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Was Kyler Murray Right In Choosing Football?

Last September, FanWide asked if there would ever be another multi-sport star? The gold standards in this regard have long been the inimitable Bo Jackson and the flashy Deion Sanders. Russell Wilson and Tim Tebow have tried to join the club, with mixed results. Usain Bolt looked decent on the pitch when he gave soccer a shot, but a contract dispute prevented him from fully pursuing what might have become an interesting career. And then, of course, there was Michael Jordan, whose brief foray into baseball didn’t exactly pan out.

The reason we’re revisiting this idea now is Kyler Murray, who was mentioned in the previous article mentioned above and was just drafted first overall in the NFL Draft. The Oklahoma quarterback made his mark on sports history when he was selected, becoming the first athlete to be drafted in the first round of both the NFL and MLB drafts. He was picked ninth overall in the MLB Draft just 10 months ago, by the Oakland Athletics. Following that selection, Murray received permission from Oakland management to play out his senior year in college football and certainly made the most out of the opportunity. In his final season, he totaled 5,362 yards and 54 touchdowns and was awarded the Heisman Trophy.

The world will never know what would have come to be had Kyler Murray stuck to baseball. Photo courtesy of ESPN.com.

This stunning season was all Murray needed to give up the diamond for the gridiron. Murray opted to enter the NFL Draft (forfeiting most of his MLB signing bonus in the process), and sure enough, the Arizona Cardinals selected him with the top overall pick. Along the way, though, many questioned Murray’s decision – among them the great Joe Theismann. Himself a former quarterback, Theismann argued that the 21-year-old would find football life difficult. “I think that he should choose baseball,” Theismann said. “I think that he would struggle in the NFL.” Theismann also questioned Murray’s height, as well as his ability to pass from the pocket under heavy pressure.

But are such questions fair? Will Murray indeed regret his decision to choose football over baseball? That’s a possibility, yes. Then again, it’s also far from a sure thing. The NFL has seen plenty of draft busts, from Paxton Lynch and Johnny Manziel recently, to Matt Leinart and Jake Locker years back. But there have also been plenty of success stories, and players who have thrived despite legitimate doubts and concerns. Russell Wilson, who as mentioned also flirted with two different professional sports, is a good example of the latter. Incidentally, he happens to be perhaps the strongest comparison to Murray among current NFL quarterbacks. The two are similarly sized, both are exceptionally mobile for the position, and both faced questions because of relatively small stature and vaguely unconventional style.

Unlike Murray’s detractors, Wilson himself believes the former Sooner can succeed on the gridiron. “Kyler’s one of those players that can electrify a football field,” Wilson has said of Murray. “I think he can also do the same thing in baseball too. I think no matter what he decides, he’ll do great.”

One thing Murray has going for him is that there seems to be a place now for mobile quarterbacks in the NFL. Wilson, again, is a prime example. And though they’re all bigger, the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott, the Panthers’ Cam Newton, and the Texans’ Deshaun Watson, in addition to a few others, also use their legs about as well as their arms. In other words, Murray won’t necessarily be an outlier in the league; he might, in fact, be perfect for where the pro game is headed. Plenty of teams appear to be making an effort – sometimes by way of college-inspired offensive sets – to implement a more free-flowing, high-scoring style of play. This at least creates an environment in which Murray is positioned to succeed.

Murray is also more than “just” a running quarterback. He has a cannon of an arm, perfect for throwing deep balls and hitting tight windows, and all without sacrificing his deadly accuracy. Really, he passes every bit as well as he runs, and that’s exactly the requisite combination for a good quarterback in today’s game. On top of that, Murray also has a reputation for playing smart. He reads a game well, limits turnovers, and seems to have an inherent feel for the moment.

Another point in favor of a successful transition to the NFL is that Murray will be playing for former Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury, someone well-versed in using a dual-threat QB. Kingsbury’s protégé at Tech, Patrick Mahomes, was the NFL’s MVP last season, and it stands to reason that the rookie coach will be able to harness Murray’s physical gifts, too – this time at the pro level. (Not for nothing, Kingsbury actually tried to recruit Murray in college!) In all likelihood, the new head coach will be looking to install a high-octane offense with the Cardinals, and thus take full advantage of Murray’s natural skillset.

Despite a difficult 2018 season, Cardinals fans have high hopes for their new star QB. Photo courtesy of azcardinals.com.

Aside from the tired questions about his size, the only real strike against Murray might just be the current state of the Cardinals. The team was woeful last season, winning just three games. Even if Murray is as good as advertised, odds for the upcoming NFL season are going to spell doom for the Cardinals. Indeed, it’s a good bet that even five or six wins will be a stretch. It’s simply going to take more than a rookie quarterback (and some other interesting draft picks) to turn this franchise around. The question may become how well Murray his able to handle what’s likely to be a lot of losing in the early going. If he can overcome adversity, focus on his own game, and do his part for a sustainable rebuild, he’ll be well on his way to a successful season. If it gets to him, and he starts to press or lose his edge, questions about long-term viability will arise quickly.

There is no doubt that Kyler Murray’s NFL journey will be one of the league’s biggest storylines. As to whether or not he picked the right sport, only time will tell. All we know for certain is that he’s talented enough to have earned the decision, and we should certainly give him a chance to thrive with his choice.

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Top 10 Baseball Teams: #1 New York Yankees

We have a winner! FanWide’s #1 Baseball Team is the New York Yankees. Perhaps no team in sports is as well-known as the Yankees. The iconic logo can be seen on hats everywhere not only in New York, but also across the country and across the world. Playing in New York, the nation’s largest market, the Yankees are always at the center of attention. They are perhaps best known for their rich history with a league-leading 27 World Series wins, a number which could soon rise even further. With a talented young roster led by stars such as right fielder Aaron Judge, young righty ace Luis Severino, and an elite bullpen, the Yankees look poised to make another title run in 2019. 1st place finishes in categories of World Series wins, Forbes value, and total social media followers earned the Yanks the #1 spot on the Top 10 Baseball Teams list.

Their 27 championships are a major source of pride for Yankees fans. Photo coutesy of tripsavvy.com

Teams were evaluated in 9 different categories (visit this blog post to see the methodology). The Yankees graded out as follows:

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Top 10 Baseball Teams: #2 Los Angeles Dodgers

Coming in second on the Top 10 Baseball Teams list is the Los Angeles Dodgers. From Brooklyn, home of the Dodgers until 1957,  to LA, it is difficult for many teams to boast the historical greatness of the Dodgers. The team has a rich history of success, both past and present. The Dodgers also have a rich history of superstars, from Jackie Robinson to Sandy Koufax to current ace lefty and 3 time NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw. Situated in the nation’s second largest market, the Dodgers are always situated at the center of the baseball world, and they never disappoint. 1st place finishes in fan clubs, recent wins, recent All-Stars, and and average attendance earned them the spot as FanWide’s #2 Baseball Team.

Dodgers fans have enjoyed consistent success in recent years. Photo courtesy of dailynews.com

Teams were evaluated in 9 different categories (visit this blog post to see the methodology). The Dodgers graded out as follows:

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Top 10 Baseball Teams: #3 Boston Red Sox

The reigning World Series champs take the #3 spot! At the moment, there are few fan bases in all of sports happier than Red Sox fans. For the Sox, 2018 was nothing but a resounding success. Following a franchise-record 108 wins in 2018, the team cruised through the playoffs to take home another Commissioner’s Trophy upon winning their 4th World Series. During this streak they lost only three total games while defeating the archrival Yankees, reigning champion Astros, and a Dodgers team making its second consecutive World Series appearance. Expectations couldn’t have been higher at the recent Red Sox Winter Weekend, held every January, an annual event that allows fans to hear from and even meet current players, team officials, and Red Sox legends. Led by young manager Alex Cora and stars such as right fielder Mookie Betts, designated hitter J.D. Martinez, and ace left-hander Chris Sale, the Red Sox (and their fans) hope to be firmly in the mix for another World Series title in 2019. As a franchise with a rich and storied history, the Red Sox are popular with fans in New England and across the country. It should come as no surprise that they graded out highly among FanWide’s Top 10 Baseball Teams, finishing third overall.

Red Sox ace Chris Sale is a fan favorite at Red Sox Winter Weekend. Photo courtesy of mlb.com.
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Top 10 Baseball Teams: #4 Chicago Cubs

FanWide’s #4 team on the Top 10 Baseball Teams list is the Chicago Cubs. Few teams can match the history, good and bad, of the Chicago Cubs. In 2016, the Cubs broke the 71 year “Curse of the Billy Goat”, a period in which did not even appear in a World Series, let alone win a championship. Now, led by young stars such as third baseman Kris Bryant, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, and second baseman Javier Baez, the Cubs hope to win another World Series soon. Led by top 10 finishes in every category and top 3 showings in fan clubs, regular season wins, national games televised, and Forbes value, the Cubs can proudly call themselves FanWide’s #4 Baseball Team.  

The 2016 World Series is a defining moment for Cubs fans. Photo courtesy of mashable.com

Teams were evaluated in 9 different categories (visit this blog post to see the methodology). The Cubs graded out as follows:

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Top 10 Baseball Teams: #5 St Louis Cardinals

Coming in at #5 on the Top 10 Baseball Teams list is the St. Louis Cardinals. One of baseball’s premier teams, both past and present, the Cardinals graded out exceptionally well, with above-average showings in every category led by the most recent playoff wins and the second most World Series wins and second highest average attendance. In a St. Louis market without an NBA or NFL team, the Cardinals have come to represent the city and its fans, who are often considered among the best in baseball. Through their frequent success, they have represented St. Louis well. With the additions of All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and lefty reliever Andrew Miller to an already-strong roster, the Cards look poised to bring even more success to St. Louis this upcoming season.

Cardinals fans represent all of St. Louis. Photo courtesy of stltoday.com
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Top 10 Baseball Teams: #6 San Francisco Giants

FanWide’s #6 team on the Top 10 Baseball Teams list is the San Francisco Giants. The Giants’ most notable recent achievement is their incredible “even year” run: the Giants won the World Series in 2010, 2012, and 2014. Their widespread popularity, however, extends beyond the team’s on-field success. With the recent growth of Silicon Valley and the tech industry, more and more people have migrated to the Bay Area, increasing the number of prospective Giants fans. Oracle Park (formerly AT&T Park), widely considered one of the best ballparks in the MLB, occupies a prime spot in downtown San Francisco on the water, making it a popular destination. The team also benefits from the presence of charismatic superstars like lefty ace Madison Bumgarner and former MVP catcher Buster Posey. A combination of all these factors and more earned the Giants the sixth spot among FanWide’s Top 10 Baseball Teams.

Giants fans aren’t afraid to show pride in their team. Photo courtesy of abc7news.com
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Top 10 Baseball Teams: #7 Houston Astros

Number 7 on the Top 10 Baseball Teams list is the Houston Astros. When the ‘Stros switched from the National to American League in 2013, they were in the midst of a lengthy rebuild. In 2015, however, they burst onto the scene, making the playoffs and defeating the Yankees at Yankee Stadium in the AL Wild Card game. From there, the Astros cemented themselves as one of the top teams in baseball. Their lengthy rebuild netted them several top draft picks, such as outfielder George Springer, shortstop Carlos Correa, and third baseman Alex Bregman. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey in 2017, the city of Houston rallied around the Astros, and led by MVP second baseman Jose Altuve and newly-acquired ace righty Justin Verlander, a World Series title came to Houston for the first time. Now, as one of the best teams in baseball, the Astros hope to make another World Series run in 2019.

The city of Houston rallied around the Astros in 2017. Photo courtesy of sports.yahoo.com.
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Top 10 Baseball Teams: #8 New York Mets

The New York Mets claim the eighth spot in FanWide’s Top 10 Baseball Teams competition. As a New York team in the country’s largest market, the Mets are often at the center of attention. Expectations always run high, but the Mets always do their best to deliver. The Mets, and their fans, do what they can to compete with the crosstown rival Yankees, the competitive NL East, and the rest of the league. Coming into the 2019 season, many predict big things for the Metropolitans. Led by ace right handers Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard as well as young star outfields Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo, the Mets came into the offseason with an already talented roster. However, the blockbuster acquisition of former Yankees star second baseman Robinson Cano and shutdown closer Edwin Diaz might be enough to put the Mets over the top. Combine that with a promising farm system led by first baseman Peter Alonso, who may well be coming to Queens this season, and the Mets have a chance to contend. 2019 may even be the season Tim Tebow makes his long-anticipated MLB debut. The Mets and their fans are hopeful that this year may be the year a World Series trophy comes back to New York.

2015 was an exciting year for Mets fans. Photo courtesy of nytimes.com.

Teams were evaluated in 9 different categories (visit this blog post to see the methodology). The Mets graded out as follows:

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Top 10 Baseball Teams: #9 Toronto Blue Jays

Coming in at number 9 in FanWide’s Top 10 Baseball Teams competition is the Toronto Blue Jays. Though the Expos have long since left Montreal, baseball remains a key piece of Canadian sports culture due to the lasting devotion of Blue Jays fans. The Jays draw fans from across Canada as well as the U.S. Passionate crowds fill the Rogers Centre for every home game, but the Jays also have a reputation for strong road showings, especially in FanWide’s home city of Seattle. With an impressive collection of young talent headlined by top prospects Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette (sons of former big leaguers Vladimir Guerrero and Dante Bichette, respectively), the future is bright in Toronto. The team will truly thrive, however, on the strength of the Blue Jays fan base, which earned them the ninth spot on the list.

Blue Jays fans represent all of Canada. Photo courtesy of greatgrillin.com