Photo by Dave Adamson (for more of Dave’s work go to https://unsplash.com/@aussiedave)
By Eli Elstein
Patrick Mahomes II, Lamar Jackson, and Kyler Murray. What do these three players have in common? They’re all young, black, starting quarterbacks in the NFL, and by the end of the season they’ll all have an MVP. Wait, what?
Happy Monday everyone, it’s “Enter Your Week With Eli” time. I’m going with a hot take here, one that I didn’t believe until recently.
Kyler Murray is going to win the MVP this year.
That’s still honestly a little shocking to hear when guys like Russell Wilson and Drew Brees have yet to achieve this feat, but it will happen. Let me break it down for you.
Many people are pointing out similarities between Kyler Murray and the previous two MVPs, Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes II. The latter two QBs were high draft picks, showed flashes of greatness as rookies, and then had impeccable seasons the following year. They are both young and black, and have the ability to do things physically that other QBs in the league can’t even dream of. Kyler Murray seems to fit this mold. He is young and black, went 1st overall in last year’s draft, excited his fanbase with his play last year, and impressed everyone in the NFL through the first two games of this season.
But, what specifically is needed to win an MVP? Three things: stats, story, and visibility.
Let’s start with stats. In two games, against stellar defenses, Kyler has thrown for 516 yards and two scores, is completing ⅔ of his passes, and has rushed for 158 yards and three scores.1 He also has captured two wins. The most important stat for a QB is winning, with scores and yardage right behind. Kyler has excelled in amassing stats already.
Now let’s look at the story. This can also be thought of as ‘the way you win.’ How has Kyler done in the big moments? Has he done spectacular things that only he can do? So far the answer is easily yes. Against two stout defensive lines, Murray rushed for long scores while carrying his team to victory. Out of the gate, they beat the defending NFC champions on the road and then opened their home turf with a blowout against an upstart Washington team. His team is 2-0 and looks to make noise in the NFC by being flashy, fast, and always going for the dagger. Both Mahomes and Jackson had years in which they scored a lot of points in ways that mere mortals can only dream of. Murray brings his own type of flare that football fans everywhere can recognize as great.
The last piece of the puzzle is visibility, i.e. ‘who sees you win.’ Doing amazing things, putting up stats, and winning are all important to the MVP race, but none of that matters if people don’t see it. An MVP needs to shine on the national stage, whether it’s Thursday night, Sunday night, or Monday night. It’s the kind of announcement party that says “I know everyone is watching and now there is no way you can underestimate me.” Patrick Mahomes II lost a road game to the Patriots 43-40 on a Sunday night, but shocked the world. He also lost at the Los Angeles Rams on a Monday night 54-51.2 Lamar Jackson dismantled both the Rams and the Jets in primetime as well.3 This is the piece Kyler has yet to capture. I’m looking at the Thursday game on November 19th where the Cardinals travel to Seattle to take on the Seahawks, who I think will be in the Super Bowl.4 If Murray can show everything he’s got across the field from the future Hall-of-Famer Russell Wilson, he will solidify his place as the third QB in a row to win the MVP in his 2nd year.
Murray is not only facing defenses, he’s facing the other elite players in the league for MVP. I personally picked Patrick Mahomes II to win the MVP this year; however, Kyler Murray is in the best position to do so. He has an offensive minded coach who loves to push the tempo and draws up crazy plays. He’s got the best WR corps in the league with future Hall-of-Famer Larry Fitzgerald, potential future Hall-of-Famer DeAndre Hopkins, and up-and-coming 3rd year wide out Christian Kirk. He also has shown guts that’s rarely seen in the NFL, but reminds me of previous young QBs that also won MVP.
So, again, can he do it? I’m not sure, but after what I’ve seen, I wouldn’t be surprised.