The Top NFL Storylines of Week 10: Kyler Murray, C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young

Plus, Robert Kraft shouldn't rush a franchise-altering decision

November 14, 2023 6:52 am
Bryce Young of the Panthers looks on.
Bryce Young has not been who the Panthers thought he would be.
Cooper Neill/Getty

With the NFL season’s 10th installment of Monday Night Football in the books and another slate of games over and done, Week 10 is finally complete. While we can’t get to everything — like what the Rams signing Carson Wentz could mean for Matthew Stafford in L.A. — here are four of the top storylines to emerge from the NFL’s 10th week, which featured one of the better Sundays of the season. (Here’s a look back at Week 9.)

Kyler Murray is going to make things awkward in Arizona

Losers of six in a row heading into a Sunday afternoon game against an Atlanta Falcons team that at one point this season sat atop the NFC South, the one-win Arizona Cardinals had star quarterback Kyler Murray and his surgically repaired right knee back on the field for the first time this season. Murray, who entered Sunday’s game with a losing record as a starter in the NFL (25-31-1), picked up the win.

Prior to the victory over the Falcons, the Cardinals were the only team in the NFL besides the Carolina Panthers with just one win on the season. The Cardinals, who signed Murray to a $230.5 million contract before the 2022 season which almost immediately looked like a mistake, are still in good position to draft a new quarterback if they so choose, but will now have more competition based on their move up the standings of the dregs of the NFL.

Murray, who threw for 249 yards and ran for a touchdown in his return from an ACL tear, could make it difficult for the Cardinals to justify using their draft pick on a new quarterback if he keeps winning games, as he is just 26 years old and still has plenty of upside despite being undersized for an NFL QB. With Arizona at 2-8 and clearly playing for next season whatever happens, Murray’s fate with the Cardinals should be decided over the next seven games.

“He made plays with his legs, he made plays with arm,” said Cardinals coach Jonathan Gannon. “Obviously, a jolt of energy and belief within our team. That’s why he is who he is. Couldn’t be happier for the guy.”

It’s an interesting spot as Murray, who was the No. 1 overall pick in 2019, might be aided by a change of scenery, and the Cardinals might be best served by starting over with a new quarterback. For that to happen, Arizona would have to find a trade partner for Murray (and his contract) and likely wind up with a top draft pick in order to have a shot at selecting Murray’s successor.

Of course, Murray will be able to change Arizona’s draft position as well influence management’s thinking with how the team performs over the final seven games of the season, but wins will be tough to come by as the Cardinals only have two games on their schedule against teams (Rams, Bears) with losing records. That said, Murray may be able to beat both L.A. and Chicago as well as pick off one, or more, of the other teams remaining on Arizona’a scheduled as he is just that talented. Talent, for Murray, has never been the issue. Size, and desire, have been.

It’s an interesting position, but the best outcome for the Cardinals, who have gone 1-13 without the former Heisman winner in the lineup, might be if Murray wins games for the team and therefore makes their decision about moving on from him more difficult and their draft position worse instead of better. Should that happen, maybe the decision will be no decision at all, and Arizona will be confident moving on with the quarterback — a two-time Pro Bowl selection — they drafted to lead their franchise a half decade ago.

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Bryce Young is looking very, very shaky

In 2011, the Carolina Panthers used the No. 1 pick to take Cam Newton out of Auburn, a selection that didn’t end up netting them a title but did land them a quarterback who led the organization to a Super Bowl. Since losing that Super Bowl, things have generally not been too good for the Panthers, as the team has not won a playoff game since making it to the final game of the NFL season. A huge reason for that is Newton was never really the same after losing the Super Bowl, and the Panthers have been searching for a franchise quarterback since his downturn.

The Panthers, who have the worst record in football at 1-8 (tied for the worst nine-game start in franchise history), thought they had their franchise quarterback this offseason as they sent their 2024 first-round draft pick to the Bears as part of the deal that allowed them to acquire the 2023 No. 1 pick and select Bryce Young out of Alabama. The Bears, who were playing an undrafted rookie from a Division II school at quarterback Thursday night, beat the Panthers in Week 10. “Yeah, we’re all frustrated,” Young said after the loss. “Frustrating situation to be in. It’s not who we are, who we want to be. We are what we put on tape, we are what we put on the field, and we have to be better.”

Through nine games, Carolina’s assumption that they had their franchise guy appears to be incorrect as Young has not exactly lit things up in the NFL. He hasn’t been a complete disaster, but the 22-year old has thrown for 1,560 yards with eight touchdowns and seven interceptions as well as taken 29 sacks. The Panthers probably haven’t put Young in the best position to succeed as they are fairly devoid of talent on offense, but he also hasn’t gotten the most out of what Carolina has given him to work with.

No matter what happens for the rest of the season, the Panthers will not be moving on from Young, as the team invested too much capital in order to select him to wave the white flag after a single season. However, given what has happened thus far this season, there’s reason to think Carolina will be considering drafting another quarterback in the middle round of April’s draft to, if nothing else, apply some pressure to Young and head coach Frank Reich.

Of the two, Reich will definitely be gone before Young if Panthers owner David Tepper decides to do something drastic. As of now, he shouldn’t. The Panthers can afford to be patient, and they should be as Young has the potential to be a good player in the NFL. But he isn’t right now — and that should certainly be top of mind for Carolina.

C.J. Stroud is very, very close to being an MVP candidate

Selected with the second pick of April’s draft out of Ohio State, C.J. Stroud has been nothing short of a revelation for Houston as the Texans, who won four, four and three games in their last three seasons, now sit at 5-4 after winning five of their last seven games. In Houston’s last two games, both wins, Stroud has 826 passing yards, seven touchdowns and a pair of game-winning drives.

Playing with a cast of characters who no one drafted in fantasy football, Stroud has delivered at almost every turn thus far in his rookie season and has inserted himself into the conversation for a postseason award that has nothing to do with being a first-year player: MVP.

Through nine games, Stroud has 2,625 passing yards, which puts him on pace for 4,958 yards in a 17-game season. Should he hit that mark, Stroud would crush the current rookie record of 4,374 yards, which was set by Andrew Luck in 2012 (in 16 games). One of the league leaders with 15 touchdown passes, Stroud has also thrown just two interceptions in 318 passes.

If the season ended today, the Texans, who many expected to contend for the worst record in the league, would be the final team to qualify for the postseason in the AFC and the team they beat on Sunday, the Bengals, would be watching the playoffs from home. There’s still plenty of time for Cincinnati to get back on track and for Houston to derail, but it certainly seems like Stroud is the real deal whether the Texans can keep it together around him or not.

“The thing about C.J. is just the calmness in the chaos,” said Texans coach DeMeco Ryans. “He doesn’t waver. He’s confident he’s going to make plays.” After eight more games, he might be the MVP.

Robert Kraft has time to decide Bill Belichick’s fate

Heading into Sunday morning’s game in Germany against the Indianapolis Colts (4-5), there was a good deal of speculation that Bill Belichick, the longest-tenured coach in the NFL, would be fired if New England lost. The Patriots, as they have for much of the season, did just that and are now 2-8 on the season, which has been a complete disaster for a franchise with six Super Bowl wins.

Team owner Robert Kraft has the chance to compound the disaster by making a rash call about Belichick’s future and, despite all the calls for him to part ways with his longtime coach, should hold off on making any decision until at least the end of the season, if not longer.

That’s not to say that Kraft should consider keeping Belichick in his current role, as that ship has clearly sailed and the 71-year-old is no longer fit to coach the Patriots, manage the team’s roster and generally oversee a program that went from a rock to a diamond and is now reverting, fast. Despite what is happening with his sinking team, Kraft has no real reason to toss away a coach who has won more games than anyone except Don Shula like a stone. To be clear, Kraft has to move from Belichick. But he should also do it intelligently and with precision, neither of which have been trademarks of his team since Tom Brady took his talents to Tampa Bay.

A team that will end the season without a playoff appearance for the third time in four years, the Patriots have the worst record they’ve had since 2000 and do not have anything approaching a competent quarterback, as starter Mac Jones and backup Bailey Zappe are both fringe NFL talents at best. They also might not have anything approaching a competent head coach or general manager depending on your view of Belichick, but that’s much more of a debate.

That being the case, Kraft would be wise to let the season play out and see where his team ends up in the standings and how the locker room holds up down the stretch. In a best-case scenario, at this point, the Patriots will finish with one of the worst records in the NFL and have a chance to draft a quarterback to replace Jones (and Brady). If that happens, Kraft will have to decide if Belichick is the coach he wants to lead a franchise makeover, again, or if he wants to get some fresh blood in the equation. If Kraft is smart, that’s probably what he should do. Either way, there’s no sense in making a decision now while there’s really nothing to gain — and still plenty of games to lose.

“I think Bill is exceptional at what he does,” Kraft said in March. “I’ve given him the freedom to make the choices and do the things that need to be done. His football intellect and knowledge is unparalleled from what I’ve seen. But in the end, this is a business. You either execute and win or you don’t. That’s where we’re at. We’re in a transition phase. I think we’ve made some moves this year that personally I’m comfortable with. And I still believe in Bill.”

At this point, it’s understandable and justifiable if that’s changed, but there’s no reason to make a move right now.

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