On October 20, 2013, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported via Twitter that the Dallas Cowboys were no longer sold on DeMarco Murray as their franchise running back. Injury concerns were cited as the primary reason for the Cowboys wanting to look elsewhere after the third-year player missed his 11th game in three seasons, as reported by Kevin Patra of NFL.com.
But when you look closely at the numbers and cut through popular opinion, you'll see a player who has been incredibly productive in the pass-happy Cowboys' offense and is quite capable of being the franchise back.
Murray's production this year can't be ignored or discredited. Through Week 12 of the NFL season, Murray ranks fifth in the league with 5.1 yards per carry, according to ESPN. This puts him ahead of Adrian Peterson (4.4 YPC), Marshawn Lynch (4.4 YPC), Jamaal Charles (4.6 YPC) and the NFL's rushing leader LeSean McCoy (4.7 YPC).
He's also has shown impressive big-play ability, ranking seventh in the NFL among running backs with five plays of 20 yards or more.
When the Cowboys have given Murray the ball, he's responded with positive runs. More importantly, he's commanded the respect of defenses, leading to better passing situations for quarterback Tony Romo. Romo's quarterback rating is 119.5 on play action passes, over 20 points higher than his season average of 96.7.
It's preposterous that Murray hasn't been emphasized in offensive coordinator Bill Callahan's game planning.
While he's missed two games this year due to injury, Murray has only carried the ball 125 times. To put this number into perspective, Jets backup running back Chris Ivory has 116 carries and Ravens backup Bernard Pierce has 114 on the year. While their respective offenses certainly have different identities, fellow Oklahoma product and current Viking Adrian Peterson has carried the ball 226 times this season.
His ability to play a larger role in the offense was on full display in the first half against the New Orleans Saints in Week 10. He gashed the Saints defense for 80 yards and a touchdown on just 11 carries. The Cowboys were forced to throw in the second half facing a large deficit, but it was interesting to see what Murray's capable of when he's featured in the offense against a solid defense.
Not only would the Cowboys benefit from giving Murray more carries, they'd benefit by keeping him around beyond next season.
In the NFL, fans and owners alike are not known for their patience. That's part of the reason that when players are popularly believed to be injury-prone, their perceived value to a given franchise is lessened.
I understand that perception can quickly become reality, but what are the better running back options for the Cowboys?
Maurice Jones-Drew was a popular rumor around the trade deadline, as Mike Florio of NBC Sports reported. But how does a team that's already an expected $31 million over the salary cap in 2014 absorb another big-name free agent? Furthermore, MJD missed 10 games himself last year and certainly hasn't looked explosive this year.
DeMarco Murray is currently under contract with the Dallas Cowboys through the 2014 season and he's owed just $755,469 next year. On a team that's paying Miles Austin $54,100,000 over seven years, he's quite the bargain.
Before Jerry Jones makes any long-term decisions at running back, he'd be smart to exercise patience and allow DeMarco Murray to further prove himself over the 21 regular-season games (plus potential playoff games) remaining on his rookie contract.
Don't be surprised if Jerry's highly coveted franchise running back is right in front of him.