Tramel's ScissorTales: NFC needs Kyler Murray as a savior from the AFC's star quarterbacks

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Kyler Murray is one of the most important people in the National Football League. And I don’t mean some kind of top-100 list, which would include Roger Goodell, Travis Kelce, the director of officiating and whoever makes out the television schedule.

I mean, the former Sooner star will have an oversized say in whether NFL conference parity gets capsized.

We haven’t talked about conference parity in years. But it once was a thing. A big thing.

From the 1981 through 1996 seasons, the American Conference won just one Super Bowl, and that was courtesy of the 1983 Raiders. Meanwhile, for the National Conference, the 49ers won five Super Bowls, the Cowboys and Washington three each, the Giants two, the Bears and Packers one each.

The NFC didn’t just win Super Bowls, they dominated Super Bowls. Only three of those NFC victories were by single digits. Six were by at least 20 points. It was the era of Super Bowl blowouts: 38-16, 46-10, 39-20, 42-10, 55-10, 52-17, 49-26.

Since then, we’ve had conference parity. The AFC is 15-9 in Super Bowls since the 1996 season, but that edge is mostly due to Bill Belichick — his Patriots are 6-3 in Super Bowls.

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Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) and Kansas City Chiefs center Creed Humphrey (52) pose for a photo after an NFL football game, Friday, Aug. 20, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. The Chiefs won 17-10.
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) and Kansas City Chiefs center Creed Humphrey (52) pose for a photo after an NFL football game, Friday, Aug. 20, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. The Chiefs won 17-10.

Over that time, seven NFC and seven AFC franchises have won Super Bowls.

But that could change moving forward. Don’t look now, but the balance of power is shifting towards the AFC, courtesy of young quarterbacks.

Most of the great young QBs are in the AFC: Patrick Mahomes, 26; Joe Burrow, 25; Justin Herbert, 23; Josh Allen, 25.

Most of the NFC’s best quarterbacks are nearing retirement or facing mid-life crisis or at least well into their 30s: Tom Brady, 44; Aaron Rodgers, 38; Matty Ryan, 36; Russell Wilson, 33; Matthew Stafford, 33; Kirk Cousins, 33.

The AFC quarterback barrel is deep. Lamar Jackson turned 25 two weeks ago; he’s already been a league most valuable player and quarterbacked the Ravens in four playoff games. Derek Carr just turned 30 this season. Baker Mayfield had a miserable age-26 season in 2021, but he was hurt, and a year ago quarterbacked the Browns to a playoff victory over Pittsburgh and within a sliver of upsetting the Chiefs in the AFC semifinals. Trevor Lawrence is 22 and seems likely headed for stardom.

And we’re not even counting Houston’s Deshaun Watson, who was becoming a star before off-field issues knocked him out of the 2021 season.

Meanwhile, the NFC’s best quarterback in his 20s? Dak Prescott, 28. Next-best? Murray, 24.

Murray’s clunker of a game against the Rams a week ago Monday cast a pall over his development, but after the Rams made Brady look like a 44-year-old quarterback – a great gutty QB, but a 44-year-old quarterback – we can forgive Murray a little.

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The NFC is starving for quality quarterback play, and Murray seems the best hope to join the Mahomes/Allen/Burrow/Herbert Club.

Murray was mentioned among the MVP candidates as the Cardinals got off to a 10-2 start. But Arizona won just one of its final five games, Murray’s play slipped and those young guns from the AFC asserted themselves as the brightest lights in the league.

Still, the NFC is there for the taking. The future of Brady and Rodgers is unknown. Brady might retire, and even if he doesn’t, he’ll be 45 next season. Rodgers could end up going anywhere from Denver to the planet Zoltron. There is talk that Wilson might be finished with Seattle.

Such an open frontier is great news for Prescott and the Cowboys, and Murray and the Cardinals. They carry the long-term hopes of the NFC.

Of course, the same draft process that brought Burrow, Herbert, Allen and Mahomes to the AFC comes around every spring.

The 2022 quarterback class doesn’t look strong. Who knows about 2023?

But the NFC has not been drafting well when it comes to quarterbacks. Here are recent first-round draft picks by NFC teams.

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San Francisco: Trey Lance, third, 2021. Too early to tell.

Chicago: Justin Fields, 11th, 2021. Looks promising, but he threw more interceptions (10) than touchdown passes (seven), so let’s not pretend he’s Joe Burrow.

Green Bay: Jordan Love, 26th, 2020. Has looked rough in limited time filling in for Rodgers.

Arizona: Murray, first, 2019. Has all the makings of a star.

New York: Daniel Jones, sixth, 2019. In a weak division, Jones is 12-25 as the starter and is running out of time.

Washington: Dwayne Haskins, 16th, 2019. A total disaster, with a 3-10 record as the starter and a rap of not working hard. Washington cut him. He’s now third-team in Pittsburgh.

Arizona: Josh Rosen, 10th, 2018. The Cardinals traded him after one season for a second-round pick and he’s become a journeyman.

Chicago: Mitch Trubisky, second, 2017. Actually wasn’t bad as the Bears starter – 29-21 record, 64 touchdowns, 38 interceptions, 64.1 completion percentage – but Chicago didn’t re-sign him after four seasons. Now is the Buffalo backup.

Los Angeles: Jared Goff, first, 2016. Quarterbacked the Rams to the Super Bowl in his third season but never really progressed and was traded with a bunch of draft picks to Detroit, for Stafford.

Philadelphia: Carson Wentz, second, 2016. Seemed on the fast track to stardom, but he was injured late in the 2017 season and the Eagles won the Super Bowl with backup Nick Foles. Wentz quarterback Philadelphia three more years, to some success, but the wheels came off in the 2020 season and he was traded to the Colts.

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Tampa Bay: Jameis Winston, first, 2015. Showed flashes but had off-field issues and ended up becoming an interception machine – 30 alone in 2019. The Buccaneers didn’t re-sign him, and Winston now is in New Orleans.

Minnesota: Teddy Bridgewater, 32nd, 2014. Bridgewater was showing promise (17-11 record as the starter; 28 touchdowns, 21 interceptions) when he suffered a catastrophic leg injury that has turned him into a journeyman.

Washington: Robert Griffin III, 2012. Now we’re getting into repeat teams. RG3 had an excellent rookie season, then floundered and was cut by the Redskins after his third year. He’s now out of the NFL.

So that’s going back 10 drafts, and NFC teams found one franchise quarterback in the first round. Murray.

Goff, Wentz and Trubisky had their moments. Lance, Love and Fields still could come through.

But the NFC has done a terrible job drafting quarterbacks.

Which means the long-term opportunity is there for Murray. If he can consistently play at the levels he has shown he can reach, Arizona’s road to success will be much smoother than his colleagues in the AFC.

Josh Allen just played perhaps the greatest two-game set in NFL history, yet Mahomes and the Chiefs turned away the Bills in the AFC semifinals. Herbert didn’t even make the playoffs, despite stunning quarterback play.

Life is easier in the NFC, a conference that desperately needs Kyler Murray to shine bright.

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Kevin Obanor shines after leaving ORU

Kevin Obanor was front and center Monday night for one of college basketball’s games of the year. Maybe that’s why Obanor left Oral Roberts for Texas Tech.

Obanor was a star in ORU’s run to the Sweet 16 last March. But he entered the transfer portal and landed at Tech, where he’s started all 20 games for the 13th-ranked Red Raiders.

The 6-foot-8 forward from Houston is averaging 10.3 points and 5.1 rebounds for Tech. All five Red Raiders starters are averaging double-digit scoring, and frankly, Tech looks capable of another deep run in the NCAAs, like the Red Raiders made when they reached the 2019 national championship game.

Tech certainly showed out Monday night. The Red Raiders trailed Kansas 70-58 down the stretch at Allen Fieldhouse, but Tech staged a furious rally and forced overtime, then took the Jayhawks to another OT. Kansas finally won 94-91, but what a game.

And Obanor shined. He made six of eight shots, scoring 17 points and grabbing eight rebounds. Just like he was back in the Summit League.

Obanor was a three-year ORU star. Last season, Obanor averaged 18.7 points and 9.6 rebounds. In the NCAA Tournament, Obanor had 30 points and 11 rebounds in a 75-72 upset of Ohio State, then 28 points and 11 rebounds in a 81-78 upset of Florida.

In the Sweet 16, Obanor had 12 points and 11 rebounds as the Golden Eagles finally fell, 72-70 to Arkansas.

But what a run. Obanor’s three-game NCAA Tournament averages: 23.3 points, 11.0 rebounds and 12-of-21 3-point shooting.

That’s a tournament. And people noticed. Obanor took advantage of the NCAA’s new immediate-eligibility rule, and now he’s on an NCAA championship contender. Of course, ORU wasn’t exactly an also-ran a year ago. The Golden Eagles were within three points of a regional final.

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LAWRENCE, KANSAS - JANUARY 24:  Mitch Lightfoot #44 of the Kansas Jayhawks strips the ball away from Kevin Obanor #0 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders during the first half at Allen Fieldhouse on January 24, 2022 in Lawrence, Kansas. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775754347 ORIG FILE ID: 1366702205
LAWRENCE, KANSAS - JANUARY 24: Mitch Lightfoot #44 of the Kansas Jayhawks strips the ball away from Kevin Obanor #0 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders during the first half at Allen Fieldhouse on January 24, 2022 in Lawrence, Kansas. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775754347 ORIG FILE ID: 1366702205

How has ORU coped without Obanor?

Not bad. The Golden Eagles still have Obanor’s star sidekick, sharpshooter Max Abmas, who is averaging 22.6 points a game and shooting 40.1 percent from 3-point range.

OU transfer Trey Phipps is averaging 10.0 points off the bench, shooting 46.6 percent from 3-point range.

ORU is 13-7 overall and 7-2 in the Summit, good for second place in the conference.

The Golden Eagles lost at Colorado State, at Central Arkansas and at Missouri State. ORU lost 78-77 at home in overtime to OSU and lost 71-63 at Texas Christian.

That’s the life of a member of a low Division I conference. Lots of non-conference road games.

In the Summit, ORU has been solid, though a 72-71 home loss to North Dakota on Saturday night was a stunner.

The Golden Eagles’ season will be determined in the Summit League Tournament, March 5-8 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

The conference tournament is where ORU soared a year ago, when the Golden Eagles arrived in Sioux Falls with a 13-10 record. Yet they beat North Dakota, South Dakota State and North Dakota State on successive days, the latter two 90-88 and 75-72, respectively, and were rewarded with a No. 15 seed in the NCAAs.

You know the rest. Coach Paul Mills’ team thrived, Abmas and Obanor became March Madness stars, and now their paths have diverged. Perhaps they’ll reunite in the 2022 NCAA Tournament.

More: Ayoka Lee scores an NCAA-record 61 points to lead Kansas State past 14th-ranked Oklahoma

The List: Big 12 women single-game scoring

Kansas State’s Ayoka Lee scored a stunning 61 points Sunday in a 94-65 rout of OU. Lee set the NCAA Division I single-game scoring record. Here are the top 15 scoring games in Big 12 history. Spoiler alert: former Cowgirl star Andrea Riley has four of the top 15:

1. Ayoka Lee, Kansas State, 61 vs. OU, 2021-22.

2. Brittney Griner, Baylor, 50 vs. Kansas State, 2012-13.

3. Odyssey Sims, Baylor, 48 vs. West Virginia, 2013-14.

4. Odyssey Sims, Baylor, 47 vs. Kentucky, 2013-14.

4. Alicia Thompson, Texas Tech, 47 vs. Texas, 1996-97.

6. Madi Williams, OU, 45 vs. West Virginia, 2020-21.

6. Brittney Griner, Baylor, 45 vs. Kansas State, 2011-12.

6. Andrea Riley, OSU, 45 vs. OU, 2007-08.

9. Charlie Collier, Texas, 44 vs. North Texas, 2020-21.

9. Odyssey Sims, Baylor, 44 vs. Texas, 2013-14.

9. Andrea Riley, OSU, 44 vs. Michigan State, 2009-10.

12. Nina Davis, Baylor, 43, vs. Ole Miss, 2013-14.

12. Andrea Riley, OSU, 43 vs. Iowa State, 2009-10.

12. Andrea Riley, OSU, 43 vs. Baylor, 2009-10.

12. Courtney Paris, OU, 43 vs. New Mexico, 2006-07.

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Big 12 sports 65 players in the NBA

A familiar name checked into the game for the Chicago Bulls on Monday night against the Thunder.

Matt Thomas.

Wait. The Matt Thomas who played at Iowa State a few years ago? Yes, that Matt Thomas. The Thomas who played four years in Ames, averaging 8.5 points a game and shooting 40.1 percent from 3-point range.

I looked it up. Thomas was on the 2015-16 Iowa State that includes six players who made the NBA: Georges Niang, Monte Morris, Deonte Burton, Abdel Nader, Naz Mitrou-Long and Thomas.

Amazing. Thomas piqued my interest. How many Big 12 players are in the NBA? The answer is 65. Here they are.

Kansas 17: The Jayhawks have a star in Joel Embiid; starters in Devonte Graham, Marcus Morris and Andrew Wiggins; veterans in Kelly Oubre Jr., Ben McLemore, Josh Jackson, and Markieff Morris, and players trying to make their way in Udoka Azubuike, Cheick Diallo, Devon Dotson, Marcus Garrett, Quentin Grimes, Svi Mykhailiuk, Malik Newman, Wayne Selden and Frank Mason.

Texas 14: The Longhorns have Kevin Durant, P.J. Tucker and a cavalcade of big men, not even counting old pro LaMarcus Aldridge. Jarrett Allen, Mo Bamba, Tristan Thompson, Myles Turner, Jaxson Hayes and Jericho Sims. Plus UT has veterans D.J. Augustin, Avery Bradley and Cory Joseph, and youngsters Greg Brown and Kai Jones.

Iowa State 7: The Cyclones have promising young players Tyrese Haliburton and Talen Horton-Tucker, plus the aforementioned Morris, Niang, Nader, Thomas and Lindell Wiginton.

Baylor 6: Royce O’Neal and Taurean Prince have become solid pros, Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell are rookies, and Freddie Gillespie and Ish Wainwright are on rosters.

OU 4: Blake Griffin, Buddy Hield, Trae Young, Austin Reaves. A former all-star in Griffin, a current all-star in Young, a sharpshooter in Hield and an interesting rookie in Reaves.

Kansas State 4: Wes Iwundu, Rodney McGruder and Dean Wade all have played at least 100 NBA games, and Xavier Sneed has played eight minutes as a rookie.

Texas Tech 4: The Red Raiders’ quartet hasn’t made much impact – Jarrett Culver, Mac McClung, Matt Mooney and Jahmi’us Ramsey.

OSU 3: Cade Cunningham, Marcus Smart, Cam McGriff. The reigning No. 1 pick in the draft in Cunningham, a savvy Celtics veteran in Smart and a blue-collar journeyman in McGriff, who was signed to the Trail Blazers on Christmas Day during the Covid spread and played in three games.

Texas Christian 3: Desmond Bane is a valuable rotation player in Memphis, the Thunder loves Kenrich Williams, and R.J. Nembhard is a seldom-used rookie.

West Virginia 3: Jevon Carter is a solid reserve, Miles McBride has played 18 games as a rookie and Jaysean Paige has played seven minutes as a rookie.

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Mailbag: NFL overtimes

I wrote about NFL overtimes after the Buffalo-Kansas City classic Sunday night. And readers responded with a variety of comments and suggestions. Including this intriguing idea, that one team picks where the ball is spotted and the other team picks offense or defense.

Shannon: “Like last night, the Chiefs won the flip, so Buffalo would say something like ‘offense starts with the ball at their own 22-yard line.’ Then the Chiefs get to choose to be offense, first-and-10 at their own 22, or defense. Or the 15? The 30? What does KC choose?”

Tramel: Fascinating idea. In any game, the ball would have to be inside the 15 to make a team think about playing defense. And Buffalo would have had to place the ball inside the 10 to make the Chiefs even think about not taking the ball. I would guess KC would want the ball even if it was at the 7-yard line. Maybe even the 4-yard line. Maybe the 1-foot line.

But go back to the Cincinnati-Tennessee or Green Bay-San Francisco games. The winners scored 19 and 13, respectively. Those two games totaled four offensive touchdowns. Someone might choose defense if the ball was at the 15. It’s an interesting idea.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: NFC needs Kyler Murray to rival the AFC's stable of young quarterbacks

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