Everyone loves to have options, and Kyler Murray has options. He’s a college football star with a chance to go to the NFL. He’s got a multimillion-dollar baseball contract waiting on him. Murray essentially has a dream scenario facing him head on.
One of the greatest freedoms we have in life is to choose. We can choose our friends, where we live, what we do for a living, etc. And while assistance or advice is sometimes appreciated, being told what to do, having that freedom to choose our livelihood taken away from us, is unnecessary and generally unwanted.
We have no place to tell Murray what sport he should play, and we have no place to tell him that one decision is dumb compared to another.
If he wants to play football, he should play football.
There’s a decent chance that’s exactly what happens with the multi-sport star after it was reported on Wednesday that he’s expected to enter the NFL draft. According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, sources indicate Murray may be leaning toward football, but a final decision likely won’t come until February.
Questions about Murray’s future have circulated since he was drafted ninth overall but the Oakland A’s in the most recent MLB amateur draft. That guarantees him a $4.66 million signing bonus, as long as he joins the team.
Right off the bat (no pun intended), that seems like an obvious choice over anything else for pretty much anyone. There’s security in that guaranteed money.
What complicates things is that baseball isn’t Murray’s only sport, in fact it’s probably not even his best sport. Murray was arguably a reach in the MLB draft, a player with a ton of potential but not as much tangible skill right now, or at the very least not a ton of tape to prove his skill.
Meanwhile, he just won the Heisman Trophy as Oklahoma’s starting quarterback. Murray was the best player in college football for the 2018 season, and anyone who watched him run and throw all over the yard knows how dangerous he is.
Choosing between careers is difficult, regardless of who you are. For Murray (and for many of us non-athletes), there are layers of dilemmas that muddy the waters and simultaneously make this such an engaging story to follow.
First, there’s the guaranteed money. As was previously mentioned, as long as Murray joins the A’s that signing bonus is his. It’s a sure thing, something that can’t be taken away and something with which he can essentially protect himself in case something goes wrong down the road. Plus, the earning potential is higher in baseball. “Potential,” of course, being the key word.
Football could be less of a sure thing. If he’s a first-round pick there’s a lot to be made, but beyond that it’s less of a sure thing. That first round potential is tempting, though. Lamar Jackson, the last pick of the 2018 first round, has over $8 million guaranteed.
That’s where potential comes back into play. Baseball is never a sure thing when you start out in the minors. If Murray doesn’t pan out in baseball (many draft picks don’t), there’s a lot of time that’s spent languishing in the minors. As for football, there aren’t any farms systems to deal with, you’re just with the big team (practice squads are rarely on the table for first-round picks, or early round picks in general).
Free agency and the speed at which it can be reached is also important to consider. Assuming he reaches the majors, Murray would need to accrue six full years of service time (a system which teams have manipulated in order to guarantee an extra year with top prospects) before he could reach free agency. With football, a first-round pick can become a free agent as quickly as four seasons into their career, though that likely becomes five if their built-in fifth-year option is picked up. Still, you would have a chance at a second, bank-breaking contract sooner in football (~five seasons) compared to baseball (six seasons, seven depending on team manipulation, plus time spent in the minors).
That second contract, however, comes at a wildly different price tag depending on sport. Baseball contracts for top free agents appear astronomical, even compared to multimillion-dollar football deals. Not to mention, baseball contracts are fully guaranteed, while the biggest NFL deals are not.
One final point to make about finances has to do with popularity and endorsements, where the potential is undeniably higher in the NFL. Mike Trout, on track to be one of the greatest baseball players of all time and the best player in the game today, is only known to approximately one-fifth of Americans, according to Q Scores. Baseball players aren’t plastered all over ads and commercials and billboards like football players. Locally, nationally, the NFL brand is far stronger, and the potential for an individual to earn more from that is far stronger.
We’re painting this with a broad brush, of course. Murray may outperform his projection as a baseball player and become an instant star. He could slide way down draft boards and not come close to being a first rounder for the NFL. Time and potential and earnings are all fluid situations, which complicate matters even further when it comes to this decision.
Longevity and health, though, is where the masses seem to let their arguments take root, specifically “choose baseball” purists. Baseball careers, generally, are longer, and they’re unquestionably safer. The risk of concussions is dramatically lower, and catastrophic injuries to things like the spinal cord are almost unheard of.
You don’t hear of baseball players getting CTE.
Legitimate arguments can be made for both sides. Contracts, endorsements, health, fame; they’re all factors. And that’s why this is such an uncommon spot for Kyler Murray. It’s not easy to pick your career path in general, let alone when there are millions of dollars at stake and people pulling you in every direction.
But this is uniquely his decision, and it’s wrong for anyone else to judge him for what he chooses.
It’s easy for some fan, some media member, some armchair executive, to say you have to take the guaranteed money or that you have choose the sport with the better longevity and fewer health risks. That’s a lot easier to say than to actually do, though, especially if your passion lies with the game everyone is telling you not to play.
Everyone’s set of values is different.
It’s ridiculous to think you’re justified in criticizing a person for doing what they want to do with their life. Kyler Murray’s career has no impact on any outsider. He’s someone we watch on TV, while he’s making a decision that will affect him the rest of his life.
If he didn’t love football he wouldn’t even consider the NFL draft this year. There have been whispers for some time that football is his passion and baseball is essentially a side gig. There’s rationality to that, again, given his interest in the NFL draft. And in the end he may go with the sure thing, the guaranteed MLB contract, and this will all be settled.
But to criticize him if he goes the other way? That’s not right.
It all boils down to what the individual wants. He’s a fun, gifted athlete who will be cherished in whichever sport he goes to. People seem to think they know what’s best for another person despite not knowing that person at all.
And again, remove the specifics from this situation and think about yourself instead. If you had to choose between your passion and an alternate career that could be lucrative but possibly less satisfying, what would you do? It’s not an easy place to be.
If I listened to what other people thought was best for me, I would have listened to my pompous Journalism 304 TA at the University of Kansas, dumped my radio/journalism dreams and become a faceless public relations droid. But the potential to make a little more money or have a more structured schedule didn’t matter to me. I had a passion and I followed it. That worked for me. The opposite may work for you. The point is that’s it’s vital for us to have the freedom to pick for ourselves.
Let Murray choose what he thinks is best for him. That’s freedom, that’s something we all want. It’s not up to other people to decide what’s smarter or what’s better for him. He’s the only one who will know that answer.