Battle Of Cowboys Running Backs Defined By Uncertainties
Potential, my friends, is what being $18 million short will buy you in the NFL these days. Potential is a substance that promotes organizational headaches and a feeling of unsettledness. It also seems to engender lengthy dissertations from Jerry Jones. (More on Jerry in a moment.)
Factually, it’s the difference between certainty and uncertainty. Namely, it’s the difference between Demarco Murray and Darren McFadden.
My, my, what a difference one year can make. Before last season it was Murray who had vultures flying over him. Murray, if you remember, was an unreliable injury-prone runner which no franchise should ever tag as their premier tailback. In three years, Murray had missed 11 games due to an assortment of ailments – ankle, hamstring, foot. Now that he’s the Cowboys franchise record holder for most rushing yards in a single season, Murray is an unquestioned folk hero. That he is also a recent signee of the Philadelphia Eagles has made Stephen Jones into something far less than one, and set-up Murray’s replacement for a brutal public welcoming.
The Cowboys couldn’t afford to match Philadelphia’s $42 million offer, so instead shopped at the frugal gourmet store for a replacement. What they found was McFadden, down to his last chance after a bad run of luck in luckless Oakland.
Upon signing in Dallas, the doubters’ bulletin was posted in the public square, with no potential love lost certainly.
A guy who’d spent seven years playing out in the blackest of Black Holes in Oakland – and playing quite well at times – McFadden now found himself being harshly dissed as an NFL has-been by a large portion of the national media and a healthy percentage of the local pigskin professors.
At today’s training camp-opening press conference in Oxnard, California, Jerry Jones did little to allay the uncertainties hovering over the running back position, alluding to McFadden’s “potential” to run in the same manner as Murray did last season. Jones wasn’t exactly exuding confidence when he said it.
McFadden’s banner campaign in 2010 with the Raiders coincided with the franchise’s finest season since 2002, when they parlayed a perfect 6-0 division mark into an 8-8 finish. McFadden not only rushed for more than 1,100 yards with a healthy 5.2 average, he also caught 47 passes for 507 yards out of the backfield.
That was five years ago for McFadden, as opposed to five months for Murray.
McFadden not only has to prove he can stay off the injury report, but he needs to prove himself all over again as a runner. That’s what three years in Oakland with less than 3.5 yards-per-carry can do to your credit rating.
He enters training camp in a battle with Joseph Randle, a third-year running back out of Oklahoma State. Randle, it seems, is the fan-favorite in this battle, not so much for what he can do, but for what McFadden allegedly can’t. He, after all, does have a history of his own.
Randle showed every indication of being high on a banned substance after being arrested last year for a petty theft at a Dallas-area mall, and for then calling out the mother of a high-profile teammate while being booked. It turned out that Randle was, in fact, experimenting with marijuana. He too, according to Jones, has the “potential” to be a starter too.
Fans would rather have a running back with a loose screw bouncing around inside of his head (Randle) than a runner with screws in his foot (McFadden). If that’s a taste of what Texas-style hospitality has become, then maybe we need to do a recount of a recent vote that had Eagles fans as the NFL’s worst.
The battle of the backs commences tomorrow out in sunny Cali. A winner will emerge in good time, when potential is finally tossed aside by an undeniable reality.
It will be a decision long-awaited. It will be an outcome oft-discussed. It will be an ending.
And for either McFadden or Randle, it will be a new beginning.