Look­ing to the fu­ture

Kyler Mur­ray has a ma­jor-league de­ci­sion to make.

The Oklahoman - - FRONT PAGE - Berry Tramel [email protected] ok­la­homan.com

The Oak­land Ath­let­ics’ brain trust met with Kyler Mur­ray in June and ham­mered out quite a unique con­tract.

The Ath­let­ics met with Mur­ray again Sun­day, ac­cord­ing to USA To­day, this time to per­suade Mur­ray to honor said con­tract.

I don’t know what Billy Beane and the A’s crowd pitched. Maybe more money, which at least

least one re­port said was Mur­ray’s strategy. If so, that’s a bad look for Mur­ray. The A’s were honor­able and char­i­ta­ble with Mur­ray. That’s no way to re­ward them.

But the Ath­let­ics are not on strong ground. They lose the ath­letic de­bate. Mur­ray’s best chance for a long ca­reer as a ma­jor league ath­lete is foot­ball, not base­ball. The grid­iron, not the di­a­mond.

That wasn’t nec­es­sar­ily the case last sum­mer, when Mur­ray signed the base­ball con­tract that gen­er­ously al­lowed him to play one last sea­son of col­lege foot­ball. Sort of get it out of his sys­tem, if you will.

Seemed like a good idea for all con­cerned. Five-foot-9 quar­ter­backs can ex­cel in col­lege foot­ball, but they’re not long for Sun­days.

Bet­ter to be pa­trolling ma­jor league out­fields, where short stature means only a smaller strike zone.

Then Pa­trick Ma­homes and Baker May­field hap­pened in the NFL. Mur­ray hap­pened in col­lege foot­ball.

And ev­ery­one sobered up about the dif­fer­ence be­tween base­ball draft picks and NFL draft picks.

Mur­ray’s Heis­man Tro­phy-win­ning sea­son at OU made foot­ball scouts re­think their aver­sion to 5-foot-9 quar­ter­backs. Rus­sell Wil­son is all-pro cal­iber despite be­ing 5-11; Mur­ray seems to throw as well as Wil­son and runs bet­ter.

And dead, too, is the bias against spread for­ma­tion quar­ter­backs. Ma­homes, an Air Raid QB at Texas Tech, could be headed for an MVP award. May­field, an Air Raid QB at OU, trans­formed the Cleve­land Browns.

So Mur­ray is billed as a pos­si­ble NFL first-round draft pick, if he com­mits to foot­ball.

Hence the prob­lem for the Ath­let­ics. Not ev­ery first-round quar­ter­back be­comes a star.

But the suc­cess rate for first-round quar­ter­backs is much higher than first-round draft picks in base­ball.

Think of it this way. Mur­ray was a su­per­star at the high­est level below the NFL. Col­lege foot­ball is the sport’s ver­sion of Triple A.

And Mur­ray dom­i­nated at that level. A star of stars. Mur­ray’s 49-yard touch­down pass in the Or­ange Bowl had to elim­i­nate all doubters about his skill level. Mur­ray stepped up in the pocket against Alabama’s pass rush, jumped and fired, in mid-air, a half-the-field pass that Charleston Rambo caught in the end zone on a dead run.

In base­ball, scouts know that Mur­ray can hit .296 in the Big 12. The A’s, like ev­ery other or­ga­ni­za­tion does with high draft picks, tosses con­tracts to play­ers they hope can play but aren’t the least bit sure.

We have no idea if Mur­ray can hit TripleA pitch­ing, much less ma­jor league curve­balls and slid­ers.

As a first-round base­ball pick, Mur­ray will get ev­ery chance to suc­ceed with Oak­land. The A’s have in­vested heav­ily in the swift out­fielder. He’ll have to prove he can’t play, which is bet­ter than hav­ing to prove that he can.

It’s much more likely Mur­ray makes it big in foot­ball than in base­ball. And surely he knows that.

That could be the best ex­pla­na­tion for Mur­ray’s eva­sive an­swers all sea­son about his fu­ture. Back in the sum­mer, sure, base­ball was his fu­ture.

Agent Scott Bo­ras se­cured a player-friendly con­tract from Oak­land, and Mur­ray was free to chase the lark of one last foot­ball sea­son.

Then Mur­ray and ev­ery­one else fig­ured out how good he was in foot­ball and could be. Things changed.

Down the stretch of this sea­son, we thought Mur­ray was play­ing coy with his in­de­ci­sive­ness. What if he just re­ally didn’t know?

Was torn be­tween want­ing to play base­ball and the new re­al­iza­tion that foot­ball was the safer path?

Cer­tainly Bo­ras’ pub­lic state­ments have gone from ab­so­lute con­fi­dence to hes­i­ta­tion. Bo­ras seems to un­der­stand that his client is slip­ping away.

Mur­ray is not a sure­fire NFL prospect. Five­foot-9 still has its prob­lems. But so do base­ball play­ers who haven’t so much as faced Class A Cal­i­for­nia League pitch­ing.

[PHOTO BY ALLEN EYESTONE, PALM BEACH POST]

Ok­la­homa quar­ter­back Kyler Mur­ray has signed with the Oak­land A’s, but he might have a bet­ter chance at suc­ceed­ing in the NFL.

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