Demarco Murray led the NFL in rushing in 2014 for the Dallas Cowboys but packed his bags for Philadelphia when Coach Chip Kelly offered him $40 million to carry the ball for his Eagles, according to Fox Sports, today Monday, December 21. Jerry Jones was unwilling to pay that kind of money for the man who led his team to the NFC East title in 2014. Robert Griffin III won a Heisman Trophy for Baylor and the next year led the Washington Redskins to the NFC East championship and a place in the playoffs as the NFL Rookie of the year. Since those superstar performances Murray is languishing on the Eagles bench based on Kelly’s decision to allow him only two carries in last night’s game which the Eagles lost to Arizona. Griffin is also in limbo as he was injured in pre-season. Doctors first said he’d cleared the protocol to play but then reversed their decision saying he hadn’t cleared the protocol for concussions.
What went wrong in these two stories of players with exceptional abilities who are now riding the pine rather than playing meaningful minutes in games?
Murray reportedly wanted to remain a Cowboy but Jerry didn’t think he was worth the money to keep him. Both have seemingly paid a severe price for parting ways. The Cowboys won the NFC East in 2014 with Murray powering around and over defenders behind an offensive line which was supposed to be elite. Jerry and son Stephen reportedly felt that with that offensive line their grandchildren should be able to run the ball. Jerry carried forward the same philosophy he used with Jimmy Johnson in the 1990s when he parted company with the coach who’d just won two consecutive Super Bowls for him. He reportedly said, “There are two hundred coaches who can win the Super Bowl with this team.” History tells us he was wrong. Now, Jerry decided the same thing about Murray. There were evidently countless running backs all over America who could run the ball behind that talented line and win another NFC East title. Wrong again. That offensive line didn’t perform as well in 2015 after Jerry let offensive line coach Bill Callahan go. So without Murray, the Cowboys sank from 12-4 to a probable 4-12 record.
Defenders of Jerry and Stephen say Tony Romo was out most of this season with injuries. Which brings up the question why Owner/General Manager Jerry Jones hasn’t drafted and groomed a back up quarterback for seasons such as this. Jerry is without a doubt a brilliant businessman who has increased the financial value of the Cowboys. Unfortunately, playing college football at Arkansas does not qualify him to be a general manager in the NFL. Jerry, for all his financial brilliance, has not had the foresight to see he needs to fire himself as general manager and bring in a real personnel person. The only way the Cowboys will win another Super Bowl is if they find a general manager. The sad result of Jones decision-making process is now a team which is in contention for team with the worst record in the league.
As for Chip Kelly, he took Murray for two reasons. He wanted to weaken the Cowboys and strengthen the Eagles. He got mixed results. He obviously helped the Pokes slide from first to worst in the NFC East. But by not using Murray, he failed in his attempt to improve his own team. The Eagles are still in contention for the NFC East so it’s still too early to judge Kelly because of incomplete results.
The RG III situation is more complex. Arguably then Washington Coach Mike Shanahan’s decision to leave Griffin in the game after his knee was injured early in a playoff game his rookie year led to more serious and longer lasting damage to the knee. Griffin limped around the field on that injured leg for most of the game until he was gruesomely sacked late in the contest. Shanahan defended his decision to leave RG III in the game, saying he’d pulled off so many miracle wins during the year he thought he might do it again. Since then injuries have plagued Griffin during the tenure of Coach Jay Gruden who elevated Kirk Cousins to first string this year.
The stories of these two players are symbolic of what happens to many outstanding players in the NFL and then find themselves on the bench. Al Davis once became angry at his best running back Marcus Allen and planted him on the bench over a dispute. It’s a sad story of how talented players can find themselves wasted.
Ironically, Chip Kelly is now rumored to be interested in Robert Griffin III. according to Forbes. Griffin has one more year left on his Redskins contract with a cap hit of $16.2 milllion. Washington may either trade him or release him which would give the Eagles a way to acquire him.
Now, that would be an interesting story in 2015. RG III and Demarco Murray in the same backfield for the Eagles. With the kind of money Griffin and Murray are being paid to do little or nothing, it is difficult to feel too sorry for them.
As for the Cowboys, there is no telling who will end up in their backfield next year. Knowing Jerry Jones unpredictable decisions, he could fire Jason Garrett as coach and put him in at quarterback.