Is QB Kyler Murray a Good Longshot-Bet MVP Candidate in his Second Season?

Howard Balzer

In the last two NFL seasons, second-year quarterbacks stood the league on its ear and were voted league MVP: Kansas City Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes in 2018 and Baltimore Ravens' Lamar Jackson in 2019.

So, it was in the video above — which included yours truly, Frankie "Fantasy" Taddeo and Bill Enright — where the notion was explored about whether Arizona Cardinals' second-year quarterback Kyler Murray could continue that trend.

Taddeo likes Murray as a 25-1 play, which is not a bad longshot bet. However, it will probably take a remarkable season by Murray and the team for it to have any chance of happening.

Consider:

In 2018, Mahomes completed 66.0 percent of his passes for 5,097 yards (8.79 yards per attempt) with 50 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and a passer rating of 113.8.

The Chiefs won the AFC West with a 12-4 record, followed by the 12-4 Los Angeles Chargers, 6-10 Denver Broncos and 4-12 Oakland Raiders. The season before, when Mahomes started the season finale, the Chiefs won the division with a 10-6 record.

Last season, Jackson completed 66.1 percent of his passes for 3,127 yards (7.80 per attempt) with 36 touchdowns, six interceptions and a passer rating of 113.3. He added 1,206 yards rushing and seven touchdowns.

The Ravens won the AFC North with a 14-2 record and no one else in the division had a winning record. The Pittsburgh Steelers were 8-8, the Cleveland Browns 6-10 and the Cincinnati Bengals 2-14. Like the Chiefs, the Ravens also won their division with a 10-6 record the prior season with Jackson starting seven games.

Thus, the prescient question to ask is: how much can Murray and the Cardinals improve after a 5-10-1 season and in a division with the San Francisco 49ers, who were 13-3 last season, the Seattle Seahawks 11-5 and the Los Angeles Rams 9-7? The NFC West was the only division in the league that housed three teams with winning records and only three others had two: the AFC East (New England 12-4, Buffalo 10-6); the AFC South (Houston 10-6, Tennessee 9-7) and the NFC North (Green Bay 13-3, Minnesota 10-6).

The addition of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, having running back Kenyan Drake for a full season and anticipated upgrades on defense should produce an improved team that could pass eight wins and potentially achieve 10 victories.

However, is that enough wins to garner MVP notice, especially if it doesn’t result in a division title?

After all, since the turn of the century (that’s 20 seasons for the math majors in the audience), there have been only three instances where a league MVP was on a second-place team: St. Louis running back Marshall Faulk in 2000, although his team’s 10-6 record tied for first with New Orleans, but the Saints won the division on a tiebreaker and Faulk combined for 2,189 yards from scrimmage with 26 touchdowns; Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning in 2008 when the Colts won 12 games to Tennessee’s 13; and Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson in 2012, when the Vikings won 10 games, but Peterson rushed for 2,097 yards in his return from a torn ACL.

The 17 other MVPs were on teams that averaged 13.2 victories. Here's the breakdown: two were on teams with 11 wins, four had 12, three had 13, five had 14, two had 15 and, of course, the Tom Brady-led Patriots had 16 in 2007. That counts Manning and Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair as one when they were co-MVPs in 2003 and both the Colts and Titans had 12 victories.

This all begs the most important question: Can Murray achieve the numbers necessary to rise even close to the stratosphere of what they need to be?

His 3,722 yards, 64.4 percent completions, 20 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and 87.4 passer rating last season shows promise that he is on his way up. But, alas, 2020 is probably too soon.

Cardinals fans, of course, hope I’m dead wrong.

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