In 2018, the Los Angeles Rams were in the position that some, not many, teams find themselves in. It doesn’t happen often and it is probably even more rare today because of how offenses tend to feature a premium running back, but the 2018 Rams had an MVP candidate both at quarterback and at the position situated behind or to the side of said quarterback.
Patrick Mahomes understandably won the MVP that year, but Jared Goff and Todd Gurley had their cases. LA was 13-3, they scored the second most points, Goff had 32 touchdowns and a rating of 101.1, Gurley had 21 touchdowns and only fumbled a single time.
They were the only two players on the Rams offense to be named to the Pro Bowl that season.
It’s obviously not the first time the franchise has had the QB-RB-MVP debate either, as Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk could make their case as the best duo in NFL history from 1999-2001. But that pairing didn’t last long and neither did Goff-Gurley following 2018. Following his release, Gurley signed a deal with the Atlanta Falcons and he’ll now be playing with Matt Ryan, the 2016 NFL MVP.
Could this now be the best QB-RB combo in the NFL?
If we were judging Ryan-Gurley based on 2019, the answer is no. But Ryan expressed last week how good of a fit Gurley is with the Falcons offense and the two met and worked out together in Los Angeles; were Gurley to be healthy and playing behind a quality offensive line again, his production could return and we’ll be focused on what’s happening rather than what happened.
Ryan-Gurley has a lot of potential. What other teams could make their case?
Better RB than QB
Nick Chubb, Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
If Mayfield is better than what he was in 2019, proves to become a top-10 QB, then clearly he’s paired with a back who has a case — a case — as the best running back in the NFL next season and that would be a hell of a combo for a team that never has a good QB and rarely has a good RB.
Derrick Henry, Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans
Maybe the NFL’s best QB-RB combo based on 2019 stats and the fact that they were both really good as the Titans surprised everyone with an AFC title game appearance. What’s next for Tannehill? And I would have the same “concern” for Henry as I’d have with any back coming off of such a dominant season: regression is real. Injuries for RBs are also real, but Henry’s 303 rushing attempts last season with only 18 receptions is actually comforting and Mike Vrabel seems aware that ball-carriers have a limit. I’m more concerned about Tannehill’s regression but maybe AJ Brown is the real difference here.
Christian McCaffrey, Teddy Bridgewater, Carolina Panthers
I’m not a big believer in Bridgewater, but I’m sure he’s capable of starting 16 games and being a good leader, presence, and he’s protective of the ball. I am worried about McCaffrey’s workload up to this point but hopefully not having Kyle Allen as the QB will be enough to make the offense go.
Better QB than RB
Deshaun Watson, David Johnson, Houston Texans
Johnson had an MVP case once. It was awhile ago. He hasn’t done much since. He didn’t have a great opportunity with Kliff Kingsbury and the AZ offensive line though and while Houston doesn’t have a good line either (we assume), Watson is the best QB he’s ever worked with. No offense to Kyler Murray, it’s just early in his career.
Patrick Mahomes, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kansas City Chiefs
The best QB in the NFL and the first running back draft this year. The Chiefs are an exciting passing team but they had another dimension with Kareem Hunt in 2018. Edwards-Helaire can’t get much of an endorsement from me because he’s never played in the NFL, but I have no problem hyping the potential.
Russell Wilson, Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks
Carson is probably a bit underrated as he can play all three downs and he breaks a ton of tackles playing behind a bad offensive line. But there’ve been a lot of injuries and watching him, you know it’s not Marshawn Lynch. It’s not that big of a deal, but you just know. Rashaad Penny is maybe more likely to be that “star” RB one day, however he tore his ACL last season.
Mentioning them: Ben Roethlisberger-James Conner, Philip Rivers-Marlon Mack/Jonathan Taylor, Tom Brady-Ronald Jones, Jared Goff-Cam Akers, Kyler Murray-Kenyan Drake
Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers
I’m not that high on Rodgers, who has seemingly been in decline since 2015 in spite of dominant TD/INT numbers. Jones rushed for 16 TDs last season but there are probably not that many people who would call him one of the best backs in the league.
Perhaps the most balanced
Lamar Jackson, Mark Ingram, Baltimore Ravens
I have my doubts that Jackson can improve or even maintain his 2019 passing statistics, and eventually I think almost everyone agrees that his ability to run the football has a much shorter shelf life than how long a QB can be able to expect to pass with great efficiency. How those two things are related is also a concern of mine. If we’re talking about 2019, Jackson is a deserving MVP. If we’re talking about 2020, I have little reason to doubt another stellar season. But he wasn’t an effective passer against good defenses in the regular season, that showed in the playoffs, and that worries me because it’s a fairly common thing we see with QBs who come and go. However, I won’t judge Jackson’s career based off of one season — better or worse — and we’ll let it play out however it does.
Ingram is solid and everyone knows it. He’s also 30 and people don’t tend to think of him when they think of the great backs in the league.
Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
It wasn’t much of a season for Kamara in 2019 — odd to say about a back who caught 81 passes — but we’ve come to expect much more from him. He rushed for 797 yards and five touchdowns and had 533 receiving yards; but Kamara also had 81 receptions in 2017 and 2018, with 826 yards and 709 yards respectively. He scored six touchdowns and fumbled four times compared to 31 touchdowns and two fumbles over his first two seasons combined. Brees is one of the oldest players in the league, though he’s yet to show any decline really.
Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
Maybe the closest thing we have today to a QB-RB combo where in the offseason you could make solid MVP cases for either. Prescott seems to be getting better as he controls more of the offense with a career-high 596 attempts in 2019. Elliott is a threat to rush for 2,000 yards next season because he’s always been a threat to do that. Maybe the biggest knock to them is that there are many who still wouldn’t put Prescott in the top eight for his position. Prescott led the NFL in DYAR over at FootballOutsiders and was fourth in DVOA, but in 2018 he was 25th and 19th in those categories. What’s next for him and Elliott?
Which team has the best QB-RB combo today?
This poll is closed