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DeMarco Murray: The Unlikely MVP Candidate

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(October 18, 2014 - Source: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images North America)
(October 18, 2014 – Source: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images North America)


If I had told you that an Oklahoma running back would have 913 yards rushing with seven touchdowns off 187 carries (both league leaders), the first thought anyone would have would be, ‘It’s Adrian Peterson having another amazing season.’

But since Peterson has been indicted for child abuse and has only 75 yards rushing this season, it’d probably take a while to guess which other Oklahoma alumnus is capable of such a feat.

Until a Cowboys fan spoke up about DeMarco Murray. That running back they got back in 2011.

DeMarco Murray was a third-round draft pick in the same draft that yielded Tyron Smith and Bruce Carter in the first and second rounds respectively. He had been an excellent fit for Bob Stoops’ offense with his ability to run and catch the ball.

In his senior year, he posted a 282/1,214/15 rushing stat line and a 71/594/5 receiving stat line.

Despite all the excellent numbers and even breaking Steve Owens Oklahoma touchdown record, he wasn’t a high prospect in the draft. He didn’t win any college awards and had an injury-prone tag on him. The running back position in general had lost value since the game was (and still is) becoming more and more like the Madden video game where you throw 80% of the time.

Throw in the fact he stayed all four years at Oklahoma, so he was 23 when drafted. The younger a running back is, the better because of the physical toll each year adds on.

Only one of the five running backs taken was older than DeMarco Murray.

I was sitting on my couch watching the draft and I remember thinking that I was happy that Jerry Jones was playing smart by drafting Smith and I understood the Carter pick for the future. So, when the third round came around, I was hoping that the old codger would draft a guard, a center, or another tackle to protect Tony Romo, especially since he had been injured in 2010.

I am ashamed to say when I heard Murray’s name announced, I blew my stack. I screamed at the TV.

A running back? You can’t have a run game if you don’t have a line, so what’s the point of getting yet another running back when they already had Felix Jones and Tashard Choice?

I was dead wrong about that one and I’m not ashamed to say it.

Murray has been the MVP the Cowboys have needed the last five years. The Dorsett to Staubach/White and the Smith to Aikman. Yes, I am comparing him to the all-time leading rusher. He’s on pace to have a season great than any Emmitt Smith had.

Along with his rushing numbers, he has 22 catches for 159 yards out of the backfield. In total through seven weeks, he leads all players with yards from scrimmage with 1,072.

Now, let’s put this in perspective to the rest of the league. Here’s the top five leaders in rushing yards courtesy of Pro Football Reference.

1. DeMarco Murray · DAL 913

2. Arian Foster · HOU 615

3. Le’Veon Bell · PIT 599

4. Justin Forsett · BAL 503

5. Matt Forte · CHI 448

He’s more than double Matt Forte and Arian Foster is nearly three football fields behind him? That’s not winning, that’s winning by a full lap and then some. Granted, a lot of it has to do with the fact that he has 61 more rushing attempts and 46 more touches than anyone in the NFL.

Who would have thought that the guy could do it? Especially since he hadn’t averaged more than 80 yards a game before and had missed significant time his first two seasons. How is he staying healthy?

So, it leads to the idea. There is no way he can keep this up right? There’s no way he can possibly continue to take this much punishment and expect to keep going right?

Well…he might not have a choice. Lance Dunbar is averaging 2.6 yards per carry and Joseph Randle, while promising, was just arrested for shoplifting. He’s shown promise, but to do that questions if he’s mature enough to take on such an important role.

No. The Cowboys have found a way to win with just Murray and we didn’t see it coming.

How could we see it coming? Murray, the injury prone third round pick, becoming an Emmitt Smith? Murray, the Pro Bowler sure, but to break one of might Jim Brown’s records? To start the season with seven consecutive games with a minimum of a 100 yards rushing?

A record that had stood for more than 50 years. Broken by Murray?

No one saw it coming and now Murray is so valuable to this team that the idea of letting the foot off the gas is borderline crazy because where would they be without him? Trusting Romo’s arm?

I’d rather have surgery without anesthesia.

The pressure in Dallas is to win now because Tony Romo is 34 and no spring chicken and after three 8-8 seasons, Jerry Jones knows he has to give the fans something to get excited about.

The idea is to go full blast with everyone if I’m reading the signs right.

It could end up destroying Murray, but if it gets them in the playoffs and maybe a ring (the ultimate dream), it would be worth it and Murray would be the first to tell you that because every player’s dream (beyond a boatload of money) is to wear a ring.

So, I think that, barring injury or a surprise split with Randle, Murray will break franchise records in terms of yards and touches, (Don’t see him breaking Smith’s 25 rushing touchdown record) and I think the Cowboys will be praying that he can carry them in key situations like an MVP would.

Because forget the numbers for a second here and let me explain what Murray does that makes him a true MVP. MVPs aren’t just guys who are having great seasons and compile a ton of numbers.

Stats lie easily.

Quarterback compile garbage numbers week-to-week when their team is down three scores in the fourth quarter and the opposing team calls off the dogs. Those numbers are meaningless because they weren’t gained when they needed to be gained.

MVP’s put up the numbers when the game is on the line and overcome adversity to get them.

Not one of Murray’s touches, yards, or touchdowns were gained in pointless effort. Everything he has done to this point has been in the setting of winning a football game. Even the game against San Francisco, a 28-17 loss, the Cowboys outscored the 49ers in the second half after they stopped committing turnovers and were focused on trying to come back and win.

It’s no hidden fact that I’m a Romo supporter. I’ve always felt Romo got too much blame he’d be in a situation where he’d have to play gunslinger in order to catchup and that was football Russian Roulette. Either Romo would get them back in the game or he would throw an interception because the mountain was too high.

Murray takes the gun off Romo and makes the defenses think about him as well. He makes it where Romo can use play-action to their advantage which is one of his greatest strengths. Murray fits Jason Garrett’s philosophy like a glove.

Watch any close game with Garrett as head coach before this year. Here’s the storyline. Cowboys have a late lead. Say…16-13. They have the ball with 3:12 left in the game. Now the Garrett philosophy is simple.

RUN! Run that ball!

1st and 10 would become 2nd and 9. Then they’d run it again. 3rd and about 7 now. So, do they decide to try to pass the ball? It’s at the two minute warning by now, a first down wins it.

No. They will run that ball and make it 4th and 4 or some variety and then punt the ball. The opposing team gets it and more often than not (at least in my traumatic memories) the defense would blow the lead. Score would be 20-16 and the game would be lost.

But, Garrett believes in that philosophy the way the old gnarled man at a family reunion believes that his generation was better. He believes in it because the Cowboys 90s dynasty was based on that philosophy because Emmitt Smith was a workhorse back who could get that 3rd and 5 run and move the chains.

Tashard Choice and Felix Jones couldn’t do it. Murray can though. Watch the last drive against the Giants. Cowboys are up 28-21. If they fail, the Giants have hope and time to tie the game. I was in a bar pacing up and down the floor with worry.

5:28 left in the game. The Cowboys run nine plays to go 49 yards to get into field goal range. Seven of them Murray runs for 26 total yards including a 17-yard pinball run that got them in Giants territory.

Dan Bailey kicks the 49-yarder to make it 31-21 and with 1:04 left in the game, the Giants are done.

It’s drives like that by Murray that are the reason the Cowboys are 6-1 and that’s why he’s their MVP.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com

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