Just when it seemed that Kyler Murray had been anointed the heavy favorite to go No. 1 overall in April’s NFL draft, along came Charley Casserly. The NFL Network analyst and former general manager on Tuesday delivered a scathing summary of Murray’s performance at the league’s recently concluded scouting combine, prompting a strong pushback from the quarterback’s college coach Wednesday morning.
Casserly wasn’t talking about how the Oklahoma quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner fared in on-field drills, because Murray did not take part in any of those at the combine, opting merely to have his physical measurements taken. Those were enough to boost his stock in a big way when the undersized star checked in at a shade above 5-foot-10.
Murray also sat for interviews with a reported 10 NFL teams, and it was during at least a few of those sessions that he came up, well, very short. That’s at least according to Casserly, who claimed the feedback he got from teams amounted to “the worst report I’ve ever heard on a top-ranked quarterback from the interview part of it.”
“These were the worst comments I ever got on a top-rated quarterback, and I’ve been doing this a long time,” said the 70-year-old Casserly, who spent three decades in the NFL as a scout and a personnel executive with the Washington Redskins and Houston Texans. “Leadership — not good. Study habits — not good. The board work — below not good.”
“Not good at all in any of those areas, raising major concerns about what this guy is going to do,” Casserly continued. He added that Murray “better hope” Arizona Cardinals Coach Kliff Kingsbury, whose team has the No. 1 pick and who asserted last fall that he would use just such a selection on the ex-Sooner, follows through on that, “because this was not good.”
Lincoln Riley, Murray’s coach at Oklahoma, pushed back in an interview on “The Dan Patrick Show” on Wednesday, arguing that “all [Murray] cares about is winning.” With Murray at quarterback, the Sooners went 12-2 last season, including a 45-34 loss to Alabama in a College Football Playoff semifinal.
“I just hate that people go out and make these comments and [they] haven’t talked to the two people who’ve actually coached this kid,” Riley said. “You haven’t talked to teammates. You went off what one team said. That’s probably a smokescreen, knowing how the draft [with all its rumors and subterfuge] works. Kyler was a tremendous leader for us, a tremendous leader, very aggressive. All he cares about is winning. I think our team took on that personality, without a doubt.”
Riley expressed skepticism about Casserly’s report, saying, “I know Kyler met with a lot of different teams at the combine and I personally have spoken with a majority of the teams he met with and every one of them were glowing in their reports about Kyler, basically the complete opposite of what Charley threw out there.”
By showing that he had just enough size to plausibly perform as a quarterback in the NFL, particularly in light of the success of Russell Wilson and the league’s increasing embrace of concepts imported from college football, Murray made himself a strong contender to go No. 1. A backup to Baker Mayfield before last season and an athlete expected to become a professional baseball player after being selected ninth by the Oakland Athletics this past June in the MLB draft, Murray exploded on the scene by completing 69 percent of his passes for 4,361 yards, 42 touchdowns and seven interceptions, adding 1,001 yards and 12 scores on the ground. That, according to Riley, is a skill set that college football and the NFL have not seen.
“As far as processing offense,” Riley said Wednesday of Murray, “he just had the greatest single season in the history of college football, so I think he can process just fine.”
"My jaw will be on the floor if Kyler Murray is not selected No. 1 by the Arizona Cardinals. ... Kliff Kingsbury has wanted to work with Kyler since he was a freshman in high school. He knew Kyler was going to be a better version of Johnny Manziel, who won a Heisman." —@joelklatt pic.twitter.com/UvTUdDH9kB— UNDISPUTED (@undisputed) March 4, 2019
That kind of ability — plus the stated interest of Kingsbury — has many analysts believing that Arizona will in fact lead off the draft with Murray, despite already having a young quarterback, Josh Rosen, drafted 10th last year. Casserly helped build the hype for Murray on Tuesday by reporting that a team told him the Cardinals were shopping Rosen.
However, Casserly followed that up by passing along what he described as extremely unflattering reviews of Murray. Claiming he spoke with “more than two teams” about their interviews with the quarterback and “got exactly the same story,” Casserly said: “They were not impressed with his leadership skills or potential for the interview. They weren’t impressed with his study habits, and I can’t give you the quotes, but they’re pretty bad. And they were not impressed with his board work and understanding football and concepts that he was quizzed on, and that wasn’t good. . . . One thing that stuck out to me: This guy was never trained for the interview. Whoever trained him did a poor job.”
That point garnered some agreement online Tuesday, with CBS Sports analyst (and former quarterback) Danny Kanell tweeting that when he interviewed Murray at the Super Bowl, the Heisman Trophy winner “came across as unsure and unprepared.” Kanell noted that the apparent lack of polish in interviews “does not mean he can’t play,” but he said that to be an effective quarterback, “you have to be a good communicator.”
Others pointed to a televised interview Murray did shortly before the Super Bowl with Patrick, in which Murray interspersed moments of awkward silence with halting, non-engaging answers. “I was just curious if it looked as bad as it sounded,” Patrick said later, “because, man, it sounded bad — where it’s just silence and I’m going, ‘Hey, these [microphones] are on,’ and I couldn’t get anything out of him.”
If Casserly is right about how poorly Kyler Murray came across to teams, maybe that interview on Dan Patrick was a big red flag. That was just an absurd performance. May not mean much, but those personal impressions do matter when you’re picking a franchise QB— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) March 5, 2019
Riley had an explanation for that interview Wednesday. “[Murray] was in a tough position because he hadn’t made up his mind [about whether to choose football over baseball],” he told Patrick. “. . . He’s such a good kid. He doesn’t want to lie.”
However, as NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah pointed out, if the Cardinals are actually putting Rosen on the trading block, then Murray “aced the only interview that matters.” To that remark, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted that he “did hear” that Murray “was impressive” in his interview with Arizona.
On the other hand, another well-connected NFL Network personality, Rich Eisen, cited sources Tuesday in reporting that the Cardinals have told Rosen that “he’s their guy.” Eisen also noted that, with Murray’s pro day at Oklahoma scheduled for March 13, no NFL team, including Arizona, has come close to completing its evaluation.
Casserly wound up taking a few shots Tuesday, with some questioning his ability to judge quarterback prospects, given the top-three picks he spent on the underwhelming Heath Shuler and David Carr. Others were only too happy to bring back to light decidedly uncomplimentary comments made about the former general manager in 2010 by none other than Bill Belichick.
Responding to a report by Casserly that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was playing at the time with broken ribs, Belichick said that “like he usually is, [Casserly] was 100 percent wrong.” He added: “Who’s been wrong more than Charley Casserly since he left the Redskins? His percentage is like a meteorologist.”
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