Last night served to remind us of what Cardinals fans will never have to worry about with Kyler Murray: A ceiling.
Baker Mayfield won the game - like he was supposed to - but Joe Burrow won the beauty contest - with no spray tan or makeup on either.
Forget about Burrow’s 316 yards, 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions - albeit with a second-rate supporting cast. How about the fact that in just his second professional game, Cincinnati trusted him to throw it 61 times, without much help from play action or a run game, against a defense featuring Denzel Ward and Myles Garrett?
Or, how about this?
Baker Mayfield scrounged up a meager 219 passing yards, with 2 touchdown and one lousy interception. Three years in, he looked like I used to in Calculus II: completely beholden to the help he was getting.
Luckily, Mayfield has a ton of help. Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Austin Hooper. For the second year in a row, Mayfield has an all-star team around him. For the second year in a row, the Browns are beating who they’re supposed to beat, and losing big to anybody that presents a real challenge.
Such is life with the Katherine Heigl of quarterbacks.
Remember her? She was awesome in Knocked Up. But, you didn’t see that movie for Heigl. You saw that movie for Judd Apatow, Seth Rogan and Paul Rudd. Sorry, Kat.
Last night Baker Mayfield joined Kirk Cousins, Mitch Trubisky, Teddy Bridgewater, Dak Prescott, Ryan Tannehill and Derek Carr as a candidate for “Best Supporting Actor,” which should totally be an award at the ESPYS.
It took a stand-alone, inter-Ohio juxtaposition for the lightbulb to come on. Mayfield is the guy who will always be just good enough. Burrow’s the guy that - two games in - can carry a team. That shouldn't be such a huge surprise. Mayfield had to walk on at both Texas Tech and Oklahoma, and his greatest draft-day quality was his "moxie." Oh, brother.
If Mayfield is Katherine Heigl, Burrow joins Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Aaron Rodgers and - yes - Kyler Murray, as the Denzel Washington types of the NFL. They have the skillsets to elevate, not just coordinate. Those players certainly have a ceiling somewhere, but it’s not quite evident where it might be.
Kyler showed flashes his rookie year, winning Offensive Rookie of the Year, and beating up on the Browns and Seahawks in two of his last three games. He showed magic in the 4th quarter of last week’s game against the 49ers.
That’s the difference between Heigl and Denzel. Heigl gets the job done, and often does it well. Denzel owns the screen, like Murray did there.
It’s the greatest luxury in sports - knowing that if all else fails, your team’s quarterback has the talent to go beyond the X’s and O’s. Think of that 49ers win as Kyler’s Malcom X moment.