At some point soon, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray may show interest in the MVP talk stirring around him. For the time being, though, Murray seems determined to sidestep questions about the award as deftly as he eludes would-be tacklers.
The second-year star was at it again Tuesday, dodging and weaving during a news conference after recently teaming with wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins on what can only be described as one of the most spectacular game-winning plays in the history of the league. Murray and Hopkins connected for a 43-yard desperation touchdown with only two seconds remaining, punctuating a 32-30 Week 10 victory over the visiting Buffalo Bills that moved the Cardinals into a three-way tie atop the NFC West.
The play set the sports world abuzz and earned Hopkins well-deserved praise for making a ridiculously difficult catch while being bracketed by three Bills defensive backs. The pass was a gem, too, and yet another big-time play initiated by Murray. Hence more questions from reporters about the Associated Press NFL Most Valuable Player award, which Murray had better get used to hearing.
Murray, only the fifth Black quarterback selected No. 1 overall in the history of the NFL draft, rightfully belongs in the MVP conversation with Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs, Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers, Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks, the best of the best signal-callers, but “those guys, they’ve won Super Bowls, they’ve won MVPs,” Murray told reporters. “I haven’t done anything.”
Well, he’s working on it. Quickly.
To be sure, the historically one-sided trade (the word “theft” immediately comes to mind) that brought Hopkins, arguably the league’s best wideout, to Arizona before the season has had an immeasurable impact on head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s team being in the mix to win the competitive NFC West only a season after it finished last at 5-10-1. But make no mistake: As the Cardinals face the Seahawks on Thursday night in a matchup of two of the division’s three leaders, Murray is the biggest reason the group has clearly taken a significant step forward. And that’s not in the least bit surprising.
The diminutive passer (at the 2019 NFL scouting combine, Murray was measured at 5 feet, 10 inches) is thriving whether operating from the pocket or on the run.
Murray ranks ninth in completion percentage, at 68.2%, and has produced the league’s 10th-best Total QBR. As a runner, Murray has been even better. Among all rushers who qualify, he tops the league with a 6.9-yard average and is second with 10 touchdowns. Murray is eighth in rushing yards and No. 1 among quarterbacks. Combined rushing and passing, he has 27 touchdowns.
During the Year of the Black Quarterback, Murray, who also takes pride in his South Korean heritage, served notice of what’s currently occurring, being selected the 2019 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year. Still, his flair for the dramatic the past few weeks has been an eye-opener.
In Week 7, the Cardinals rallied for a 37-34 victory in overtime against the Seahawks. Murray passed for 360 yards and three touchdowns and added 67 yards and another touchdown rushing. The Cardinals have won four of their last five games.
Even in Arizona’s loss during the strong stretch — a 34-31 thriller to the Miami Dolphins in Week 9 — Murray had only five incompletions in 26 attempts (80.8%), passed for 283 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, and rushed for 106 yards and another score. ESPN analyst Ryan Clark likes what he sees.
“In a year and a half, Kyler Murray has become so good, I’ve forgotten that he’s short!” Clark joked in a text message to The Undefeated. In all seriousness, Clark and many around the game couldn’t be more impressed with Murray’s progress.
Murray is most pleased that his performance has already helped result in more victories than the Cardinals had last season.
“I just play hard for the guys,” the 2018 Heisman Trophy winner said. “They can tell how much I love the game and how much I want to win.
“That feeds energy throughout the locker room, when they see your guy’s out there battling for them, each and every guy on the team. I feel like it’s hard not to. I love to play the game, so for me, it’s easy to go out there and do that.”
Although Murray would rather not go down the MVP-talk road at the moment, don’t be confused: Confidence is not something he lacks.
“As far as my personal confidence, do I believe that I’m one of the best in the league? Yeah, of course,” Murray said. “Anybody should be confident in themselves. So that’s what I meant by that, as far as the MVP deal, I just try to go out and lead my team to a win. I’ve said it, ‘The individual goals come if you win.’ ”
Murray is doing his job and the Cardinals are winning. That’s why the talk is continuing.