In choosing football over baseball for his immediate career path, Kyler Murray claims to be following his heart, saying, “Football has been my love and passion my entire life. I was raised to play QB.”Sounds good. And I think Murray is making the right call in taking the easier path to on-field and financial success. But NFL teams will want to hear the 21-year-old, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback from Oklahoma say it in person when he is interviewed at the NFL Combine. GMs will still have concerns about the money factor, as they know it is part of Murray’s decision considering the opportunity he has as a likely first-round draft pick who could easily jump into the top 10. That equates to a lot more money than the amount he would have received from minor league pay in the Oakland A’s farm system for his first couple seasons, even with the $4.66 million signing bonus, of which he had to return all but $210,000.As a comparison, QB Josh Rosen (No. 10 overall selection by Arizona last year) received a $10.9 million signing bonus and $17.6 million guaranteed over four years under his rookie deal. Like Rosen, Murray will have a chance to earn a $30 million-plus-per-year contract by his fourth season if he proves to be a franchise QB. He also is sure to gain significant endorsement income as a high-profile QB in America’s No. 1 sports league in terms of fan interest.In Major League Baseball, though, it’s rare for a star player to be paid huge money until he’s been around for five or six years (with the free agency level at six years). Mike Trout is the anomaly as a star player who got paid his megadeal after just a couple seasons. The norm is Mookie Betts, who was paid $10.5 million last year as MVP in his seventh pro season (with three years in the minors), and he’s still two years away from free agency. For all these reasons, Murray will be among the most interesting players this draft season in terms of teams wanting to get to know him better. And it will be fun to see him face the questions.I expect him to do it with confidence, knowing he has a bright future ahead in the sport he says he loves.Jeff Diamond is a former president of the Titans and former vice president/general manager of the Vikings. He was selected NFL Executive of the Year in 1998. Diamond is currently a business and sports consultant who also does broadcast and online media work. He makes speaking appearances to corporate/civic groups and college classes on negotiation and sports business/sports management. He is the former chairman and CEO of The Ingram Group. Follow Jeff on Twitter: @jeffdiamondNFL. MORE: Best, worst fits for Murray in NFL DraftMurray’s answer to the baseball question will be scrutinized, as each GM and coach will formulate his own opinion on Murray’s commitment to football. His potential to fallback on baseball makes GMs and coaches a little nervous, thinking he could skip an offseason program at some point to scratch his baseball itch. NFL teams do not want divided attention in their players, especially the starting QB.With so much at stake for NFL teams in terms of money, salary cap space and draft capital, that’s the way it works.In my current work with an NFL agent group, I do interview prep with our soon-to-be rookies so they are trained on how to answer tough questions (along with Wonderlic prep). I tell our players they have to stay patient and be personable during the interview grind at the Combine, Pro Day and on pre-draft visits to team facilities.If I were working with Murray, I would emphasize how he needs to be prepared to answer the baseball question for teams who want to be sure there won’t be an about-face a couple years down the line as the physical difference in the two sports becomes more obvious, or the desire to play both sports returns. Above all, I would insist that Murray be honest in his answers to GMs, player personnel directors, scouts and coaches. They all know he is being tutored on how to answer questions, and they can easily spot when a player is not speaking the truth.MOCK DRAFT: Murray not a top-10 pick … yetMurray will go through a grueling couple days at the Combine with physical testing and on-field drills to the extent he participates. I would recommend Murray do all he can to showcase his speed, agility and passing skills. (Although in my NFL team management days, I always relied more on how a player performed in actual games than his Combine measurables.)I also would want Murray to be upfront about the obvious financial incentive to come in the NFL, and that he understands the year-round commitment required to keep learning and improving at his craft. Another subject that will stir questioning for Murray is his lack of height (5-10). Even with the success of Super Bowl-winning QBs Drew Brees (6-0) and Russell Wilson (5-11), most GMs and coaches prefer their QBs to be of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning stature (6-4 or taller) so they can stand tall in the pocket.But smart personnel people understand there is no blueprint for a successful QB’s size, and what a QB like Murray gives up in height can be a gain in mobility and playmaking ability. Astute coaches can design offenses around the skill set of players such as Murray.I watched the barely-six-foot-tall Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton take the Vikings to the Super Bowl in my first year with the team, so I’ve never been overly concerned with a QB’s height. Neither were two Hall of Famers in GM Jim Finks and coach Bud Grant, who acquired Tarkenton from the Giants in a blockbuster trade in 1972. They saw Tarkenton use his quickness, elusiveness and smarts to lead Minnesota to three Super Bowls.Today, the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes at 6-3 is not the biggest QB, but he is the reigning MVP and the most exciting player in the game today. Browns QB Baker Mayfield, last year’s top draft pick, looks like the real deal at 6-1.MORE: Can Murray go No. 1 overall in draft?A third subject Murray must be ready to address is his relative lack of experience. He started only one full season in college, but it was spectacular — a 12-2 record in leading the Sooners to the College Football Playoff, 39 touchdown passes against just seven interceptions, plus 12 rushing touchdowns.Other recent high draft picks such as Mitchell Trubisky (No. 2 overall in 2017) have had to fight off the same knock. Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State, another player being touted as potentially the first QB selected this year, will have to answer the same questions.Then Murray will be asked about the old argument that no defense is being played in the Big 12 conference. All he has to do is toss Mahomes back as an answer. The former Texas Tech QB is doing just fine against the big boys in the NFL.MORE: Odds on teams taking Murray in draft
This is a game the Fighting Irish will look back on with a huge sigh of relief when their season comes to an end.No. 10 Notre Dame took down No. 18 Virginia, 35-20, in South Bend on Saturday to move to 3-1 on the season, but they did it while trailing at the half, failing to recover an onside kick to start the second half and looking pretty lackadaisical for much of the game after losing its first contest of the year to Georgia last week. This was by no means a walk in the park for the Irish, who ran into a team in the Cavaliers (4-1) that looked like the better of the two over the first 30 minutes.But the Fighting Irish pulled away in the second half and that had everything to do with the pass rush. Related News Rondale Moore injury update: Purdue star receiver (leg) carted to locker room We say that to say this: Virginia has a pretty darn good football team, and Notre Dame is also coming off of a very tough matchup with one of the best teams in the country in Georgia.While Notre Dame didn’t play well this week, it doesn’t mean that makes Virginia any less good. The Cavaliers played very well in this game. They made some mistakes but to go into South Bend and push a top-10 team for the better part of three quarters is pretty darn impressive.At the same time, the Irish didn’t look particularly good. Quarterback Ian Book was just OK, the offensive line more or less didn’t look great, and honestly, on a one-game sample size, the Cavaliers appeared to have the better skill-position players. But don’t let either of those storylines warp what this game really told us: Virginia has a good team despite how Notre Dame played. It doesn’t take a lot of evaluation to come to that conclusion so don’t overthink it. Three takeaways from No. 10 Notre Dame’s win over No. 18 VirginiaNotre Dame’s front seven bailed out the IrishThe Irish were by no means leaps and bounds better than Virginia in this game. Cavaliers quarterback Bryce Perkins was really good in the first half as were his wide receivers while the Irish’s offense was really mediocre. But if there was any clear mismatch in this game it was Notre Dame’s front seven vs. Virginia’s pass protection.In the first half, the Cavaliers more or less dominated the game. Their quick passing game consistently moved the chains and their offense controlled the clock at will. But the Irish got a strip-sack in the second quarter which gave the offense a short field and a quick score. Apart from that sequence, the Cavaliers won the first half 17-7.Notre Dame’s Julian Okwara up to two sacks today with #Vikings GM Rick Spielman in the house, per @TJamesNDI. Okwara is a top-40ish prospect. pic.twitter.com/xHJzRNsa2Y— Darren Wolfson (@DWolfsonKSTP) September 28, 2019Then in the third quarter, the offense for Notre Dame once again struggled but the front seven bailed the Irish out again. They got two strip-sacks, one which set up the offense inside the 5-yard line and another returned for a score. Through three quarters Notre Dame’s defensive front essentially set up 21 of the team’s 28 points. Ian Book better be buying his defensive line steaks for the next week.Just dawned on me that a Tagovailoa could win the Heisman AND the @piesmantrophy. (That’s Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, Tua’s cousin.) pic.twitter.com/BWnHZq3iGF— Mark Cooper (@mark_cooperjr) September 28, 2019JULIAN OKWARA WITH ANOTHER STRIP SACK!!ADE OGUNDEJI WITH THE SCOOP AND SCORE!!!IRISH UP 28-17!!! pic.twitter.com/gqbCrI1low— ND Whiteboard (@ND_Whiteboard) September 28, 2019Cavaliers abandoned what was workingThe game plan worked for Virginia in the first half. Perkins is a good passer, but he is especially good at getting the ball out of his hands quickly and letting his receivers go to work. In the first 30 minutes, that’s what the Cavaliers did a lot of and it set up a couple of nice touchdown passes.Bryce Perkins to Joe Reed for the 6 yard TOUCHDOWN🔥Virginia taking the lead early on Notre Dame#VirginiavsNotreDame pic.twitter.com/Qe7JCKKJO2— The Sideline Report (@SidelineReport_) September 28, 2019Bryce Perkins WANTS THE UPSET😲He finds Hasise Dubois and Virginia (+10.5) leads Notre Dame!pic.twitter.com/jFUXmdaobg— PointsBet Sportsbook (@PointsBetUSA) September 28, 2019Perkins was 18-of-22 passing for 235 yards and two touchdowns in the first half and Virginia led 17-14. In the second half, whether by design or an adjustment by the Irish defense, Perkins was holding the ball longer and longer and getting hit repeatedly. By the end of the third quarter, the Irish had eight sacks including the two strip-sacks that led to all of the Irish’s 14 points in those 15 minutes.So why did the Cavaliers go away from what was working? That’s a question their fans will be asking for hours after this one wraps up.Virginia is good and Notre Dame was also one week off a tough gameWe always want to speak in absolutes about football. We want a game to be a statement about which team was good and which was bad, who played well and who didn’t, but the truth is always somewhere in between even if we want every game to be some kind of grand declaration.