Yesterday news broke that Kyler Murray's recent mega-contract extension included an unusual, unprecedented clause that stipulated he must "independently study" game film for four hours per week.
The news immediately created a tsunami of coverage on social media and every sports media platform that covers the NFL.
Is this clause a sign of Kyler's unwillingness to meet basic job requirements beyond showing up and playing on game day or is this clause a mutually agreed upon, easily satisfied stipulation that both player and team happily agreed to on the path to a mega deal that could pay the franchise QB nearly a quarter of a billion dollars?
Yes and yes.
As far as I can tell, this clause actually has very little to do with Kyler Murray. Sure, the Cardinals likely would like to see more of a traditional commitment to the "extras'" of the job from Kyler now that he's making nine figures of Michael Bidwill and the Cardinals money but this clause doesn't actually do anything.
It's nearly impossible to enforce, even with a team issued laptop that tracks time spent on an app based on a players login as is fairly standard in the NFL. Maybe Kyler likes to trade his login for film study like you and I swap Netflix passwords? It's incredibly difficult to prove that Kyler Murray was physically watching film without some sort of round the clock video surveillance which is definitely NOT in Kyler's contract.
So what is this really about?
Is this about Michael Bidwill's frustration with how negotiations played out publicly? Is this some way of humiliating Kyler's agent, Erik Burkhardt, who famously lashed out at the organization early this offseason? By crow-barring this clause into the deal, no one cares about the guarantees or its average annual value, everyone just wants to talk about how Kyler Murray's agent could actually agree to this clause. Maybe this clause should be renamed "Michael's Revenge"?
Is this about Kliff Kingsbury? A player's preparation habits are supposed to be self policed by the culture the coaching staff creates. Kliff has had three years to engage Kyler into being a more thorough quarterback and has apparently failed in those efforts. A contract is supposed to be about performance not about a players habits. If Kliff had been able to show some tough love to Kyler at any point over the last three years, this whole saga likely could've been avoided.
Is this about Kyler Murray? Sure. Kyler has stated publicly he doesn't watch a lot of film. He has eschewed most of the traditional responsibilities of the quarterback position, most recently he was the only starting QB in the NFL who was not available for the media during mandatory minicamps. No one questions Murray's competitiveness or talent but questions about his leadership and preparation have bubbled under the surface since he was drafted.
What this really is about it losing football games. If the Cardinals don't go 1-5 over their last six games last season, including a devastating blowout loss in the Wild Card round to the Rams and don't lose to John Wolford and CJ Beathard to finish the 2020 season, this entire offseason would be different.
This bizarre controversy has a very traditional solution for everyone involved: win more games in December and January. If you do that, no one will care how you did it.