One of the weirdest things that happened during yesterday’s conference championship games was the disappearance of Rams star running back Todd Gurley. The franchise running back had a career-low five total touches from scrimmage, and spent most of the game standing on the sideline. His absence from the game was so startling that an injury seemed to be the obvious explanation.
Gurley missed the last two games of the regular season with knee inflammation, but looked fine during the Rams’ divisional round playoff game against the Cowboys, in which he rushed for 115 yards on 16 carries. After yesterday’s game, though, he insisted that the knee wasn’t bothering him, and that he spent most of the day on the bench simply because he was playing like crap.
“I was sorry as hell today,” said Gurley. Head coach Sean McVay was a little more diplomatic, telling reporters that backup running back C.J. Anderson played most of the game because it was what the “feel” and “flow” of the game demanded.
You can’t argue with McVay too much given that his team won the game and is now headed to the Super Bowl, but it’s not really a good sign when a franchise running back, around whom the Rams’ play-action offense is built, can’t find his way onto the field during a conference championship game. If McVay benched Gurley just because he was mad at him for dropping two easy passes early in the game then so be it, but if Gurley has somehow found himself without a place in the Rams’ scheme, then there are bigger problems to solve.
In two weeks, Gurley will have a chance to rebound on the biggest possible stage, and any NFL running back who is ever hoping to secure a longterm deal better hope he does. Gurley signed a $45 million guaranteed contract last offseason, and is the consensus best running back in the league. If even he can become a forgotten man in the playoffs and be effectively replaced by a guy who got cut by three teams this season, then what hope does anyone else have?