The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: A Tour Through Kyler Murray's Athletic Decision
Kyler Murray faces an enormous decision as a likely two-sport 1st-round pick.
As far as two-sport phenoms go, Oklahoma's Kyler Murray is already one of the best to ever do it. If he were to give it all up today, he would walk away after having been picked in the 1st round (9th overall) of the MLB Draft, while also winning the Heisman Trophy as a quarterback for the Sooners. He is the only human being that has ever accomplished both of those feats. Not Bo. Not Deion. Not Elway. Just Kyler. The list starts and stops with him.
But now he faces a decision with enormous implications. The Oakland A's were right to assume he would declare himself eligible for the 2019 NFL Draft. Based on a few smart football-guy projections, some team will probably scoop him up in the mid-to-late 1st round. If that were to happen, he would essentially have three options.
Kyler is selected 24th overall by the Oakland (or wherever) Raiders. Jon Gruden keeps wheeling and dealing, and seeing an opportunity to snag the Oklahoma quarterback makes him trade away Derek Carr for a 2019 6th rounder and a 2020 1st rounder. He then replaces Carr with a stopgap QB to mentor Murray (Tyrod Taylor, perhaps), not wanting to kill the rookie's confidence before the team moves to their shiny new home in Las Vegas.
Unfortunately for the silver and black, Murray decides to play for the only remaining Oakland team, the A's. He gets to keep his $4.66 million signing bonus, which he would have had to return had he chosen the NFL over the A's. This number will likely increase as Billy Beane and Co. try to dissuade him from playing football, but as of right now it is 4.66 million. He then gets to dedicate himself to becoming a complete outfielder, while knowing that he is preserving his body in case baseball does not work out, at which point he takes the Brandon Weeden route and returns to the football field full-time (I know this isn't the most ideal comp. He's much better than Brandon Weeden. Relax). This is his best option, in my opinion.
Maybe Murray wants something more. Maybe he wants to be the next Bo, who, before a career-ending injury, played two sports simultaneously instead of one at a time. If this were the case, he'd most likely be able to squeeze in most, if not all, of his minor league season before reporting to whichever NFL team drafted him (I'll keep going with the Raiders thing). He will likely head to High-A Stockton in the A's system, whose season wraps up in early-September, right when pro football kicks off. This is assuming he stays in High-A the whole season, but considering he is still a bit raw in some areas as a ball player, we'll say he stays there all year. The Heisman-winner is forced to miss a few games here and there for the NFL Combine and other commitments, but he plays most of the season. His final game for the Stockton Ports ends, and he then joins the Raiders a few days before they play their 2019 home-opener at Bishop O'Dowd High School.
So now Kyler is left in an unfortunate situation. Having not gone to training camp or properly learned the playbook, he is a fish out of water in the professional ranks. This is one of the downsides of playing quarterback; it is an all-consuming profession that requires complete dedication. Bo and Deion could survive based on ungodly athleticism and instincts. Even if they were being torn between two sports, running back and cornerback are positions that do not demand nearly as much cerebrally. Quarterback is a different animal, and Murray would be severely hindering his development as a franchise quarterback if he were to try to simultaneously play baseball.
But hey, maybe Murray wants something more, and maybe he is something more. Maybe he puts up a .900 OPS in High A, then heads over to the gridiron and continues to be a dual-threat dynamo in the pros. Maybe. But there is a real chance his two professions cannibalize one another if he tries to play them simultaneously.
Don't do it, Kyler. I know you won the Heisman. I know you're probably going in the 1st round. But please don't choose football over baseball. Please. Don't. Do. It.
If Murray elects to play in the NFL instead of joining the A's organization, he will have to give back the 4.66 million-dollar signing bonus (and likely more) that he received after getting picked 9th overall in the 2018 MLB Draft. Those who support him playing football exclusively will point to the tough life that MiLB'ers go through, one riddled with shabby hotels, long bus rides, and pb&j's forever more. He will have to forego a lavish NFL lifestyle for a grind-it-out Minor League one, which can be tough for a 21-year-old to deal with.
Here's the thing though; he doesn't have to deal with it for very long if he doesn't want to. Why not just give baseball a shot for a year or two, then fall back on football? Will his speed diminish playing minor league ball? No. Will he lose his arm strength? No. Will his status as an electric Heisman-winner whose game is perfect for today's NFL suddenly vanish? It won't. Why not preserve your body on the baseball field, while always having football to fall back on?
So please, Kyler. Ride out your baseball dream first. If, after about two seasons and 700 or so at bats, you're striking out too much and sporting a career .229 average (that's what Russell Wilson hit), then hang 'em up and go back to lighting up defenses with your arm and feet. But, as a young, talented individual whose entire professional athletic career is still in front of him, I believe it would behoove you to produce home runs in lieu of touchdowns for the time being.
And if you get tired of pb&j's, remember you're a goddamned multi-millionaire. Eat what you want, and go out and rake.