One year ago at this time, Todd Gurley was the undisputed best running back in football. Saquon Barkley was exciting, Adrian Peterson was having a revival, and Ezekiel Elliott was doing his thing behind the monstrous Cowboys' offensive line. But Gurley was on another level as the best player on the best offense in the league.
To say circumstances have changed would be a bit of an understatement. Gurley has less than 300 total yards through four games, a trend of production that has carried over from the Rams' playoff run. Last year, he looked electric and a threat to take it to the house on any given down, the workhouse who made everything click. This year, it's obvious he isn't the same player. But if you ask the Rams, nothing has changed. In another trend that has carried over from January and February of this year, Los Angeles continues to adamantly deny that anything is wrong with Gurley, even if it's clear to the rest of us that isn't the case.
Here's Sean McVay insisting to the media back in late February that Gurley was healthy, and only giving his best player 11 touches in the Super Bowl was just a mistake on his part, and not a reflection of Gurley's health.
Whoops! Here he is earlier this week after Gurley only got five carries in a loss to the Buccaneers.
It's become quite clear what the company line is, and we're all used to NFL teams keeping their cards close to their chest. But all the "Gurley is healthy, it's just gameplanning" lines are shockingly transparent falsehoods, even for the NFL. Anyone with eyes can see that Gurley isn't the same player he was last year, and his decline in production is not because McVay, a brilliant play-caller, has simply forgotten he has an NFL Offensive Player of the Year on his team.
I mean, just look at this:
How can McVay possibly stand up there week after week with a straight face and say this is all part of a plan that has nothing to do with Gurley's knees? Especially after dropping a home game to a team like Tampa? It truly boggles the mind. It's a possibility that Rams brass believes playing this sort of back-and-forth game where everyone knows but they refuse to admit it is just the sort of gamesmanship that NFL teams are obsessed with.
But would it really affect their chances of winning to admit that Gurley, with his well-documented injury history, is on a snap count and they'd prefer to keep him healthy for when the games really matter? It's not like anyone would blame them. It's almost a certainty they would have put up more than three points in the Super Bowl if he was anywhere close to 100 percent.
Sure, keeping everyone on their toes and forcing opponents to prepare for Gurley on a weekly basis is worth something. But by this point, when everyone who even casually watches football (much less other NFL teams) know Gurley isn't going to be the focal point of their offensive execution, it feels like they're well past the point of diminishing returns. It's just a farce.
It's obvious Gurley isn't right. The Rams continue to insist otherwise. Round and round we go until someone comes clean or Gurley ends up on the IR.
Update: Gurley carried the ball 15 times for 51 yards and two TDs, and also had three catches for six yards in Thursday's loss to the Seahawks.