Sunday afternoon will mark the end of what's been another disappointing season for the Los Angeles Rams marking the 10th straight year missing the playoffs, which is the third-longest current playoff drought in the NFL.
It will also signal the end of a sub-par second campaign for running back Todd Gurley, who enters the season finale against the Arizona Cardinals with just 845 rushing yards while averaging a meager 3.2 yards per carry. In fact, he has failed to topple more than 85 rushing yards while totaling less than 60 yards on nine occasion and greater than 4.0 yards per carry twice through the first 15 games.
Altogether, Gurley ranks 16th in rushing yards, 21st in yards per game (56.3), 39th in yards per attempt (3.2). He's also 32nd with just two rushes for 20 or more yards. On top of that, he places 37th out of 54 qualified players at his position with a 67.6 overall grade while faring worse in rushing situations ranking 39th at 64.6, according to Pro Football Focus.
The former 10th overall pick of the 2015 NFL Draft had set the bar high for himself after a stellar rookie campaign that earned him the NFL Offensive Rookie of Year award finishing third in the league with 1,106 rushing yards in just 12 games played.
This included being the first rookie running back to record 125 or more rushing yards in his first four starts while being just the third Rams' rookie running back to tally more than 1,000 yards in their first campaign. What was most impressive about this feat was that it occurred less than a year after tearing his ACL in his final year at Georgia.
All of this previous success had in many ways led to him judging his overall performance this season based solely through the scope of last year's historic individual success.
“Yeah, as a player you find yourself doing that. It’s just growing up from high school to college," Gurley said. "You’re like ‘Oh, I had 800 yards my freshman year, I should have 1,200 yards.’ So, you can never get stuck in the past and just worry about the future – what happened last year, happened last year or what happened last game, happened last game and you just kind of go from there.”
Despite these personal mental battles with his struggles on the field this season, Gurley has remained confident that he can finally break through with his first 100-yard rushing yard outing of the year against Arizona, who he racked up 146 yards on 19 carries in his first NFL start.
"I’ve been waiting for that one game every game," Gurley said. "But like I said, you just have to trust in the process. Even if something’s not going your way, you still have to work hard at it and just hope that it happens the next week. My mindset is still the same, just to go out there this weekend and try to give it my all. If we could make something happen this weekend, it would definitely be a good feeling.”
This is something that interim head coach John Fassel also echoed on Friday afternoon with his hopes set on seeing the All-Pro running back end a disappointing year on a high note potentially breaking the 1,000-rushing yard plateau.
“It would be great. I’d imagine from Todd’s perspective, it would almost be like a big sigh of relief," Fassel said. "But, finally – we talked about the stone cutter. That would be the epitome of the stone cutter, where for 15 weeks or 16 weeks, you just keep chipping away. Then, Week 17 would be that 101st blow for him where, finally, I got it.
"I think he needs 155 or something like that, to get his 1,000 yards, which would special for a season where maybe he didn’t get everything he wanted. But, to still say I got 1,000 yards, that would be a pretty spectacular feat. That would be one of the cool things to see guys achieve a goal that has been a real struggle to get.”
With all that in mind, the 22-year-old has found himself boiling over with frustration on a few occasions this season that all came to a head after the team's blowout loss to the Atlanta Falcons. That said, he has kept an optimistic outlook about his level of play moving forward beyond this year.
“I found myself a couple of times, the last couple of games getting a little frustrated," Gurley said. "But if you’re not getting frustrated then I don’t think you have the passion for the game. Just me not being content with myself and just knowing that I feel like I can do better as a player. As a team, I know we can do better.”
At the same time, he has taken to the sound advice from teammates and other players around the league that has helped him maintain a level head about his career.
“You get some pretty good advice. It’s kind of all the same, you know, just control what you can control, just stay patient," Gurley said. "Everybody’s not going to have eight good years in a row unless you’re Tom Brady. But every year is not going to be the year. I can’t judge myself off what I did last year because that was last year and this is a new year – a whole different team.
"You just have to be patient and just work hard. Like I said, just control what you can control and hope that you can just progress every game.”