Make Up or Break Up: Todd Gurley

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Dear Todd,

A lot has happened since I heard you on this very show last summer. During that episode, you gave me hope. You said your training was going well and that the move to Los Angeles went smoothly. You also told Arizona Cardinals RB David Johnson to “Sit down” when asked if we should draft him or yourself first. That competitive fire turned my flicker of hope into a spark. However, throughout the season, that hope was slowly diminished. Through seven weeks of the 2016 season, you were averaging a mere 57.5 rushing yards per game with just 3 touchdowns. No longer did I see the unstoppable force that rushed for at least 125 yards in his first four full games last season. Long majestic runs turned into negative plays as you were swallowed up in the backfield. You scored a career low 6 rushing touchdowns, the same amount you had from Weeks 7-11 just a season ago. As I mull over the off-season, I’m going to need some space to decide if I like LA Todd Gurley or just the fond memories of St. Louis Todd Gurley.

In the movie “Moneyball” (2011), Brad Pitt, who plays Oakland A’s owner Billy Beane, describes the A’s as so: “There are rich teams, and there are poor teams. Then, there’s 50 feet of crap. And then, there’s us.” Well, this quote is perfectly fitting for your Los Angeles Rams’ offense. Your team finished dead last in every offense category, and it wasn’t even really close. They scored an ugly 224 points, 85 less than the San Francisco 49ers who finished 31st in offense. They averaged only 262.7 yards per game, 48.3 yards less than the Cleveland Browns, who finished 30th in offense. The offense went through growing pains with Jared Goff ,which in turn gave you very little scoring opportunities. As disheartening as that is, there is a small glimmer of hope after the hiring of new head coach Sean McVay.

As the Washington Redskins OC, McVay turned Kirk Cousins and the boys into a top 10 offense. Scoring the 10th most points in 2015, the Redskins were 3rd in yards per game and 12th in points in 2016. He also helped the team by putting them in third-down situations where they needed three or fewer yards on 32.2 percent of their third-down plays, good enough for fourth-best in the league, per ESPN. It’s safe to say your offense is going to get better but by how much remains to be seen.

The saying goes “It’s not you, it’s me.” Now that we’ve talked about your team, let’s talk about you. When you won Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2015, your stats flew off the page. You led the league in breakaway percentage (percentage of yardage gained on long runs) and runs over 20 yards. Your explosiveness also helped you be the 7th toughest running back to tackle, breaking 47 tackles your rookie year. These stats proved that you had the talent to be the real deal.

This year you averaged a horrendous 3.18 yards per carry which is not only the worst out of any back with 150 carries last season but the fifth-lowest in league history. You were quoted in December describing your own offense as “a middle school offense.” You became the only running back since the merger in 1970 to average over 17 carries a game, and not reach 100 rushing yards in a game once, per NFL research. Stat after stat, quote after quote, is there a light at the end of the tunnel?

Although there might be less than a flicker of hope, there are some signs moving forward that point to possible upside. One, is your involvement in the passing game as fellow Ballers’ writer Cory Evans discussed last November. Both your targets and receptions more than doubled from 26 to 58 and 21 to 43 respectively. Already considered a workhorse back, those extra touches will help the lack of a run prowess. While you lacked the elusiveness you had two years ago, there’s some indication that it was just as equally a team problem as it was a Todd Gurley problem. You averaged 1.59 rushing yards before contact, good enough for 41 out of 42 running backs, but averaged the same in rushing yards after contact, good enough for 26 out of 42 running backs. While many were left broken-hearted and frustrated by your performance last year, nothing dries up a fantasy football player’s tears faster than the possibility of upside.

After looking through all our old memories, I have decided to give LA Todd another chance and make up after our fallout this year. Please give Jared my best as well because if he doesn’t show improvement, my hopes worsen for you significantly. But also tell him I’m still holding a grudge against him from our days playing high school baseball against one another.

We do the work. You dominate your draft.

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To a new year and new beginnings,

Best,

Nick Martinez-Esquibel

 

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