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Rams proven right for admitting mistake with Todd Gurley contract

Both he and Cam Akers are doling out the evidence

New England Patriots v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Instead of reporting the news and moving on, it has become the norm for many in “the media” — a blanket term that has lost most of its meaning when there are thousands who believe a blue checkmark or a certain number of followers makes them “media” — to consistently add a layer of superiority. In thoughts, ideas, execution and management, among other things.

That’s an easy way for a person to expose their ego, believing that how they would have handled an issue with the benefit of hindsight (plus the fact that they will never get an opportunity to prove how they would perform in the real world since they didn’t reach that level) is a matter of interest to others. If you want to find an example of me being a hypocrite in that regard, I’m sure you wouldn’t have to look far.

So this is not about whether or not I would have either extended or released Todd Gurley, the two key moves in that team-player relationship over a two-year period, but rather focusing on the people who did: Les Snead and Sean McVay, above all others.

The Rams gave Gurley a four-year, $57 million extension in 2018 at a time when:

a) They didn’t necessarily have to because Gurley had two years left on his deal, including a fifth-year option.

b) Many in “the media” were hoping for and anticipating a record-setting running back contract that they could rip apart for the mere fact that a team was paying its running back. Le’Veon Bell was threatening to sit out an entire season for the Steelers in 2018, much to the laughter of some people who thought it absurd for a running back to want to be paid after five seasons, two first team all-pro nods and leading the NFL in touches the year prior.

All for $4 million on his rookie deal and one season on the franchise tag.

Then Gurley got his deal and all eyes were on how his situation would pan out, with probably far too many people rooting against him merely for the fact that it would make their old tweets “look better.” Then, I guess, they got “their wish.”

Gurley never played a down on his extension, but he did rush for 1,251 yards and lead the NFL in touchdowns for the second year in a row, helping the Rams make the Super Bowl that season. Had Los Angeles not extended him and Gurley had not held out, then they likely play out the fifth-year option in 2019 and see what we all saw.

It would have saved the team $11.75 million in dead money in 2020 and $8.4 million in 2021. However, that’s not what happened and because the Rams were eager to reward a player who clearly played a key role in McVay’s offense ranking first in points in 2017 — a theory further proven accurate by ranking second in points in 2018 and then tumbling down the rankings in each of the last two seasons without him at full strength, or at all — they were left on the hook to pay Gurley whether he was on the team or not.

LA did save about $5 million by releasing Gurley this year but could have easily justified keeping him on the team given:

a) The dead money.

b) The embarrassment of making those doubters in the media believe they were “right.”

In the NFL, you’d much rather win than be right. And now it would seem that Snead and McVay at least did the right thing in parting with Gurley before it became apparent to everyone — including the Falcons — that he wasn’t likely to produce an elite season in 2020.

And that a second round running back could adequately fill his role by the second half of the year.

After rushing for 857 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2019, but with 3.8 yards per carry, three fumbles and only 207 receiving yards, Todd Gurley’s managed to do even worse in Atlanta. Gurley was somewhat productive in the first five games of the season (375 rushing yards, 4.75 YPC, five touchdowns) but maybe he had a couple favorable matchups. Or anything more than a month takes its toll on his knees.

In the last six games, Gurley’s had 96 carries for 251 yards (2.61 YPC) and only caught nine passes for 48 yards. He missed a game against the Raiders because of his knee and has been active, but limited, over the two weeks since then.

Cam Akers is having more of an opposite season. In the last three games, Akers has seen his playing time increase and he has 59 attempts for 327 yards (5.54 YPC) with three catches for 45 yards. It remains to be seen if Akers can be the dual threat that Gurley was in 2017 and 2018 but as a runner, he’s given the Rams a piece to the offense that they’ve sorely lacked since having to turn to C.J. Anderson two years ago.

We all make mistakes. At least Snead and McVay didn’t compound one by doubling down on it.