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The Detroit Lions’ signing of RB C.J. Anderson underscores just how strange the Los Angeles Rams’ handling of RB Todd Gurley was in the playoffs

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It just doesn’t make any sense.

Los Angeles Rams RB Todd Gurley celebrates with RB C.J. Anderson after scoring a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys in the Divisional Round of the 2019 NFL Playoffs, Jan. 12, 2019.
Los Angeles Rams RB Todd Gurley celebrates with RB C.J. Anderson after scoring a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys in the Divisional Round of the 2019 NFL Playoffs, Jan. 12, 2019.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions signed RB C.J. Anderson yesterday just three and a half months after he joined the Los Angeles Rams en route to one of the weirdest sagas Rams fans have ever seen with the handling of RB Todd Gurley and his knee.

A reminder of the timeline that played out over the final weeks of the 2018 regular season into the playoffs.

The first domino to fall came in Week 13 against the Detroit Lions when RB Malcolm Brown injured his clavicle forcing him to miss the rest of the season (although some might argue the real first domino was Gurley aggravating the knee in Week 1 against the Oakland Raiders (or some might argue it truly began when the Rams made Gurley the highest-paid running back in the NFL last July (and some might even suggest it goes back to Gurley initially injuring the knee in college with the Georgia Bulldogs (and some might even suggest it was when he was born in the first place!)))). Interestingly, the Rams didn’t make any personnel changes to the RB depth chart once Brown got injured. Perhaps prophetically, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo suggested the injury would be a major factor for the Rams were anything to happen to Gurley:

And well, wouldn’t you know it...something did happen.

In Week 15 against the Philadelphia Eagles, Gurley injured/aggravated/whatevered his knee. In retrospect, it’s certainly strange the Rams didn’t lighten the load for Gurley in Brown’s absence by using either of their backups in RB John Kelly or RB Justin Davis as our own Sosa Kremenjas advocated following the Brown injury:

Instead, Kelly and Davis accounted for just four carries in Weeks 14 and 15 while Gurley ran the ball 23 times.

With the Rams coming out of Week 15 saying that Gurley was “on track” to play in Week 16, I framed the issue his injury posed as this:

1.) Does Gurley’s injury affect his ability to play at or near 100%?
2.) Does Gurley’s injury affect the playcalling and the confidence in his ability to perform?

Good lord, did it ever.

A day later, the Rams signed Anderson who had already been released by two teams in the 2018 season. He jumped over Kelly and Davis on the depth chart to become the starting running back in Weeks 16 and 17 as Gurley was sidelined with the knee injury.

Anderson was fantastic in both starts, though it’s worth noting the offensive line was fantastic as well to give Anderson the opportunity to be as much.

Despite having an extra week to rest thanks to a first-round bye, Rams fans were given an indication of Gurley’s health status when he appeared on the initial injury report in the divisional round of the playoffs against the Dallas Cowboys. But a fantastic performance from the Rams’ offensive line gave Gurley and Anderson the chance to shine as the two combined for 238 rushing yards. Gurley had a memorable 35-yard touchdown through a GIGANTIC lane that many used to suggest he was at optimal health; others, including myself, thought it was clear evidence to the contrary.

In any case, the next two games catapulted the saga into top tier drama. Against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship, Gurley, the NFL’s highest-paid running back, had just four carries. While Rams Head Coach suggested after the game that Gurley was “healthy” and “feeling good” along with using that touchdown run against the Cowboys to reinforce as much, I remained skeptical and asked how injured he really was.

Gurley downplayed the developing drama heading into Super Bowl LIII:

I’m fine, bro. We’ve been winning. I’m going to my first Super Bowl. I’m good.

...

No, I’m good. If there was an issue on my knee, it would be on the injury report. Come on now. I’m at practice. I’m playing.

Gurley indeed wasn’t listed on any of the three injury reports leading up to the Super Bowl though speculation continued to grow surrounding his knee.

Some reporters even mocked the speculation heading into the Super Bowl:

Gurley, in fact, was not involved early with just three runs in the first half as cameras repeatedly showed him on the sideline as the broadcast team of Jim Nantz and Tony Romo along with media and fans worldwide wondered why the Rams had placed the highest-paid running back in the NFL in a job share with someone who had been unemployed as recently as two months prior.

The Super Bowl did not go well.

Gurley refused to speak to reporters in their final exit interviews two days later.

Anderson revealed that at the time of his signing, Gurley had been injured worse than initially anticipated.

Then the Rams revealed that, despite having insisted throughout the playoffs that there was no injury after sitting out the final two games of the regular season, Gurley had been dealing with “a wear and tear issue.”

And just a month ago, we learned that Gurley has been suffering from arthritis in the knee.

It’s been one hell of a ride.

So now as Anderson heads to Detroit after they tried to poach Brown of all people, we can close out this chapter of the Gurley knee saga...and prepare to open the next one in four months’ time.