As the NFL heads into the last week of the regular season, debate for the league’s Most Valuable Player award also heats up. There are plenty of deserving players for the coveted award, as there is seemingly every year, but a few have separated themselves from the rest of the pack.
Aaron Rodgers and J.J. Watt are the frontrunners in most rankings, but Tony Romo, Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski have also gotten some attention.
In a ranking compiled by NFL.com in late November by Chris Wesseling, Rodgers, Gronk, Watt and Brady rounded out the top four. And fifth place on that list was a member of the Dallas Cowboys, but it wasn’t Romo.
It was DeMarco Murray, who deserves to at least be in the conversation. The Dallas Morning News recently published an article making the case for Romo, and they focused on Romo’s tremendous passing stats as the main evidence.
Sure, Romo is having the best season of his career. He leads the league in completion percentage, quarterback rating and yards per attempt. He has also taken care of the ball better than ever, as his eight interceptions are the fewest he’s thrown in a full season in his 12-year career.
But Romo has to give Murray tons of credit for those superb numbers. The fourth-year running back out of Oklahoma has been a workhorse all season long for the Cowboys. His 372 carries are 77 more than any other back in the NFL, and his 12 rushing touchdowns are tied with Marshawn Lynch for the league lead.
He has also been a priceless receiving option for Romo out of the backfield all season long, catching 54 passes for 395 yards.
Thanks to Murray’s efforts, the Cowboys have already clinched the NFC East and a playoff berth. Romo, Dez Bryant, the dominant offensive line and an improved defense have definitely been contributing factors, but Murray’s outstanding season is what has put Dallas over the top.
Even though the Cowboys have already locked up the division, the coaching staff has decided to play their starters in Sunday’s season finale against the Redskins. It is unknown how heavy Murray’s workload will be in that game, but if he records more than 20 carries, he will have the seventh-most carries in a single season in NFL history.
That blend of phenomenal durability and production is getting more and more rare for NFL running backs. Murray will probably not win the award since Rodgers and Watt have been too good, but he definitely deserves to be in the conversation.
If nothing else, he has been the most valuable player on his team. His high volume of carries has opened up the passing game for Romo and has made the offense extremely balanced. The Cowboys have had a tendency in the past to become a one-dimensional team through the air, but Murray has given the team a steady rushing threat, which gives the Cowboys a legitimate chance to get past the Divisional Round of the playoffs for the first time since 1995.