Lincoln Riley watched quarterback Kyler Murray rise from being the Oklahoma Sooners’ backup quarterback in 2017 to the unquestioned Heisman Trophy winner a year later. It’s part of the reason why the college football coach is baffled by the skepticism of Murray’s work ethic.
Shortly after becoming one of the highest paid NFL players, Murray’s drive for the game and willingness to put in the work required to be great came into question. Arizona included a clause in his contract extension, requiring the two-time Pro Bowl quarterback to do “homework” by spending at least four hours per week studying on his own time.
- Kyler Murray contract: 5 years, $230.5 million ($160 million guaranteed)
While the Cardinals later removed the language from the contract, the damage was already done. Murray remains upset about the aftermath with a perception now surrounding him that he doesn’t have a great work ethic.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Riley said he was concerned about Murray’s work ethic at Oklahoma because the quarterback risked burned out to prepare himself for games.
Riley knows Murray better than anyone. He first started coaching him in 2016, after the 5-foot-10 quarterback left Texas A&M for the Sooners. After attempting only 21 passes in his first season at Oklahoma, Murray exploded in 2018 with 4,361 passing yards, 1,001 rushing yards and 54 total touchdowns in 14 games.
- Kyler Murray stats (2021): 3,787 passing yards, 69.2% completion rate, 24-10 TD-INT, 423 rushing yards, five rushing touchdowns
Now, thanks to language in a contract that the Cardinals admit they never should have included, Murray is going to face more skepticism from the outside than before. It resembles how Arizona’s second-half collapses in each of the past two seasons have been placed on his shoulders instead of coach Kliff Kingsbury, who had the same issues in college.
Whether Murray leads NFL quarterbacks in hours spent studying film or not, his contract and the number of teams who wanted him via trade this offseason speak volumes about his talent. If he can avoid injuries, there’s a chance he could be an NFL MVP candidate in 2022.