Lately, a great debate has been tearing through the NFL fandom. Who is the NFL’s best running back? Is it Le’Veon Bell, who has some of the best vision and patience of any back in history? What about Ezekiel Elliott, the reigning rushing champion? Why aren’t more people talking about what Jordan Howard did on a bad Chicago Bears team? And who isn’t blown away by the freak versatility of David Johnson? A name conspicuous by it’s absence is Todd Gurley, and it’s easy to see why.
The Curious Case of Todd Gurley
After a freakish rookie season that saw Todd Gurley of the then-St. Louis Rams rush for 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns in just 13 games, expectations were high. The Rams had just moved to Los Angeles and drafted their franchise quarterback, Jared Goff. They weren’t Super Bowl contenders by any means, but there were reasons to be optimistic.
2016 did not go the way Rams fans had hoped it would. Goff spent most of the season on the bench and was thoroughly unimpressive when he finally saw the field. In seven games as the starter, he averaged 156 passing yards per game, and threw more interceptions than touchdowns. However, there are excuses to be made.
The Rams had the 29th worst offensive line, they went through a coaching change, and the leading receivers were Kenny Britt and Brian Quick. Jared Goff’s career got off to a rough start, but it’s hardly his fault. But if it’s okay to make excuses for Goff, why not Gurley?
CBS Sports called Todd Gurley the most overrated player on the team last year. And on one hand, it’s easy to see why. After having 1,100 yards in 13 games as a rookie, he only managed 885 yards in a full season. He added to his receiving yardage, but as a rusher, he was 17th in the entire league.
Nearly 66% of Gurley’s rushing yards last year came after contact. Gurley had to scratch and claw to get what he could last year. He was force fed the ball on an offense that lacked another legitimate weapon, with a pair of inept quarterbacks. The fact that he was able to experience any success at all is a miracle.
People like to throw a pity party for Jordan Howard because he also played on a bad team, but they don’t acknowledge that he was running behind a top ten offensive line. Not every running back is Barry Sanders, masterfully overcoming a lack of support with blinding brilliance. Todd Gurley is only human.
The Los Angeles Rams had a pretty good off-season. They have a new head coach, and they added offensive lineman, Andrew Whitworth. The drafting of wide receiver, Cooper Kupp is also a positive, as it may help Goff’s development and take some pressure off of the run game.
Gurley may never be as dominant as he was during his rookie season again, but there’s no reason to say he can’t be very, very good. He’s hardly overrated, and as the Rams improve, he should be able to follow in the footsteps of Eric Dickerson, Marshall Faulk, and Steven Jackson as great Ram rushers.
Embed from Getty Images