Winning is the most important thing to Kyler Murray, but truthfully, this wouldn't be the kind of win he's seeking.
The Cardinals quarterback figures to be in the discussion to take home the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Raiders running back Josh Jacobs is probably the other main candidate, although it's possible to include Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf as a potential darkhorse. Not that Murray is doing any handicapping himself.
Murray smiles when asked about it. Usually, he notes, big awards come attached to players from winning teams. And if he hasn't made it clear from multiple comments he's made since training camp on, those victories are what he was expecting – yet have not come.
"That'd be a great accomplishment if I were to win rookie of the year," Murray told azcardinals.com. "A lot of great players have won that in the past. But I'm not really … I mean, I want to be one of the best ever to play the game. So for me (the work) is bigger than rookie of the year."
Jacobs has 923 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in 10 games, and the Raiders are in playoff contention. But team success is not a true barometer for the award winner. Giants running back Saquon Barkley won it last year, and his team finished 5-11.
The Cardinals have had two Offensive Rookie of the Year winners since the award began in 1967, and the most recent – wide receiver Anquan Boldin in 2003 – played for a team that finished 4-12. Running back Ottis Anderson won the award in 1979.
Through 11 games, Murray has been excellent – better than expected in many ways. He has completed almost 65 percent of his passes, for 2,703 yards, 14 touchdowns and only five interceptions and a 91.2 passer rating. He also has 418 yards rushing (6.2 yards a rush) and three TDs.
"He's an incredible football player," center A.Q. Shipley said. "If you want to use the term raw you can use the term raw, but he has the potential to get way better. It's incredible. To let him be who he is, and not hold him back at all and watching how he's grown through the season."
Of the past six winners, the only quarterback to win has been Dallas' Dak Prescott in 2016.
Murray knows about awards. He did, after all, win the Heisman Trophy last season at Oklahoma. Not surprisingly, that did mean a lot to him – beyond the fact it came in part because the Sooners were a great football team and made the college football playoffs. There was a certain amount of validation involved.
"I was in a different space," Murray said. "I hadn't played in like, three years. I always knew what I was capable of and everyone around me knew what I was capable of, but the fact I had to wait my turn and not having a great year my freshman year at (Texas) A&M … I knew what I was going to do.
"Before the season my goals were to win the Heisman, make the playoffs and win it all. I knew if I did what I was capable of, the Heisman was a great possibility. Especially being with Bake (Mayfield), and him winning it (in 2017) and me and him being very competitive with each other, (it was like), 'That's my boy, so I'm going to get one, too.' "
That confidence and that force of personality has followed Murray to the pros. Tight end Maxx Williams, who played with the Ravens during Lamar Jackson's rookie season in 2018, emphasized that Jackson and Murray are completely different types of players. But he said both showed they were ready to play in the NFL from the start.
"(Kyler) has shown why he's the first overall pick," Williams said. "He's grown from week one of camp. It's his team, and we all believe in him."
Wide receiver Christian Kirk saw that Murray had moved among the top 10 in one NFL quarterback ranking.
"As a rookie, whenever you can slide into that category, especially with how good the quarterback position is this year, it says a lot," Kirk said.
The Cardinals' offense has undergone a remarkable turnaround in just one season, ranking among the top 10 in advance metrics after being the lowest-rated team by far in 2018. More victories would probably bolster Murray's case. But the Cardinals, with Murray piloting the offense, could have won each of the last three games. In two of the games, the Cards owned late fourth-quarter leads.
Changing those outcomes alone would have put Murray and the Cardinals in a decidedly different light.
"You just look at the numbers he's putting up and the efficiency he is playing with, and the way he has put us in position to win, it's hard to argue (giving him the award)," tackle D.J. Humphries said.
Murray remembered going to New York for the Heisman ceremony, and admitted while it would have been difficult to have not won, he still would've congratulated the winner and known he was in a great situation just to have been there. The same goes for a rookie of the year award, knowing what it takes just to be mentioned.
"It's a tough league and I'm seeing that this year," Murray said. "It'd be pretty special to add that to the resumé."
Murray briefly paused.
"At the same time," he added, "I'm all about winning (games)."
VALLEJO RETURNS TO PRACTICE SQUAD
The Cardinals have brought back linebacker Tanner Vallejo to the practice squad, signing him Wednesday and releasing offensive lineman Ian Silberman from the practice squad. Vallejo spent the offseason and preseason with the Cardinals, before being released Sept. 1. He was claimed off waivers by Washington and played nine games for the Redskins before being released last week.
The Cardinals' cornerback distributed 221 meals to families in need on Tuesday afternoon in Mesa