Ever since Jon Gruden arrived in Oakland, California for his second stint as the head coach of the Raiders, people have been asking the same question. When is Chucky going to get rid of Derek Carr and draft his own quarterback? It’s a fair question, as Gruden has a sorted history with starting quarterbacks. Carr posted highs in yards and completion percentage this year, but his touchdown total left a lot to be desired. The quarterback in this year’s draft with the most hype surrounding him is Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray. Here’s why I think the Raiders should consider passing on the 2018 Heisman trophy winner.
The Oakland Raiders Should Pass on Kyler Murray.
If you’re looking for things to like about Kyler Murray, you don’t have to look very hard. Despite his size, he’s a phenomenal athlete. He’s got the kind of speed that wows on film, and when he takes off, he takes off. Scouts were upset that Murray didn’t run a 40 yard dash at the combine or his Pro Day, but honestly, it’s unnecessary. The eye in the sky don’t lie, and Muray’s speed is real. Obviously, I don’t have the numbers to back it up, but I think Murray is even faster than Lamar Jackson.
While his straight-line speed is impressive, what I really like is his quickness in and out of cuts. He can make defenders miss without cutting a ton of speed. When watching his film, he reminded me a lot of Robert Griffin III during his rookie season. He’s got that kind of explosiveness as a rusher.
Murray isn’t just a runner though. His athleticism is the first thing you notice, he’s not one dimensional. What jumped out at me during film was his accuracy. Murray isn’t afraid of the tough throws. He’s willing to throw into traffic, and when he does, I was blown away by how many times he put the ball exactly where it needed to be.
But maybe my favorite thing about Murray is that he keeps his eyes down the field when scrambling. When his protection falls apart and he uses his legs to extend the play, he keeps his head up and eyes down the field. If you watch Murray right before he takes off on a run or throws on the run, it’s identical. Not everyone has this trait. Frankly, that’s what makes guys like Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, and Russell Wilson so successful.
Almost immediately, Murray is in trouble as he can barely finish the play fake before there are three Bama pass rushers in his face. Using his legs, he gets behind the pressure and takes off like he’s about to pick up yards on the ground. Despite being under that pressure, his eyes are still downfield, and he sees Charleston Rambo get behind the coverage. Without stopping or setting his feet, he lets it rip, flying through the air for 53 yards, falling right in Rambo’s hands for the touchdown.
It reminded me of another throw, from another game that didn’t seem to matter in the grand scheme of things. See if you can recognize this quarterback.
I am a fan of Murray’s, and I hope he does well in the NFL. If the Raiders draft him anyway, I bet he’ll help make the Raiders the best team in Madden 20. I hope he can be great in the NFL, and I think he has the tools. However, there are a few things that bother me.
The RGIII Comparison For The Raiders
Earlier, I compared Murray to RGIII, and while I intended it as a positive, there are negative similarities as well. You can’t hold the offense that Murray ran against him, but it is similar to what the Redskins ran in 2012. Many of Murray’s plays started in the shotgun with a play-fake, and then he stared down one read. If that read wasn’t open, he’d look at his check-down. If the check-down wasn’t open, he’d run.
This is a decent offense, because it limits bad plays and turns what could’ve been forced throws into positive yardage, but it doesn’t work in the NFL long-term. Firstly, it results in injuries. The human body isn’t built for that kind of punishment, especially not at his size. Secondly, the good defensive coordinators figure that stuff out, as we saw with the Los Angeles Chargers using Derwin James to shut Lamar Jackson down in the playoffs this year.
Look at what happened to RGIII when they tried to teach him a different offense. He couldn’t adapt to reading the defenses as quickly, and he basically had to relearn the position, which he never got a chance to do. I’m not saying Murray is destined for the same fate, but even in college, he was prone to staring down his first read on occasion, which is a death sentence in a NFL full of fast, smart safeties.
The biggest criticism of Derek Carr has been that all he does is check the ball down. Jalen Richard leading the team in receptions last season only reinforces that point. But for those that believe moving on from Carr for Murray is the answer, they might be disappointed by Kyler Murray’s film.
Kyler Murray checked down a lot at Oklahoma. A large chunk of his film is him faking the handoff before throwing a screen or checking down underneath. It just so happens that he was throwing these small passes to a speed demon like Marquise Brown, who is the fastest man on most fields. Learning more about Brown as a receiving prospect was actually the most enjoyable part of researching Murray.
The Decision Making
Earlier, I praised Murray for believing in his arm enough to throw balls into traffic. Some quarterbacks are too afraid to throw to a receiver when he’s being covered, but Murray clearly doesn’t have that problem. In fact, sometimes, he’s a little too confident in his arm, and he throws some baffling passes to receivers that are doubled or even triple-teamed.
He’s at his worst throwing it over the middle of the field, where linebackers tend to be waiting as spies should he take off and run. He throws some passes where the ball either should’ve been intercepted or the receiver gets destroyed immediately after catching it that will not fly in the NFL. Against Alabama especially, Murray threw some passes that would’ve been intercepted if the defensive backs had hands.
Whether people want to admit it or not, Kyler Murray’s size is a problem. There are those that will pound the table about Drew Brees and Russell Wilson, and they’re not wrong. But those are literally two out of the thousands of quarterbacks that have played the game. It’s true that rule changes have made life easier for smaller quarterbacks, as they aren’t hit as hard or as often as they would’ve been in the past, but that doesn’t mean they won’t still get hit.
Something I took away from my film is that while it’s hard to get a hand on Murray, once you do, it’s game over. He’s slippery, but on several occasions, defenders were able to bring him down, forcibly, with one hand. Even when he took off with his legs and wasn’t being sacked, every tackle looked like a car crash. And we’re talking about collegiate athletes. He wasn’t playing against monsters like J.J. Watt or Khalil Mack every Saturday.
The Cable Guy
It’s not a death sentence, as we’ve seen with Russell Wilson, but it certainly makes Murray’s life a lot harder. Trent Brown, Oakland’s new left tackle, is 6’8, nearly a foot taller than Murray is. My concerns with Murray’s size are batted balls, seeing over the line, and most importantly, his durability.
The Raiders made an effort to improve their offensive line by signing Brown, but there are question marks at the guard position, the jury is still out on Kolton Miller, and Tom Cable is still coaching this offensive line. Derek Carr was sacked 51 times last year and miraculously didn’t miss any time. What is 5’10, 200 pound Kyler Murray going to do, especially in a division that features Chris Jones, Von Miller, Joey Bosa, and Bradley Chubb.
The Little Things
Murray also has some mechanical issues to fix. Occasionally he’ll throw off his back foot, causing passes to sail. He’ll also double pump before a pass, leaving him vulnerable for pass rushers to knock the ball out. And for everyone that wants to remind me that Kyler Murray won the Heisman, maybe you should read this article detailing how other Heisman winning quarterbacks have fared in the NFL.
Gruden’s Quarterback Obsession
As an offensive guru, Jon Gruden has always had a soft spot for quarterbacks. As an assistant coach, he’s worked with the likes of Joe Montana, Steve Young, Brett Favre, and Randall Cunningham. In his first stint with the Raiders, he transformed journeyman Rich Gannon into an MVP quarterback. In 2007, his Tampa Bay Buccaneers had seven quarterbacks on the roster, Jeff Garcia, Chris Simms, Bruce Gradkowski, Luke McCown, Bruce Eugene, new Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor, and Jake Plummer, who he traded for, even though he had just retired. During his seven years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Gruden started nine different quarterbacks.
Jon Gruden has never said a bad word about Derek Carr, even when the Raiders were struggling and Carr wasn’t grasping the offense. Even as the two bickered on the sideline, Gruden didn’t throw his quarterback under the bus. However, Gruden also insisted he’d do whatever it took to get Khalil Mack into camp, shortly before trading him. Weeks ago, Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock praised A.J. McCarron as their backup quarterback, only to release him to free up cap space.
That’s the whole reason we’re writing this article. Because even though Gruden and Mayock say they won’t get rid of Carr, that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t. Especially if you believe the likes of Peter King, who insists it’s Gruden’s plan.
Trade in Your Carr?
Last year, Derek Carr’s supporting cast left a lot to be desired, as did his offensive line. Donald Penn was hurt, so rookie Brandon Parker had to step in and play opposite of Miller, who experienced his own rookie struggles. Kelechi Osemele missed a third of the season, and Carr was without his star running back, Marshawn Lynch after six games.
After mailing in half a season of football, Amari Cooper was traded, and Carr was stuck with the aging Jordy Nelson, undrafted rookie Marcell Ateman, the perpetually employed Seth Roberts, and a cast of extras including Brandon LaFell and Dwayne Harris. Martavis Bryant was supposed to be Carr’s deep threat, but he played poorly before being placed on injured reserve and eventually suspended.
Carr had no weapons, no time in the pocket, no run game, and he was trying to learn a brand new offense while his defense gave up 29 points a game. At the very least, he deserves a second year in the system. Especially since Gruden and Mayock have added pieces on the offensive line and in the receiving corps, with the draft about a month away.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that I’d love to have Kyler Murray if he wasn’t a first-round pick. If Murray were available in the third like Russell Wilson was, it would be a no-brainer. But frankly, there are just too many question marks. Can he adapt to a pro-style offense? Is he durable enough to play 16 games at the highest level? Does he really love football or does he just love the quick, guaranteed millions? The Raiders already have a franchise quarterback, and while he’s certainly not Tom Brady, he’s done enough to warrant at least one more year, this time with weapons.
If the Raiders are going to trade up or select at four, they need to take a defensive player. The whole off-season has been about the offense, and they need someone for the other side of the ball. If they can sneak up and grab Nick Bosa, that’s excellent. If they end up taking someone like Quinnen Williams or Josh Allen, that’s great too. But they can’t afford to trade valuable draft capital up to address a position that isn’t a need with a prospect that isn’t a guaranteed hit.