Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Rams Are Sabotaging Todd Gurley's CareerOctober 26, 2016
We are watching a star go downhill before our very eyes, players on Josh Brown, and Peegate.
1. The Ruination of Todd Gurley Continues
This past week Todd Gurley rushed for 57 yards. It was the ninth consecutive week he failed to reach 100 yards. Nine. Straight. Weeks.
Remember when Gurley was going to wreck this league? Remember when he was compared to Eric Dickerson? Remember when Gurley was going to rush for 2,000 yards? Remember?
I warned in the spring that the Rams would ruin Gurley, a unique talent, one of the most unique we've seen in the past four or five years. But now we are seeing it in action.
It's rare for us to see—firsthand—bad coaching ruin a potential Hall of Famer. But that is what we are witnessing. Gurley doesn't stand a chance with the Rams. He never did.
Things could change for Gurley in the future if Jared Goff starts. At some point. This century. But we still don't know how good Goff is. Or will be.
He may be talented enough to open up the offense and take pressure off Gurley. But if he was that good, wouldn't he already be starting?
Maybe Goff needs time, but if the Rams have to wait three or four seasons, Gurley will have a lot more wear on him.
Even if Goff is a quality quarterback, can we trust the offensively challenged Jeff Fisher to tutor him? There's been talk of a Fisher extension for weeks now, but it hasn't come. It probably will happen, but who knows?
I asked several assistant coaches around the league to tell me what was hampering Gurley. Their answers weren't surprising but rang true to anyone who has watched him play: Gurley consistently faces eight- and nine-man fronts. The Rams' quarterback play has been awful, so defenses focus most of their resources on Gurley.
A great runner facing eight-man fronts is nothing new. Adrian Peterson faced them every game last season and still ran for 1,485 yards. The key is devising blocking and offensive schemes that make defenses pay, even if the quarterback is terrible.
Fisher won't adapt to modern football. His offensive philosophy remains archaic. One assistant coach said his team noticed that one of the biggest problems for Gurley was that he gets the football in far too many obvious running situations.
The talent around him stinks. This is obvious. Fisher simply hasn't put good players on the roster.
It's also been pointed out to me that some of Gurley's struggles are on Gurley himself, particularly his running style. He isn't shifty like Barry Sanders; he isn't going to break a lot of tackles. When he was prospering, Gurley had clearer running lanes.
Those days when Gurley destroyed defenses are over (for now). The NFL, as it always does, has adapted. When that happens, it's up to teams to adapt back. The Rams simply aren't capable of doing that, and Gurley is suffering.
It's important to take note of what's going on in L.A. because there's a potentially great football career being subverted by the decisions of those with the most influence over that career. We don't usually see great players get run into the ground, bit by bit, like a diamond drill taking on ablative armor.
And the ruination of Todd Gurley continues.
2. Adam Silver vs. Roger Goodell
As I've stated before, I am not a Roger Goodell basher. Never have been.
Yet it was striking—genuinely flabbergasting—hearing NBA Commissioner Adam Silver this week on ESPN's Mike and Mike (via ESPN.com).
Silver struck a tone that is unique. It was respectful of the players. It offered a sense of cooperation. It was sincere. There's no phony in Silver's game, and the way he talked about the concern players have regarding social justice issues almost knocked me off my sofa.
Silver gets it, and there's a reason for that.
In the NBA, which I once covered, most owners (not all) see the players as partners. In the NFL, most owners (not all), see the players as drones. They see them as something to be controlled. That attitude is one of the cornerstones of owner-player relations, and it's reflected in how Goodell deals with players. He is simply copying the attitude of his bosses.
Maybe he should copy the attitude of his NBA counterpart.
3. Someone Is Getting Fired in Houston
Denver's talented defense makes a lot of offenses look awful. So the fact that the Texans looked awful in their Monday night loss isn't a shock.
But the Texans' revamped, expensive offense has looked terrible for much of the season. Quarterback Brock Osweiler looks like Brock Tebow, and DeAndre Hopkins has yet to deactivate his cloaking device.
Against Denver, Osweiler was 0-of-7 when throwing 15 yards or more downfield, according to ESPN, and 5-of-16 when facing the blitz. That's putrid.
This isn't to say someone should be fired. Nor is it to say it will be the head coach. Someone, however, will be sacrificed. That's usually how it works when you are averaging fewer points per game than all but one team in the NFL.
4. Bart Scott on John Mara
On Sunday, Bart Scott, the former Raven and Jet turned TV analyst, asked the same question that many in and around the NFL have asked.
"I'm disappointed in John Mara," Scott said on CBS' pregame show. "To me, it's not about what you say, it's what you do. And in 2014, in response to the Ray Rice video, he said there is no place for domestic violence in our sport or in our society. And we're committed to doing our part to prevent such heinous acts going forward.
"Let's fast-forward to this week. He [Brown] certainly admitted...that he abused his wife in the past. What? You make those statements. We could have avoided all of this by John Mara firing—or choosing not to re-sign him. They dropped the ball. [W]e all agree that the Giants are one of the most respected organizations in sports. So why would you risk your brand, your reputation, on a 37-year-old kicker?"
5. Sideline 'Bathroom Breaks' Not as Rare as You May Think
Someone took a picture of a Washington assistant coach during the game in Detroit relieving himself. That's kinda weird. Not sure why the first instinct of someone seeing a man urinate is to snap a photo. But I digress.
Sideline "bathroom use" happens plenty. Usually, a bunch of trainers or players surround the player or coach with towels or with a wall of players, so no one can see. Then the dude does his business.
Some teams, such as Oregon, have apparently implemented a little porta-potty on the sideline. They're the covered wagons of sideline peeing. Smart.
I've heard tales of sideline pooping, but that's so nasty I'm not even going to give details.
The bottom line: If you gotta go, you gotta go.
6. Are We Overlooking Matthew Stafford's Season?
Is it possible that the Lions quarterback is better without Calvin Johnson?
Seems unlikely considering Johnson, before he retired, was one of the best receivers of his generation. Usually losing someone like Johnson makes a quarterback cry, not play better.
Yet Stafford is playing some of the best football I've ever seen from him. He's spreading the ball around, instead of force-feeding Megatron. As good as Johnson was, defenses knew he was going to get the ball a lot, so they keyed on that Stafford-to-Johnson connection. Now, defenses have no clue where the football is going, and this gives Stafford more flexibility.
Now 100 games into his NFL career, Stafford has thrown for 27,890 passing yards, the most any player has thrown for in his first 100 games, according to the league.
7. The Most Disappointing Team so Far Is...?
Two front office executives both said it was the Jaguars. I get the feeling that also would be the answer for a number of other execs.
The two added that Blake Bortles was the most disappointing player in the league as well. Bortles has nine interceptions, tied for third-most with Jameis Winston, and 11 turnovers overall in six games.
These two team officials also believe it's likely that coach Gus Bradley won't survive the season.
What a mess.
8. If We Could Turn Back Time
B/R asked an AFC general manager what the 49ers would look like if Jim Harbaugh was still there, instead of kicking butt at Michigan: "[Colin] Kaepernick would be playing better. The team would have three or four wins (instead of one). The team would be a little more disciplined. They would fight hard every week. You'd hate playing them even if your team was better. They'd be just like what he did when he coached, and just like what he has at Michigan."
9. Wise Words, Part I
Former NFL player Mike Flynn offered some of the strongest words you'll hear on the subject of domestic violence in a recent segment for Comcast SportsNet New England.
Not going to set it up. Just listen. It's worth it.
10. Wise Words, Part II
Wade Davis, a former NFL and college player, has long been one of the more decent men in all of sports. Recently he weighed in on the controversy surrounding the use of anti-gay signs by fans at BYU at a recent game against Mississippi State for Outsports.com (warning: contains NSFW language).
Not going to set it up. Just read it. It's worth your time.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter:@mikefreemanNFL.