Nicknames are tricky things. They can come out of nowhere, like a tree branch in a hurricane, so obvious they seem like they’ve always been there, so durable they stick for a lifetime.
So it is with Kyler Murray, who made the unfortunate choice earlier this week to go after teammate Chandler Jones. While praising Jones, Murray said that perhaps the linebacker’s physical shape isn’t quite ready for a model shoot, laughing that “He takes his shirt off and it doesn’t look too good.”
Jones, as you’d expect from an All-Pro linebacker, responded with a devastating hit on the quarterback:
Somebody tell baby yoda the truth about his new hairdo 🥴 https://t.co/4pJ6r0TFfs
— ♛Chandler Jones (@chanjones55) September 15, 2021
Baby Yoda! Oh, that’s going to leave a mark.
Like Baby Yoda, Murray is undersized yet powerful, with vast reserves of untapped potential. Like Baby Yoda, Murray is an underdog in a vast, impersonal empire. And like Baby Yoda, Murray has rescued a franchise that seemed lost in the desert.
The Cardinals beat the Vikings 34-33 Sunday — well, given that Minnesota missed a game-winning chip shot field goal, “survived” might be a better word, but every win counts the same in the standings. Arizona is now 2-0, and Murray’s rapidly ascending into watch-every-snap territory.
Through two games — granted, a small sample size — Murray ranks second in the NFL in passing yardage, his 689 yards behind only Derek Carr. He’s slinging it, ranking fourth in yards per attempt, and finding his mark, ranking second in touchdowns to Tom Brady. Plus, he’s getting it done with style; he boasts two of the 16 most improbable completions in the league to date.
“That’s like coaching Patrick,” Arizona head coach Kliff Kingsbury said, referencing his former pupil Patrick Mahomes. “You give him the green light when you got a cat like that that can do those type of things."
Sunday’s signature play wasn’t improbable. It felt inevitable. On his own 23, Murray took the snap, rolled all the way back to his own 6 before rushing forward, right into the teeth of the Viking defense. He then lofted a pass to fellow sub-6-foot titan Rondale Moore, who was so wide open in the Viking secondary he could have built and run a Starbucks franchise. Bang, 77-yard touchdown, highlight reel achieved.
“It’s all reaction, all instincts, getting out of there,” Murray said after the game. “We work scramble drills all week, so I’m glad it’s starting to pay off.”
Murray scored four touchdowns in all on Sunday, three through the air and one on the ground. The latter one ended with Murray celebrating in a classic sukhasana yoga pose — legs crossed, palms upward — that the-world-begins-with-me fans mistook for a Baby Yoda tribute.
“I got to my phone and saw people talking about ‘Baby Yoda,’ and I had no clue what that was,” Murray said. “I’ve never watched Star Wars before. Too long.”
Unfortunately for Murray, the Baby Yoda moniker is too perfect, too of-the-moment to fade away. If bootleg T-shirt sellers aren’t hawking Murray/Baby Yoda merch by the time the Cardinals return to play San Francisco in Week 5, somebody’s gotten slow.
Bigger picture, though: Murray is developing into a true franchise quarterback, one who leads in every element of the game. He’s organized offseason workouts, he’s become more vocal in the huddle, he’s remaking the team in his own image.
“I really think he’s taken ownership of the entire organization,” Kingsbury told SI’s Albert Breer on Sunday. “He knows we’re gonna go as far as he takes us … I’ve seen a different work ethic, different leadership style, different approach on a daily basis. So we just gotta keep that going.”
In the week ahead, the Cardinals get the gimme draw of Jacksonville, meaning Arizona ought to be 3-0 by the time it heads into the first tour of the division in October.
It’ll be a tough challenge for Arizona to upend their three divisional rivals, all of whom have stronger and more recent Super Bowl pedigrees. But Baby Yoda put it best when he said … absolutely nothing. Baby Yoda doesn’t talk. He just looks good and gets the job done, a noble aim for Arizona this year.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.