On July 24, 2018, Los Angeles Rams RB Todd Gurley signed a four-year, $57.5m extension that would keep him in LA through the 2023 season.
Now just seven months later, there’s another running back many Rams fans are hoping to re-sign: RB C.J. Anderson.
Which sets up an inherent problem.
For the Rams to get their money’s worth out of Gurley, he can’t be in a job share.
Which is a weird fact to have to iterate given that he’s never been in one until the playoffs.
Through the first 12 games of the season, Gurley spearheaded a reserve unit led by backup RB Malcolm Brown with RBs Justin Davis and John Kelly in deep roster support. Against the Detroit Lions in Week 13, Brown injured his clavicle. He had a “procedure,” not surgery (a point that could be relevant to Gurley in the weeks and months ahead), to repair his collarbone which landed him on injured reserve and ended his season. For the next two games, the Rams went with a Gurley-Davis-Kelly trio. The results as a whole were, given the circumstances and the expectations for the Rams in 2018, disastrous. The Rams lost to both the Chicago Bears and the Philadelphia Eagles sending us into Panic Week. But Gurley injured his knee against the Eagles. Though he was originally “on track” to play in Week 16, the Rams went ahead and signed Anderson to beef up the depth chart.
And then everything changed.
Gurley was listed as “Questionable” against the Arizona Cardinals in the penultimate regular season game. While he was expected to play, he was eventually ruled out before gametime. There was less drama in Week 17 against the San Francisco 49ers when the Rams ruled Gurley “Out” well before kickoff. In those two games, it was an Anderson-Kelly duo that got all the action. C.J. played 98 snaps (69.50%) to Kelly’s 43 (30.50%). The carry usage wasn’t far off from that with 43 (63.24%) for Anderson and 25 (36.76%) for Kelly.
All of that is to say that Todd Gurley was used at about an 85% clip for the entire season until he injured his knee with a rush ratio similar to his playing time. That balance was changed for the Anderson-Kelly pairing that Rams Head Coach Sean McVay used to finish the season.
The postseason? Completely different.
The Rams essentially used three different gameplans on the ground between Gurley and Anderson. With such a small sample size, it’s hard to attribute specific outcomes to specific factors. How much of the balanced attack against the Dallas Cowboys was due to the absolute dominance of the Rams’ offensive line? Tough to say. What is clear though is that Gurley ran much less than Anderson per snap. Gurley had seven less runs than Anderson (16 to 23) despite playing 11 more snaps that game (45 to 34). Even weirder then was Gurley’s performance in the NFC Championship against the New Orleans Saints in which he got just four rushes to Anderson’s 16 while Gurley played 32 snaps along with Anderson’s 37. Super Bowl LIII clarified nothing as Gurley got 43 snaps to Anderson’s 22 while posting a running ratio of 10 for Gurley to Anderson’s 7.
All of that is to say that finding a balance for Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson might be possible. It’s also not worth it if Gurley’s fully healthy next season (which there’s no reason to think otherwise will be the case as of now) and he’s getting paid what he’s getting paid.
Todd Gurley is one of the best running backs in the NFL. He nearly won the MVP in 2017 while earning Offensive Player of the Year honors. He earned his contract extension and is set to spearhead the Rams into the Los Angeles sports culture to a much more significant point than they’ve been thus far.
Bringing back C.J. Anderson won’t help that. It will hinder it. The Rams only signed him in the first place because of the injuries to Gurley and Brown who himself is set to be a free agent.
The Rams can’t bring back C.J. Anderson if they want Todd Gurley to be Todd Gurley especially not when they’re paying Todd Gurley like Todd Gurley.