The more Murray runs for Cowboys, the faster his career dies

08/14/2014 8:58 PM

11/12/2014 7:47 PM

DeMarco Murray says if he could go back, he’d tell his 8-year-old self to make the same choice. Pick running back.

He says he would tell any 8-year-old who wants to be a running back to be a running back.

“If that’s what they want to do, yeah,” he told me.

This is the correct answer.

Personally, if it’s my kid — he’s not playing running back. Put him at receiver.

Quarterback. Safety. Corner. Punter. Anywhere but running back.

Murray says he would be a running back again with the conviction of a priest, because he means it, and because — like all of us — to say otherwise is to admit we screwed up. Murray did not screw up, and his “mistake” is relative, but these days there is a consequence to being a running back.

That consequence is unless your nickname is AD or Shady, your value is perceived as fleeting, your prime only a few years, and your time will be short.

Murray is entering the final year of his original contract, the time when, if the Cowboys like you, they will bury you in money. The Cowboys have made no attempt to give Murray an extension, and they won’t, and they shouldn’t.

They might have his backup already on the roster in second-year back Joseph Randle. If not, the Cowboys will simply go to the draft for a cheap replacement.

This does not speak ill of Murray or his abilities, but the expendability of his position.

Murray says he doesn’t care, that he would do it all over again.

“God gave me the ability as a running back. That’s what I’m good at,” he said.

This is indisputable.

Seven years ago, Murray would have been worthy of an extension. He averages 4.9 yards per carry, and has 113 career receptions. He can block, and running behind a solid offensive line, he figures to have the best season of his career.

It is a cruel paradox.

The more he runs, the more the defense stays off the field. The more the defense stays off the field, the Cowboys’ chances of having a winning season improve.

And yet the more he runs, the faster his career dies.

The Cowboys not even talking extension with Murray means they do not think he would last the duration of another deal. Perhaps they learned their lesson with the horrible seven-year, $45 million extension they gave Marion Barber in 2008; Barber’s production dropped dramatically after he signed the deal, and he was cut after three seasons.

Or perhaps the Cowboys are following the trends with running backs, and treat them like diapers.

Murray is merely a “victim” of a pass-happy game, and running backs who routinely are getting killed when they are hit.

It does not help that Murray has missed 11 games in his first three NFL seasons because of injury. If Murray has been dealing with injury now, when he is young, no rational NFL thinker believes he will magically heal as he ages.

“I think it all depends on how you take care of your body. What you put in your body,”

Murray said. “There are Frank Gore’s in the league that have been playing a long time and had success. It all depends on how you take care of your body.”

There is truth to that statement, as much as sometimes good health is a matter of timing and good fortune.

The days of Emmitt Smith, Tony Dorsett, Eric Dickerson, Thurman Thomas, LaDainian Tomlinson are dead. The norm now is a running back is leaned on for a few years — like Chris Johnson — burned up, and replaced by the next set of 22-year-old legs.

Murray is 26. After 2014 he will have played four NFL seasons. He will have been a “lead” back for four years, and the time is coming for the Cowboys to find a 22-year-old and lean on him until it’s time to find another fresh body that can take the beating.

No 8-year-old thinks of this when his football “career” begins.

Jason Garrett thinks when kids begin playing at a young age, they all want to play the position that touches the ball, and scores touchdowns.

Running back is that position. They just don’t last as long as they once did.

Murray realizes this, but he wouldn’t change his decision.

About Mac Engel

Mac Engel

@macengelprof

Since 1998 Mac Engel has covered the Texas Rangers, the Dallas Stars, the Dallas Cowboys, colleges, high schools, the Olympics, women's basketball, even amateur women's judo. He has wasted more brain space on local sports than a human should. And he's a big fan of talking about it.

Email Mac at tengel@star-telegram.com | Read The Big Mac Blog

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