Deshaun Watson trade: Leadership is why Arizona Cardinals should try Houston Texans deal
There are several stories floating around about why the Arizona Cardinals should trade quarterback Kyler Murray for Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson (and some stories about why they shouldn't).
Many of the reasons have been well chronicled: Watson is an elite quarterback who is just 25 years old, he has a rapport with DeAndre Hopkins from their time in Houston together, etc., but one writer brought up another, highly debated reason for the Cardinals to attempt to get Watson …
Cards Wire's Chuck Harris wrote that Watson's leadership abilities are what really separate the Houston quarterback from the Arizona one.
In describing Watson's leadership, Harris cited Texans reporter Drew Dougherty, who wrote about why Watson is an effective leader last February.
The reasons listed?
- He leads by example.
- He leads with his work ethic.
- He is in early and stays late.
- He is always in the weight room, taking care of his body.
- He will do whatever needs to be done at practice, stay after practice to fix a route or go out early to work on center-quarterback cadence or things like that.
- He cares about being as good of a player and a teammate as he can be every single day.
- He tries to get better every day.
- He’s a very smart player.
- He has improved every single year.
Harris, however, questioned Murray's leadership abilities.
He wrote: "In December, I wrote about how Kyler Murray’s leadership and demeanor were questionable in the face of adversity. Questions rose again during the Cardinals’ Week 17 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. On the opening possession, Murray was sacked and injured his ankle. After visits to the locker room, Murray had his ankle taped but remained sidelined until the Cardinals first possession in the fourth quarter. When asked why he waited until the fourth quarter to reenter the game, Murray said, 'I had to let some things kick in.' It doesn’t take nearly three quarters of football for pain meds to kick in. Both Watson and Murray have talent. But it’s their ability to be a leader that sets them apart. And, that is the biggest question on Kyler Murray. His ability to be a leader. Something you don’t have to question with Deshaun Watson. The ability to be an effective leader is the difference between being a good quarterback vs. a great one."
Not the first to question Murray's leadership
Harris' take is bound to be controversial to some, but he isn't the first person to question Murray's leadership abilities.
Former NFL player Bart Scott ranted about Murray's leadership abilities after the Cardinals quarterback's awkward news conference after the loss to the Miami Dolphins last season.
“This isn’t a one-off,” Scott said on ESPN radio. “If you listen to some of his interviews after they lost, especially last year when it was a tough season, he doesn’t come off as, to me, a leader of men. Remember when they talked about his leadership was questioned when he came out and they said he didn’t interview well. This is a big of a ‘me’ guy, you’re saying, I think he’s all about me.
“He don’t put the onus on himself. He puts it, ‘We have to do something better,’ when the team struggles, so that tells you he is a finger pointer, not a thumb pointer. Listen, I said it first, Kyler Murray is not a leader of men and if this team hits adversity, they lose (Larry) Fitzgerald, they ever have an injury to (DeAndre) Hopkins, he’s going to come apart at the seams.
“He’s going to be one of those guys that goes out and spazzes out on a reporter. He’s going to be one of those guys. I know what I know and I know what I’m watching. … ”
Cardinals come to Murray's defense
The Cardinals were quick to come to Murray's defense, however.
Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM that Scott’s criticisms of Murray were not true.
“I don’t know where he’s getting his information,” Keim said, “… but I know one thing – I am in the locker room with Kyler Murray every day and I’m on the practice field with Kyler Murray every day and I have absolutely zero concerns with his leadership.
“Behind the scenes, people don’t see what we do. I see Kyler playing chess with five different teammates at times. I see him interacting every day.”
Keim said he didn’t watch or listen to Murray’s postgame comments on Zoom, but he had something to say about it.
“I will say this just from what I’ve heard: It’s an emotional game and the one thing I love about Kyler Murray amongst many things is his competitiveness,” Keim said. “This guy absolutely despises losing. The fact that he takes it so personal is something I actually love.”
As for pre-draft reports that Murray allegedly didn’t interview well with some NFL teams and that he wasn’t a very good leader, Keim said he never heard such accusations from anyone.
“Not one person,” he said. “I talked to everybody. I put in hours upon hours of research into this guy, obviously being the first (overall) pick. I talked to everybody from baseball coaches to high school football coaches to janitors to receptionists at the football office. I mean, you name it.
“(We) had no reservations.”
Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury didn't seem to have any issues with Murray's leadership skills in speaking with the media that week.
"He's a competitor and he wants to win, first and foremost." Kingsbury said. "He was frustrated just like all of us were last night, we wanted to win that game and weren't able to get it done. … I thought he played his heart out. He was diving for first downs, going head firsts, taking shots, doing all those things that you want that leader to do."
Reasons to not trade for Deshaun Watson
Leadership questions are bound to continue to surround Murray, but there's no question that he's already shown development in that department, just as he's shown progress in his playing ability.
Yes, Watson is more of a proven commodity in the NFL, but don't forget that Murray, 23, just completed his second season and was a huge reason Arizona was able to improve from 5-10-1 in 2019 to 8-8 in 2020.
There's still a lot of untapped potential in the Cardinals quarterback.
The Cardinals also appear to be growing with Murray and he's just two seasons into his rookie contract (while Watson is the second highest paid quarterback in the league), which allows the team some flexibility to build around him.
Arizona would likely lose draft picks in addition to Murray in any possible deal for Watson and that would hurt its depth and talent at other positions.
Would the Cardinals really be that much better off with Watson over Murray? Is he really that much better of a leader at quarterback?
Those are questions Keim and the Cardinals could ponder as the Watson saga with the Texans continues.
It might not matter however, as other teams have higher draft picks and potentially more enticing trade packages than Arizona, anyway. Houston might not be all that willing to trade with the Cardinals right now, either, with memories of the DeAndre Hopkins deal still fresh ...