The best quarterback ever drafted by the Cardinals never played for them
If Kyler Murray gets selected by the Arizona Cardinals with the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft — as the majority of experts believe will happen — it’ll probably be a disappointment if he doesn’t wind up breaking team records.
That’s mostly because taking a player with the very first selection means there are high expectations. The Cardinals would hope Murray will be an elite passer for the franchise for over a decade.
But it’s also because the bar is pretty dang low in Arizona. The 2019 season will be the Cardinals’ 100th in their existence, yet their history of quarterback play is awfully depressing.
Only one passer ever drafted by the Cardinals landed in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He’s also the team’s only draft pick at the position who made it to more than two Pro Bowls.
Just one problem: He never played for the Cardinals.
With the No. 12-overall selection in the 1965 NFL Draft, the then-St. Louis Cardinals picked Alabama’s Joe Namath. On the same exact day, the New York Jets picked Namath with the No. 1 pick in the 1965 AFL Draft.
Namath had all the leverage with two leagues battling for his services and demanded “a then-record $200,000 annual contract along with a new Lincoln Continental convertible” to sign with the Cardinals, according to Alex Marvez of Fox Sports. But eventually it was the Jets that won the battle and signed Namath to a contract that was the highest ever for a rookie at the time.
Namath played for the Jets for 12 seasons, leading them to their first (and only) Super Bowl win.
The consolation for the Cardinals is that they found Jim Hart as an undrafted free agent one year later in 1966. Hart threw for 34,639 yards and 209 touchdowns — which still stand as franchise records — in 18 seasons with the Cardinals.
If Murray ends up in a Cardinals uniform, it’d take him some time to chase down Hart’s records. But they’re not exactly lofty for a franchise that has been around for a century. Neither is the single-season record of 35 touchdown passes set by Carson Palmer in 2015.