NFL OR MLB?
Heisman favorite Murray might find himself with big decision to make
When Tony Dungy sees Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray, something feels familiar.
A Heisman Trophy-caliber player, selected in the first round of a pro sports league other than football, leading his team on a title run in college football?
Dungy thinks back 25 years. He was the Vikings’ defensive coordinator and was scouting draft prospects. Heisman winner Charlie Ward was lighting opponents up for 3,032 yards and 27 touchdowns to land Florida State the national title. Dungy told then Vikings coach Dennis Green to pursue Ward.
‘‘As a defensive coach at the time, I’m thinking, ‘Man, I would not want to play against this guy and all the headaches he would provide,’ ’’ Dungy told USA Today.
But would Ward, who instead became a first-round NBA pick with a 12-year career, sign if the Vikings risked the selection? ‘‘It was really a conundrum,’’ Dungy said. It’s a conundrum Murray has revived. Clearly, he has proved elite in two sports. The Athletics drafted Murray, an outfielder, ninth overall and signed him to a $4.66 million guaranteed contract that allowed him to play one more year of Sooners football.
So far in that season, no one has posted more than Murray’s 51 touchdowns (40 passing, 11 rushing) or his 4,945 total yards of offense. He leads the nation with 11.9 yards per pass attempt and is second with a .709 completion percentage. His 205.72 passing efficiency rating is the best in NCAA history.
Those numbers are one reason he is favored to win the Heisman (at least according to a USA Today survey of voters) over Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins on Saturday in New York.
But do they make Murray a potential NFL franchise quarterback?
Let’s define that.
A franchise quarterback is the person an NFL team will build around for 10 to 12 years, longtime quarterback agent Leigh Steinberg said. He’s someone a team wins because of rather than simply with.
Murray has shown teams can win because of him. Oklahoma’s 12-1 record came despite a defense that allowed 32.4 points and 448.1 yards per game.
Another factor is longevity, perhaps the biggest question mark for the generously listed 5-10, 195-pound Murray. Is Murray durable enough to sustain big hits, committed enough to shun his baseball opportunity and go all-in for football?
NFL analysts point to Super Bowl champions Drew Brees (6-0) and Russell Wilson (5-11) as evidence Murray’s stature wouldn’t preclude NFL success.
‘‘He flat knows how to play,’’ said Steinberg, whose clients have included Patrick Mahomes and Troy Aikman. ‘‘If a team could overlook the size situation, they’d have a prototypical player.’’
But will teams risk a first-round draft pick on a 5-10 quarterback with a guaranteed A’s contract?
Baseball super-agent Scott Boras, who helped Murray negotiate with the A’s to play another college season, said his client was ‘‘fully aware he could play in the NFL’’ when signing.
‘‘This man has a contract,” Boras told USA Today. ‘‘He will be in spring training with the Oakland A’s. That’s the commitment.’’
Murray, however, told ESPN last weekend that he’d discuss his future with his family after the Sooners’ playoff run.
‘‘Weigh out the option of what the NFL thinks of me,’’ Murray said. ‘‘Right now, my future is already kind of planned out, but we’ll see what happens.’’
Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray leads the country with 11.9 yards per pass attempt.
Heisman finalists Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State (from left), Kyler Murray of Oklahoma and Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama pose with the trophy Friday.
BY JORI EPSTEIN