Denver Broncos general manager John Elway is uniquely qualified to relate to Kyler Murray, who could also be his best bet to compete with Patrick Mahomes.
The Denver Broncos have hired a new coaching staff and are moving forward with a fair amount of optimism, which almost all goes out the window when you think about what the Kansas City Chiefs have in Patrick Mahomes.
How are the Broncos going to compete with that?
They are obviously going to start by trying to keep up with an elite defense. The New England Patriots set a pretty strong example of the importance of a well-coached, efficient defense in today’s NFL where an offense as explosive as the Rams can be made to look like complete pretenders on the game’s biggest stage.
It was also the Patriots who beat Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs not once but twice in 2018. How did they do that? Unlike against the Rams where the Patriots played a ball-control, low-scoring, chess match of a game, the Patriots worked to outlast the Chiefs in two high-scoring shootouts.
The combined score of those games? 80-71 in favor of the Pats.
It’s a bit of an extreme example, but the Patriots were chameleons in the NFL in 2018, proving they could be a team one week who can score 37 points against the league’s best offense and win, and be a different team two weeks later and hold one of the league’s best offenses to three points and only need 13 points to win.
Right now, the Broncos have the pieces defensively to win close, low-scoring games. What they don’t have is an offense explosive enough to win a high-scoring shootout with the Chiefs. Though, to Denver’s credit, one completed pass from Case Keenum to Demaryius Thomas would have given them a huge early-season win at home against Mahomes and the Chiefs, despite his wacky left-handed nonsensical throw.
The Broncos need a quarterback capable of stuffing a stat sheet at a moment’s notice. They need a playmaker at the position and not just a guy who operates the offense efficiently. They need a difference maker.
One player in the 2019 NFL Draft who is uniquely qualified to be that type of guy at the next level is Kyler Murray of Oklahoma. The 2018 Heisman winner was absolutely dominant in his lone season as a starter, but in that season he flashed the skills required for success at the next level.
More than just a flashy playmaker like Johnny Manziel, Murray executed an offense with plenty of modern NFL concepts, read the field, operated the offense methodically, and pulled out his backyard skills only when needed.
More often than not, Murray proved he could win by reading coverages and fitting the ball in tight windows to every level of the field. Among draft-eligible quarterbacks, nobody had a better touchdown to interception ratio in the red zone (20:1) this past season than Murray.
What’s the big hang-up with Murray? According to some, it’s his height. He’s listed at 5-foot-10 by the Oklahoma Sooners athletic department. According to others, it’s his bulk. He’s listed at 195 pounds.
According to others yet, the reason Murray isn’t going to be successful in the NFL has more to do with the fact that his heart is not in it. At least, that’s the perception.
Murray is in a unique position as a top 10 MLB draft choice (selected 9th overall by the Oakland A’s) to be able to really dictate his professional future.
To this point, he’s entered his name into the 2019 NFL Draft pool. He’s accepted an invitation to participate at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. He has also confirmed he will be performing at Oklahoma’s Pro Day in the coming months.
What more proof does anyone need that he’s serious about football?
Murray’s baseball contract is worth $5 million. Last year’s 32nd overall pick — quarterback Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens — was guaranteed $7.575 million on his contract. So if Murray is even the last pick of the first round, he would be making more money in the NFL right away than he would in baseball.
Would Murray be able to negotiate a different contract from the A’s? Is that his goal here? So he can spend two years or more riding buses in the minor leagues while the rest of his peers in the 2019 NFL Draft class are starting as rookies?
It doesn’t add up to me.
Murray is a competitor. That doesn’t mean he’s not willing to spend time in the minor leagues — even the great Mike Trout spent all of 2009 and 2010 playing minor league ball, then part of the 2011 season before he was called up to the Angels’ big-league team — but he has the chance to be a starting quarterback in the NFL as soon as 2019 in the NFL.
Murray is in position, at least from my vantage point where he could essentially pick the NFL team he wants to play for so long as the NFL team reciprocates interest.
Does that not sound a bit like John Elway’s situation?
Elway was a different level of prospect in comparison to Murray. Though Murray has phenomenal talent, he’s not necessarily considered on the same level of greatness at the quarterback position as Elway was coming out of Stanford.
With that said, Murray has a chance to be something Elway — or any other athlete, for that matter — never was: A first-round pick in both the MLB and NFL Draft.
The Broncos need a franchise quarterback. They need a playmaker at the position. If Murray were to hypothetically ‘choose’ the Broncos as a team he would want to play for in the NFL, what’s the downside?
Even though he’s small for the quarterback position, Murray’s no different than any other player in the NFL. Everyone is susceptible to injuries. Especially playing quarterback, it’s all about how you avoid unnecessary hits, which he’s already proven he can do.
Murray is the type of quarterback who can make big plays with his arm or legs, and someone who does more than just make big splash plays. He’s consistent in the short and intermediate passing game as well, and can pull his team out of a hole.
Imagine pairing him with the current playmakers in the Broncos’ offense and that talented defense with two superstar edge rushers.
The Broncos’ plan A may still be Drew Lock, and he would be a strong option going forward as well. But Murray’s potential at the next level is huge and the Broncos should not count him out of their plans just because he’s 5’10”, 5’9″ or whatever he ends up being.
This kid can play football. John Elway can empathize with his career dilemma having been a former top prospect in baseball and football, and Murray may appreciate Elway having gone through that before.
There’s no doubt about his talent. We know he loves football because he didn’t quit Oklahoma despite being a 21-year old kid who was just offered $5 million as a top 10 pick in Major League Baseball.
The question now is, does some NFL team love Murray enough to make him a top 10 pick in the NFL, or even a first-round pick? That team could certainly be the Broncos, who would have speed for days in the backfield with Murray and Pro Bowl running back Phillip Lindsay, along with a number of other playmakers at the skill positions.
One way or another, John Elway has to do something to compete with what the Chiefs have in Patrick Mahomes. Is that going to be Drew Lock?
As much as I love Lock, I don’t know that he’s capable of having the same type of impact on a game as Kyler Murray, even considering the significant difference in their size.
Murray looks like a future superstar. The Broncos might need a superstar to compete with Mahomes for the next decade or more.