On Monday afternoon ESPN and a bunch of other outlets reported what anybody could have known if only teleportation wasn’t limited to Star Trek and one could materialize at their Las Vegas sports book of choice.
The new betting favorite to win the NFL MVP award had become Kyler Murray.
At Ceasar’s Sportsbook, which exists online and on the Vegas strip, too, a $100 bet would yield you $550 if, when the season concludes, Murray is named MVP. Since, other outlets have moved the payoff to $450
That’s 11-to-2 down to 9-to-2, which may still not sound like a favorite in a horse race, but is in a league that includes Josh Allen and Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers and perhaps some non-quarterback who’ll come from nowhere and challenge for the award again.
Do you realize only four non-quarterbacks have been named MVP since 2000 and none since 2012, when Adrian Peterson won it while a Viking?
Marshall Faulk (2000), Shaun Alexander (2005) and LaDanian Tomlinson (2006) are the others.
But we digress.
The big reason Murray shot up the oddsmakers charts seem clear.
Pretty much only quarterbacks win MVP and, right now, the Arizona Cardinals, Murray’s team, is the only unbeaten team in the league.
Murray's QB rating, which is all about passing, is only fifth among quarterbacks to have attempted at least 100 throws, behind Seattle’s Russell Wilson, Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, the Los Angeles Rams Matthew Stafford and Dallas’ Dak Prescott.
Also, though he has very talented feet, it’s not like he’s setting the league afire with them. All told, Murray has rushed for the grand total of 109 yards on 25 carries.
Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson (279 yards, 42 carries) and Philadelphia quarterback Jalen Hurts (226 yards, 34 carries) rank ninth and 19th among the league’s ground gainers and Murray is nowhere close to them.
So it doesn’t appear to be about his being the league’s best quarterback, but about the likelihood of his team being the best team and MVP voters going with quarterbacks.
Yet, here’s the thing.
QB rating isn’t the be-all-end-all, especially when you take three passing scores off your plate by running them in yourself, thereby leaving you with a 9-to-4 TD to INT ratio, which is not so amazing and a little misleading.
Also, QB rating aside, Murray’s third in the league in passing yards at 318 per game behind Las Vegas’ Derek Carr and Tampa’s Brady, leads the league in completion percentage at 76.1 and is second in the league in yards per attempt at 9.5, trailing only Seattle’s Russell Wilson’s 9.6.
Don’t throw a pick for a couple games and he’s bound to be atop QB rating, too. Plus, have you seen him play?
Murray’s first scoring toss against the Rams last Sunday was so casual as to be unbelievable.
He got the snap at the 41, launched from the 50 with the easiness of a game of long toss inherent to that other sport in which he was drafted ninth overall by the Oakland Athletics, and hit a fairly well covered A.J. Green in stride at the 5 on his way to the end zone.
But if you only have time for one set of highlights, google “Cardinals Titans” — opening day — click on the game recap video and take a seat because it’s ridiculous.
• Third-and-goal from the 6 in the first quarter, Murray takes the snap, faces pressure and rolls out of the pocket all the way back to the 22. Still, rolling right, he throws from the 19 and hits DeAndre Hopkins running left-to-right across the back of the end zone.
Had it come in the playoffs with the game on the line, it wouldn’t have merely been compared to Joe Montana-to-Dwight Clark — “The Catch” — lifting the 49ers to the 1982 NFC title, it would have been dubbed “The Catch 2” or “The Next Catch” or something like that.
• Third-and-10, middle of the second quarter, Murray takes the snap from the his own 25, rolls away from pressure all the way back to the 9, then runs between defenders diagonally and to the left to the 18, then shuffles back to the 15, then hits Rondale Moore between three Titan defensive backs for a gain of 18.
The first one he reenacted the most famous throw and catch in league history — maybe, there are other canddates — and the next one was even more impossible.
This is getting long but there are two more.
• Third-and-6 from the 41, three minutes later, a seemingly simple toss and catch to Christian Kirk for a gain of 22, but it was the arc of the throw, the air he put under it, a different throw than all of his other throws and it was perfect.
How does a quarterback complete almost 80 percent of his throws? Like that.
• Second-and-goal from the 2, Murray fakes the handoff before rolling right on a naked bootleg, circling beyond the 9 at which point he raises the ball in the air as though already in the end zone even as 2 or 3 Titans appear to have an angle on him to keep him out of the end zone, but none got within 10 feet.
A look at the numbers tell you how effectively he’s played. Watching him play tells you he’s doing it with an array of skills and gifts perhaps possessed by no other.
He’s the MVP favorite.
He’s also all-time electric, like Gale Sayers and Barry Sanders were electric, and it’s fabulous.