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Murray MVP Hopes Depend on Team Success

In the last 21 seasons, the NFL MVPs have been on teams that averaged nearly 13 regular-season victories.

The MVP buzz is getting louder for Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray and for good reason after his play in the first two games of the season.

Of course, as eye-opening as his performance has been for the most part, there is still the reality of having three interceptions in two games. That projects to 25.5 for the season.

In 2020, Murray had only 12 interceptions and the players with the most in the NFL were Carson Wentz of Philadelphia and Drew Lock of Denver with 15.

Further reality is that had Greg Joseph hit a 37-yard field-goal attempt to win last Sunday’s game for the Vikings, Murray’s interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, would have been a significantly larger part of the discussion this week. He simply can’t have those against better teams.

So it is in the week that Murray was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week, had him as the third favorite for MVP at +800. 

Ahead of him are Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes at +400 and Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady at +650. 

Rounding out the top 10 after Murray are Matthew Stafford, Rams, +1000, Josh Allen, Buffalo, +1200, Russell Wilson, Seattle and Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay, +1400, Lamar Jackson, Baltimore and Dak Prescott, Cowboys, +1600 and Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers, +2500.

Surely, Murray might be a viable candidate for the award, but it won’t be enough to simply compile passing and rushing numbers. However, there is one number that will be vital for him to have a true shot at being MVP. 

That number is the total wins for the Cardinals.

History explicitly shows us that MVPs always come on teams that win.

Consider that only twice in the last 21 seasons has an MVP been on a 10-win team: Former Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson in 2012, who had a remarkable 2,097-yard rushing season playing all 16 games after suffering a torn ACL and MCL the previous December; and running back Marshall Faulk of the St. Louis Rams after he scored 26 touchdowns (18 rushing, eight receiving) in 2000.

In the other 19 seasons, three MVPs were on 11-win teams; six were on 12-win teams; three were on 13-win teams; five were on 14-win teams; two were on 15-win teams and, of course, one, then-New Englander Brady, was on the Patriots’ undefeated, 16-win team in 2007.

All told, the teams of those 22 honorees averaged just under 13 victories (12.73). The total is 22 because Peyton Manning of the Colts and Steve McNair of the Titans shared the award in 2003 when each team won 12 games.

Those totals, of course, are all in 16-game seasons, but it likely won’t change that much in this year’s 17-game schedule. 

It’s clear the Cardinals will have to win at least 10 games for Murray to be a strong candidate and he and the team will probably have to play well against the NFC West and be better than the 2-4 record they had in the division last season.

If the Cardinals defeat Jacksonville Sunday, a 3-0 record will likely increase the hype. However, what happens next could be crucial as the next three games are at the Rams, home against San Francisco and at Cleveland.