Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Rams' Incompetence Will Cost Todd Gurley

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterMarch 23, 2016

St. Louis Rams running back Todd Gurley walks off the field after an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, in Seattle. The Rams won 23-17. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)
Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

1. The Rams are going to ruin Todd Gurley

The Rams' grand return to Los Angeles next year will feature one of the worst quarterback situations in football: the law firm of Keenum and Foles.

That's Case Foles and Nick Keenum. Sorry, my bad. Case Keenum and Nick Foles

The only teams that might be worse are a Ryan Fitzpatrick-less Jets and the Browns. But even if the Rams' QB situation isn't the worst, it is the most worrisome. Because of the effect it could have on Todd Gurley. What will this do to one of the more promising players in football? 

Without a quarterback that scares defenses and causes eight-man fronts to loosen up, Gurley will be constantly targeted. He will face clogged fronts, and all of the hitting will shorten and dampen his career.

I fear the Rams will ruin Gurley. I fear they will destroy one of the bright stars in the game because they don't know how to run an offense. They don't know quarterbacks. The head coach, Jeff Fisher, doesn't know modern offensive football. He still coaches like it's the 1980s, where you can throw the ball 20 times a game with a crappy quarterback and rely on the running game and defense.

BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 22: Running back Todd Gurley #30 of the St. Louis Rams celebrates after scoring a first quarter touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens with wide receiver Kenny Britt #18 of the St. Louis Rams and head coach Jeff Fisher of the St.
Rob Carr/Getty Images

That's a formula few teams use today. Even the Seahawks morphed into an explosive passing offense.

We've seen this with the Rams before. It happened with the great Eric Dickerson, who never had an elite passing quarterback. No, he wasn't ruined, but two things on that.

One, he was Eric Freaking Dickerson. The only runners in history, to me, better than Dickerson were Jim Brown and O.J. Simpson. He was a freak. Gurley is outstanding, but isn't on that freak level.

Two, while Dickerson's quarterbacks weren't great, they were still better than Keenum and Foles.

I think Gurley could be the next Adrian Peterson. But not with these Rams. Not with Fisher. Not taking handoffs from Keenum or Foles. No way.

So good luck, Mr. Gurley. You are immensely talented, and with a competent franchise, you might be historic.

Too bad you're not with a competent franchise.


2. Peyton Manning could one day coach the Vols

ENGLEWOOD, CO - MARCH 07:  Quarterback Peyton Manning addresses the media as he announces his retirement from the NFL at the UCHealth Training Center on March 7, 2016 in Englewood, Colorado. Manning, who played for both the Indianapolis Colts and Denver B
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The consensus view in the media is that Peyton Manning will one day head to a television studio and be an analyst. That could happen. Or he could end up in management or even a front office.

Another possibility I keep hearing from people I trust, though, is that Manning one day could coach his alma mater, Tennessee. No, I'm not reporting this as hard news or eventual fact. But I don't think this is rampant speculation, either. I think there is a great deal of truth to the speculation. I'm not saying it will happen immediately or even in a year or so. But I think there's a chance it occurs.


3. NFL games in Germany and China?

Fox Sports' Alex Marvez reported the league is considering a game in China, and NFL Network's Albert Breer added that it's also considering one for Germany. I'm told both are distinct possibilities.

The NFL believes it can become nearly as popular in other parts of the world, such as Latin America and Asia, as it is here. It's a smart bet. There are billions of potential customers and lots of money to be made.

What I'm interested to see is how players react to this news. We are quickly moving to a point where there are two preseason games and 18 regular-season games that feature more teams playing internationally.

A few teams traveling to London or Mexico is one thing. But traveling to China is another matter entirely. That's a long time for a 300-pound lineman to be on an airplane. That type of lengthy travel and time away adds all kinds of stress to the players and their families.

Still, increased international play is going to happen, and it's going to happen for one reason: cash.


4. Good luck with that, Mr. Kraft

Robert Kraft said at the NFL owners' meetings that he wrote Roger Goodell and asked for his first-round pick back. You know, the pick that the Pats lost because of Deflategate.

From the Boston Herald's Karen Guregian:

Well, that was never going to happen. But it was a good try.

What remains clear all this time after the league launched its initial investigation is that both sides are still fighting, and they are still fighting hard. The NFL is fighting in court (still), and Kraft is fighting in the court of public opinion (still).


5. Great genes

Randall Cunningham was one of the most freakish athletes I ever covered. He was fast and powerful, and I don't know many quarterbacks who can punt 91 yards.

So it shouldn't be a shock that his daughter, Vashti Cunningham, is also an excellent athlete. This past week, she became the youngest woman this century to win a world indoor track and field championship in any event, according to Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith.

I bet she could punt a football 91 yards, too.


6. Richard Sherman is wrong—twice

HONOLULU, HI -  SUNDAY, JANUARY 31:  Team Irvin cornerback Richard Sherman #25 of the Seattle Seahawks walks on the field during warm ups before the start of the 2016 NFL Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium on January 31, 2016 in Honolulu, Hawaii.Team Irvin defeate
Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

It's fine when players rip Roger Goodell. He's a convenient scapegoat. I get it. He's made mistakes. In some cases, he deserved criticism.

But guys like Richard Sherman are bashing Goodell so much, it's losing potency—becoming almost background noise. The ridiculous personal attack Sherman launched on SportsCenter over what is a smart rule proposal—ejecting players who get two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in a single game—came off as petty and opportunistic.

Sherman also criticized the league for not being able to decipher and fix the catch rule. That's a valid criticism, but then he talked about the league being unable to figure out the rule because it is run by a bunch of suits.

Here's the problem with that. The competition committee, which handles the rule changes, has Ozzie Newsome on it. You know, the Hall of Fame player. Also on it is Mark Murphy, who played eight seasons for Washington at safety. Also on it is Jeff Fisher, who played four years in Chicago.

When the NFL examined its catch rule, the league consulted with James Thrash, Cris Carter, Randy Moss, Tim Brown, Steve Largent and Jordy Nelson, among others. Some Hall of Famers in that group. 

So, not suits.

"The goal is obviously not to eject people from the game; the goal is to change behavior," Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin told reporters. "I assume they quickly will."

Tomlin added: "Just think about our culture and how much it has changed in the last 12 years. I embrace the change, I think if you're committed to being in this thing for an extended period of time, you better have an attitude that is centered around embracing the change and evolving with football, particularly because it's evolving and improving for the better."

Is Tomlin a suit, too, Richard?


7. Jets had better pay Ryan Fitzpatrick

ORCHARD PARK, NY - JANUARY 03: Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the New York Jets follows the action against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images for New York Jets)
Al Pereira/Getty Images

Ryan Fitzpatrick is asking for a lot of cash. He was also terrible in the last game of the season last year.

Then again, it's either him or Geno Smith. Or maybe Colin Kaepernick. Or maybe Robert Griffin III.

Are those better options than Fitzpatrick?

Hell no.

So pay him. Get it done, Jets.


8.  Is Cleveland's interest in RGIII an okey doke?

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 26: Robert Griffin III #10 of the Washington Redskins looks on prior to the game against the Philadelphia Eagles on December 26, 2015 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Imag
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Several front office executives think the Browns are talking about Robert Griffin III but aren't that serious about him. I disagree. I think they're serious.

I also believe it would be a perfect fit. Hue Jackson is vastly underrated when it comes to coaching quarterbacks. I think he'd work magic with RGIII. It would be an excellent signing.

Which means the Browns won't do it.


9. The NFL's long record of CTE denial

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 05:  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a press conference prior to Super Bowl 50 at the Moscone Center West on February 5, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

To fully understand the importance of the admission of a top NFL official acknowledging a link between football and CTE, you have to look at what the NFL has said in the past. A few years ago, PBS published a timeline of the league's staggering, winding road to get to this point. Some highlights:

• In 1994, then-Jets team doctor Elliot Pellman, who became chairman of the NFL's Mild Traumatic Brain Injury committee that same year, told Sports Illustrated, "concussions are part of the profession, an occupational risk." That same year, then-Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said there had been "no increase in concussions" and that any sense the league had a concussion problem was "a journalist issue."

• In 1999, Pellman told the Chicago Tribune, "The majority [of concussions] are minor injuries."

• In 2000, neurologist Mark R. Lovell, who served on an NFL committee that studied concussions, told the New York Times, "We don't know whether being knocked out briefly is any more dangerous than having amnesia and not being knocked out." Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told ESPN, "All data that we have so far don't point to lasting effects, long-term effects from the head trauma."

• In 2004, the NFL's MTBI committee wrote in a paper in Neurosurgery: "A total of 92 percent of concussed players returned to practice in less than seven days. ... More than one-half of the players returned to play within one day, and symptoms resolved in a short time in the vast majority of cases." In another paper in Neurosurgery, the committee wrote that there was nothing to support conclusions "that there may be an increased risk of repeat concussive injuries and there may be a slower recovery of neurological function after repeat concussions in those have a history of previous concussions."

• In 2006, Pellman and colleagues called for a retraction of Dr. Bennet Omalu's groundbreaking CTE findings, as published in Neurosurgery, writing, "Omalu et al's description of chronic traumatic encephalopathy is completely wrong."

• In 2007, the league issued a pamphlet for players, titled "How do I know if I have had a concussion?" In it, the league wrote, "Current research with professional athletes has not shown that having more than one or two concussions leads to permanent problems if each injury is managed properly."

• By 2010, the league's message to players had changed. The league issued a poster for teams to hang in locker rooms, warning that concussions "may lead to problems with memory and communication, personality changes, as well as depression and the early onset of dementia. Concussions and conditions resulting from repeated brain injury can change your life and your family's life forever."

(All quotes via PBS and linked to original sources, where possible.)

The NFL has come a long way. A long, long, long way. It has begun to see a new reality. But still, just this year, Goodell told reporters, "There's risks in life. There's risks to sitting on the couch"—the same downplaying message he had in 2007, when he said, "A concussion can happen in a variety of different activities."

How far does this go back? In November 1975, respected medical journal the Lancet published a story called "Cumulative Effect of Concussion." The article was about two doctors who studied 20 concussed athletes. One of the main conclusions of the doctors was this: "The effects of concussion seem to be cumulative, and this has important implications for sports where concussion injury is common."

In other words, long before the NFL would begin to issue its series of denials—denials that would last decades—scientific journals were reporting the connection between repetitive head trauma and long-term brain damage.


10. And one of many possible results of the NFL's obfuscation

This Sporting News story about Darryl Talley, one of the key members of those great Buffalo Bills Super Bowl teams, is disturbing on many different levels. But it's worth your time.


Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.


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