Todd Gurley Is Amazing, Incredible, Unforgettable, but He's Not the NFL MVP

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterNovember 2, 2018

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 28: Running back Todd Gurley #30 of the Los Angeles Rams runs the ball in the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 28, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)
John McCoy/Getty Images

It's almost impossible to watch the Rams shred the NFL and not be impressed, if not stunned. They are wrecking the sport, and one of the big reasons why is running back Todd Gurley.

Through eight games, Gurley has 1,151 yards from scrimmage and 15 touchdowns. Dating back to last season, he's scored a touchdown in 11 straight games.

Gurley's success, and the success of the Rams, has led to continued talk that Gurley should be the league MVP.

Todd Gurley should not be the league MVP.

No way. No how.

Not when he plays for a team as complete as the Rams, who are among the best examples of NFL symbiosis we've seen in decades. One part works off the other, and no part is the part. That includes Gurley.

If you removed Aaron Rodgers from the Packers, they'd win three games. If you removed Tom Brady, the Patriots would collapse. If you removed Drew Brees, the Saints wouldn't be a playoff team.

If you removed Gurley, it would hurt the Rams, but quarterback Jared Goff is so good now, and the passing game and defense are so stout, that the team would still win 10 or 11 games. In other words, the Rams aren't great because of Gurley; he is great because of the Rams.

This isn't a hot take. It's an obvious take. We all love watching Gurley play. He's fun and he's an incredibly likable person on a really likable team. And that likability, of Gurley and the Rams, is clouding the thinking of normally smart football observers.

The thoughts are warranted at some level. The Rams are the closest thing I've seen to the undefeated 1972 Dolphins. I wrote a book about that team, and what made it special is what makes the Rams special—the diversity of options.

Running back Larry Csonka was to that team what Gurley is to the Rams. But there was also Mercury Morris, one of the most underrated runners of the modern era. Quarterback Bob Griese was solid. Receiver Paul Warfield was in the middle of a Hall of Fame career. And, of course, there was a legendary defense that allowed 18 touchdowns in 14 regular-season games. No singular element defined them.

The Rams' offensive line has opened up a lot of opportunities for Todd Gurley this season.
The Rams' offensive line has opened up a lot of opportunities for Todd Gurley this season.Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

It's the same with the Rams. The MVP should go to a player who carries his team, not is carried by it.

The Rams are the NFL's version of the Golden State Warriors with weapons in almost every corner. But that sometimes leads people to forget to look at what's happening in the trenches.

According to one scout, the Rams offensive line was the best he's seen in the last four or five years.

They are creating holes my grandpa could run through. Look at this one. And that example isn't unusual. Gurley isn't Alvin Kamara squeezing through tiny gaps and then bursting loose. Gurley is often bursting through a giant hole and into the secondary with little effort, and then he works his magic.

To get a sense of just how much of an influence the Rams line is having on their running game, consider that Gurley's backup, Malcolm Brown, is averaging 5.1 yards per carry, even higher than Gurley.

Yes, Gurley has five more touchdowns than any other player in the league, but he's also had 47 red-zone rushing attempts. That's almost double the next two combined in Kamara (28) and Pittsburgh's James Conner (21). Again, that's not Gurley's fault, but it is a function of an offense that offers lots of help.

If you're looking for a true MVP candidate, look no further than Carolina and Cam Newton. The Panthers quarterback is on the verge of scoring at least five rushing touchdowns in eight straight seasons (he has four so far). Assuming he accomplishes the feat, he'd join Marshall Faulk (10), LaDainian Tomlinson (10), Jim Brown (9), Ricky Watters (9), Eddie George (8) and Thurman Thomas (8) as the only other players in NFL history to do so. And he'd be the only quarterback on that list.

Cam Newton has thrown for 13 TDs and run for another four to help the Panthers to a 5-2 start.
Cam Newton has thrown for 13 TDs and run for another four to help the Panthers to a 5-2 start.Mike McCarn/Associated Press

The Panthers are 5-2, and Newton has played much of this season without his favorite target in tight end Greg Olsen. Every other quarterback MVP candidate this year—and I mean every one—has a star-quality wide receiver to throw to. Newton has Devin Funchess.

Still, Newton has thrown multiple touchdown passes in six straight games this season, which is the longest streak of his career.

While the overall numbers don't show it, no one is carrying his team the way Newton is the Panthers.

But that point is getting lost in the spotlight Gurley has commandeered.

Gurley is leading the MVP race because he's a human highlight reel. Every time you look up, Gurley is trucking some dude or running around some dude or scoring over some dude or jumping over some dude or just being a damn talented dude.

Gurley fits into today's fantasy football-oriented game where stats and highlights are the shiny objects that take away from us looking at the bones of the sport, like offensive line play.

Gurley is a remarkable player. Of course he is.

He's just not the MVP.

       

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