It takes something earth-shaking to get anyone to notice professional football in St. Louis, a town that is holding onto its Rams by a frayed thread.
That trembler wears a lush set of dreads and the No. 30.
Bulldogs fans may look at how Todd Gurley is ripping through the NFL now and be washed in remorse over how it ended in Athens. Between the suspension and the knee injury, Gurley’s best never had an adequate airing at Georgia.
Those same fans may also take a bit of comfort in his example. If he can return so spectacularly from the trauma of knee surgery, then who’s to say that Nick Chubb can’t do likewise? Part of Chubb’s rehab should be a daily replay of Gurley’s already impressive collection of highlight NFL runs.
What Gurley is doing now with the Rams seems to read like the opening of a fable. And along the way, he is helping to re-emphasize the importance of the running back in the NFL.
Conventional wisdom has it that you are not to squander a first-round draft pick on a running back, particularly one who is recovering from knee surgery. But Gurley’s gifts were so tantalizing that the Rams Les Snead, a former Falcons personnel guy, could not resist. He took Gurley 10th, two picks after the Falcons chose the thus-far invisible pass-rusher, Vic Beasley.
Snead’s faith has been rewarded in bulk. In the month since returning from his rehab, Gurley has ripped off four straight 100-plus-yard rushing performances. The last rookie to do that was Edgerrin James in 1999. His 566 rushing yards in his first four games – good enough to place him fifth in the NFL – is the most to begin a career in 50 years.
More importantly, the Rams are 3-1 and have a pulse since Gurley got active.
His coach, Jeff Fisher, is appreciative. “I keep bringing up that ‘S’ word – which is ‘special,’” he said last week.
Gurley has endeared himself to the populace with his combination of speed and power, exploding for four rushes of 48 yards and longer in four games. His working motto thus far: “What’s the point of being a running back if you can’t break a tackle, you know.”
Let’s compare Gurley’s impact to someone to whom the Atlanta audience can relate. In his four games, Gurley has accounted for 45 percent of the Rams offense. Between his rushing and receiving, Devonta Freeman has contributed 32 percent of the Falcons total offense. The burden on Gurley has been immense. The Rams certainly need to diversify over the long term.
Freeman has averaged 4.7 yards per carry. Gurley, on a pace that he certainly can’t maintain, is averaging 6.1 yards a tote. (Meanwhile, Melvin Gordon, the other back taken in 2015’s first round, is averaging 3.7 yards and has zero touchdowns).
The numbers only do partial justice to Gurley’s impact in St. Louis. For he has breathed new life into a franchise, one that teeters on the brink of leaving town. If only he had such a profound impact on his last team.