, along with their relationship, which began when Murray was a 15-year-old high school recruit and Kingsbury was the head coach at Texas Tech.
It “gets better and better,” Murray said.
“Our conversations now are more about philosophical things, team-oriented things, what do we need to do as a team to get better, to get this fixed,” Kingsbury said. “He’s really taking ownership of that.”
Murray’s on-field growth and development has been noticeable during the first week of training camp. He looks bigger and a smidge quicker. He’s also entering Year 3 with a better understanding of the offense as he tries to lead the Cardinals back to the playoffs for the first time since 2015.
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Kingsbury feels like Murray has taken more “ownership” of the Cardinals, and without Larry Fitzgerald around, Murray’s the unquestioned face of the franchise.
“The entire place feels it, the whole organization,” Kingsbury said. “When a guy steps in, you can tell that it’s his team.”
Teammates have already seen a different Murray a week into training camp.
“A lot of growth, a lot of growth,” receiver DeAndre Hopkins said. “I would say the biggest thing is just him communicating with us outside of football, and just trying to get to know his teammates.”
“When your quarterback’s [feeling confident], and your quarterback’s having fun, the team rallies behind that,” tight end Maxx Williams said.
The changes have been evident this offseason, Kingsbury said. Murray has been “a lot better than those first two years, when I think it felt like the weight of the world was on him and he had to be perfect every play,” Kingsbury said. “He understands now, in this game, it’s not about that. It’s about finding a way at the end.”
Murray doesn’t fully accept the notion of falling short of perfection, but remember he didn’t lose in high school and lost three games in college. He lost 10 during his rookie season and has lost 18 over two years with the Cardinals.
“Just because it’s the league, I’m not trying to be average. Never will be,” Murray said. “I’m always striving to be perfect. Obviously being perfect is very tough. … Maybe not a thing. But we’re gonna get damn close and we’re gonna try to.
“Nobody’s ever gonna be perfect. People are gonna mess up. You’re gonna make mistakes, throw interceptions, fumble the ball, stuff like that. But how you bounce back, that’s just part of the game.”
When mistakes do happen, many see Murray’s body language, one that displays frustration, anger or annoyance. His head will get thrown back and he’ll raise his hands to the sky. But Kingsbury sees growth and from Murray on the sideline.
Murray will find the player who either made the mistake or was part of the play that was ended in a mistake and talk to him.
“Early on, he was just trying to survive himself, trying to keep his head above water as a rookie quarterback, trying to figure it out,” Kingsbury said. “And, now, he may have those moments where he’s frustrated but he will always go to the guy and talk through it and lift him up and so that’s been really good progress.”
Murray is settling into his role as the team’s leader. With that comes pressures. But Murray may be more equipped to handle it now. And, for the Cardinals, that’s what they want out of their franchise quarterback.
“He’s definitely in his best place mentally going into this camp,” Kingsbury said.