DeMarco Murray was the Cowboys’ third round choice in the 2011 NFL Draft. The Cowboys certainly got their money’s worth from the former Oklahoma Sooner who gave Dallas all he had during his four years wearing the Cowboys’ star.
In their history, the Dallas Cowboys have selected numerous running backs in the first round of the NFL draft who have gone on to stardom. In 1969 the Cowboys selected Calvin Hill, a multi-talented back who was the first Cowboy to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. One year later, Dallas took silky smooth Duane Thomas who helped lead Dallas to its first Super Bowl title following the 1971 season before forcing his way out of town due to dissatisfaction with his contract. The 1977 draft brought Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett to Dallas, and all the speedy halfback from western Pennsylvania did was make it all the way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 13 years after the Dorsett pick, the Cowboys struck gold again selecting Florida’s Emmitt Smith who would pace Dallas to a record three Super Bowl wins in four years and end up enshrined in Canton along with Dorsett. And this past season, first round selection Ezekiel Elliott took the NFL by storm and seems destined for the type of stardom Dorsett and Smith achieved.
When listing the best seasons for a running back in Cowboys history, a third round choice from 2011 muscles his way into the mix alongside the backs selected in the first round. Coming to Dallas in 2011 out of the University of Oklahoma, DeMarco Murray ended his four year stay in Dallas with a season to remember.
Murray, who turns 29 years old today, set a Cowboys’ record with 1,845 yards rushing in the 2014 campaign and became the first back in NFL history to open a season with 100 plus yards rushing in the first eight games of a season. Murray reached the century mark in a Cowboys’ record 12 of the team’s 16 games, one more than Smith had in the 1995 campaign. In 2014, Murray and the Cowboys’ talented offensive line helped change the team’s offensive identity from a pass-first group to one that more resembled the early to mid-1990s teams that leaned heavily on Smith and “the great wall of Dallas” offensive line to control games.
According to Pro Football Reference’s Approximate Value number, Murray’s 2014 campaign ranks right behind three vintage Smith seasons as the best season for a running back in Cowboys’ history:
BEST SEASONS IN COWBOYS’ HISTORY- RUNNING BACK
Approx Value Year Back
20 1992 Emmitt Smith
20 1993 Emmitt Smith
20 1995 Emmitt Smith
19 2014 DeMarco Murray
17 1978 Tony Dorsett
17 1991 Emmitt Smith
17 1994 Emmitt Smith
16 1973 Calvin Hill
16 1977 Tony Dorsett
16 2016 Ezekiel Elliott
Murray’s time in Dallas was brief, as the workhorse back left the Cowboys following his special 2014 season to join division rival Philadelphia. A combination of Murray’s departure and injuries to quarterback Tony Romo caused a dramatic falloff in the Cowboys’ production as the 12-4 division winning squad of 2014 slumped to a miserable 4-12 in a mostly forgettable 2015 campaign. The only good thing coming out of that season was that the Cowboys’ bleak record put them in position to find a worthy successor to Murray in the talented Elliott who helped reestablish the effective style Murray and the Cowboys had demonstrated in 2014.
After a miserable season in Philadelphia in 2015, Murray rebounded to gain 1,287 yards rushing and score nine touchdowns for the Tennessee Titans last season. The hard-working back demonstrated the style that made him a fan favorite in Dallas in 2014. Happy 29th birthday whose Cowboys’ career was brief but certainly spectacular.