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Today is an utterly rough day for Rams fans. After trying to trade star running back Todd Gurley, the Rams opted to release him, eating $20.5 million in dead cap space.

It’s befuddling to think about how fast things change in the NFL. Two years ago, Todd Gurley was the most dynamic back in the league. He was second all-time in rush touchdowns and the engine that drove Sean McVay’s offense. Now it’s over.

Last season was dominated by the drama surrounding Gurley’s knee and how much Sean McVay was going to manage his load and how clearly Gurley hated this. The relationship apparently couldn’t be salvaged since the Rams were willing to eat that much money just to get rid of him. This whole mess is an indictment of a front office that time and time again has made short-sighted moves that end up blowing up in their faces.

Todd Gurley became an immediate fan favorite in his rookie year. He was drafted 10th overall and despite a history of knee issues at Georgia, he ran for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns en route to winning rookie of the year. He was the first bright spot on a Rams team that couldn’t be bleaker if it had been directed by Werner Herzog.

Year two didn’t go quite as well because Jeff Fisher leaned too heavily on him and didn’t bother to develop Jared Goff or have any type of passing game. That led to a Todd Gurley come down year with 885 yards and 6 touchdowns.

Enter Sean McVay, who revitalized the offense and Gurley rushed for 1,305 yards, 13 touchdowns, 788 reception yards, and six receiving touchdowns winning the offensive player of the year award.

That summer, the Rams signed Todd Gurley to a record 4-year $57 million contract, with $43 million guaranteed. At the time that made many talking heads spin and gave fans pause. On one hand, Todd Gurley was the star of the franchise and rewarding him for it made a little sense. On the other more logical one, it was a bad idea. Why? Well, he still had two years on his rookie deal so there was no need to extend him so early. His 5th-year option of about $20 million hadn’t even kicked in yet.

That season the team went 13-3 and once again Gurley had an ass-kicking season to the tune of 1,251 yards 17 touchdowns, 580 receiving yards, and four receiving touchdowns. The problem was he started breaking down towards the end of the year.

They rested him the final month of the season and got lucky with C.J. Anderson shouldering the load. Gurley had one last amazing game in him that year in the divisional round. He ran for 115 yards and a touchdown before becoming unplayable a week later in the NFC Championship.

Beginning Super Bowl week, there were already questions concerning how injured he was. The Rams deflected despite reports of his knee having arthritis. The Super Bowl saw Gurley once again become a nonfactor and the drama carried over into the following season.

The relationship between Todd Gurley and the Rams began to sour. McVay tried to downplay the fact that Gurley would be on any type of load management. He had moments where he looked like the old Todd Gurley but those moments were fleeting. Yes, he had 12 touchdowns, but only 857 yards. He rarely looked explosive and he became barraged by questions about his knee which probably wasn’t a lot of fun.

The Rams tried so hard to play fast and loose with the status of his knee and eventually that was going to forever tarnish the relationship. It was an open secret that the Rams were trying to shop Gurley, which further damaged things leading to where we are today.

No team wanted to take on his contract and the Rams had until today to release him or trade him lest they are on the hook with $10.5 million more. The Rams KNEW he had a history of knee issues and yet they still felt compelled to pay him two years before they had to worry about it. This is indicative of how short-sighted and delusional this front office is. This isn’t an isolated incident either.

They overpaid Tavon Austin, Alec Ogletree, Brandin Cooks (who they’re trying to trade), Jared Goff, and Rob Havenstein. Austin and Ogletree were quickly jettisoned soon after. Goff, Cooks, and Havenstein were regrettable soon after the ink dried, and of course Todd Gurley. This is no way to run an organization and it caused them to lose valuable pieces along the way because they ate up their cap space unnecessarily.

Les Snead, Kevin Demoff, and Tony Pastoors (who is in charge of contracts) deserve all the ire coming their way. Had they just let Gurey ride out his rookie deal they could’ve let him go after this year with no cap hit and had money to resign Cory Littleton or whomever else. They made themselves look foolish having to eat $20.5 mil and instead of being looked at as an organization that takes care of its players they look dumber than Florida spring breakers partying during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Going forward the Rams still have Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown and are looking to draft a back late in the draft. Henderson gets to prove why many considered him a steal and while he showed brief glimpses of it his rookie year, it wasn’t enough.

Brown had a mixed year but remains a reliable power back. The good (ish) news is that Gurley’s release is being designated as a post-June 1st release so his dead money is spread out and they’ll free up $5.5 million this summer per Field Yates of ESPN.

Todd Gurley finished his career with the Rams with a rookie of the year award, an offensive player of the year award, two All-Pro selections, and three Pro Bowls. He’s only 25 and there’s a chance he can have a few more good years left somewhere else.

He is another in a long line of star running backs to pass through the organization and he will be remembered fondly by his teammates and fans. It’s a brutal life in the NFL as careers and stardom don’t last long and at least Gurley is handling it in stride tweeting “I just got fired on my day off”.

Good-bye Todd Gurley thank you for everything!

Todd Gurley

Todd Gurley. Photo Credit: Christina VanMeter | Under Creative Commons License

Chauncey Telese

Author Chauncey Telese

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