The last time we peeked in at MMQB on TST was back in March when Peter King finally got around to going deep on the stadium stuff. Here's how I described King and his lovelornliness for Jeff Fisher:
King has cultivated relationships across the NFL map for 35 years since getting his start with the Cincinnati Enquirer. From his clear affinity for Jeff Fisher (or his clear affinity for the NFL-ness of Jeff Fisher, which can't be separated from Jeff Fisher the person) or his relishing of his role as an unfettered gatekeeper serving at the behest of the NFL powers-at-large (see: Ray Rice story, Cam Newton, goofy Robin Williams story, goofier Andrew McCutcheon story, or this goddamn photo which is just visual ipecac), nobody should question his old-school NFLness. He is the dean of Old NFL Media U.
His piece today on the Rams taking Georgia RB Todd Gurley is a perfect exhibit of his desire to be at the front of the NFL's contact list just to get that one good quote that isn't actually any good.
Here's a clear example. King offers a blunt, inaccurate assessment of the only possible ways to understand the Rams' taking Gurley...and then never investigates either of those ways himself.
In a time of radical devaluation of running backs, a tailback five months removed from surgery to repair a torn ACL was selected 10th overall in the 2015 NFL draft.
And so you think one of two things about Todd Gurley: Either he’s really good, or the Rams really reached to pick him in the top third of round one.
Here's a mindbender. It's possible that you think Gurley's really good AND that the Rams really reached to pick him. There's also a ton of other things you could think, but you'd have to be critical of much of the way the NFL operates and that's just not a line King is willing to cross unless it's going to save lives and even then it'd be tough.
Try digesting this crap.
Strangely, in light of all that, when I called around in the days after the draft about any number of topics, I didn’t hear one GM or personnel man say, The Rams are crazy. In fact, I found out that Tampa Bay had Gurley No. 5 on its board. I found out that one annually intelligent drafting team had Gurley at No. 11—and would have tried to move up into the late teens to get him had he still been on the board around pick 15 or 16.
Tampa Bay had Gurley at #5! And if there's any NFL team to trust, it's those guys. You don't get the #1 overall pick unless you're putting some good boards together every year. Oh, and an anonymous "annually intelligent drafting team" would have moved up into the late teens. That's almost certainly a playoff team who would therefore have a solid enough roster to justify upgrading their running back, but let's just let the tingly-goodness of anonymously sourced journalism interrupt any actual thought we might have. An intelligent team liked it! Rams good!
Remember, if you're toeing the NFL line, you have to step up for third-party stakeholders too.
One reason is that NFL teams trust Gurley’s surgeon, Dr. James Andrews, to be able to put his knee back together again and get it in the same condition, or tighter, than when it was injured last November. Andrews told teams the week before the draft that he’d put his professional reputation on the line that Gurley, when fully healed sometime late this year, will be as good as he ever was, and no more susceptible to chronic knee problems than any other running backs.
Rams fans will find it impossible to think of any former player who had a knee injury fixed by Dr. James Andrews that didn't turn out 100% okey dokey.
And it's not beneath King to trot out this BS that's been far to easily tossed around:
The other reason: NFL teams saw Gurley as the best back to come into the draft since Adrian Peterson was picked seventh overall in 2007.
It sounds nice, as long as you ignore the fact that Darren McFadden was the best back to come into the draft since Adrian Peterson. And then so was C.J. Spiller. And then so was Trent Richardson.
It's not all that big of a deal. King only mentions the Rams in order to heap praise on Jeff Fisher and then ignores them until forced to acknowledge some random highlight. The Rams aren't part of the NFL zeitgeist, and that's King's beat.
Fisher is a throwback coach. Most of the league craves an offense with a 60-40 pass-run split. Fisher would love it to be 50-50, or even 55-45 run. He likes to play offense with a back capable of wearing down defenses with long drives early in games and eating the clock in the fourth quarter.
Anything on the fact that those desires have resulted in a 20-27-1 record in St. Louis? Any analysis on whether or not what he wants, yanno, actually works? No! No time for that! We got Les Snead and Mike Mayock quotes to get to!
If there's anything worth getting irked by, it's King's defense of Fisher implied by the constant "we'll see" narrative behind every possible evaluation of Jeff Fisher.
"He hasn't even had a winning season."
"Well, let's see what happens this year."
"The defense hasn't even been a top 10 unit despite that pass rush."
"2015 could be the year."
"The offense has sucked. Period. But a rehabbing running back who likely won't be available early, a castoff QB and a few rookie linemen are going to get the offense over the hump?"
If the rest of the NFL wants to move the chains with 40 mostly short passes every game, Fisher understands. That’s the way teams are being built. He’d preferred to win with a strong ground game, and a mashing line. Now that he has his preferred front five and running back, we should see by late this season (when Gurley is back to form) if he’s right.
And if there's one thing made clear, King's happy to ride the wave of what Jeff Fisher prefers rather than reality.