Todd Gurley has been waiting … and waiting … and waiting.
Likewise Rams coaches, players and fans.
Gurley, the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year in 2015, has failed to break free for a single outstanding performance in a season that ends Sunday at the Coliseum against the Arizona Cardinals.
A year after rushing for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns in 13 games, Gurley has run for only 845 yards and six touchdowns in 15 games.
“I’ve been waiting for that one game every game,” Gurley said Friday, adding, “If we could make something happen this weekend, it would definitely be a good feeling.”
The matchup against Arizona (6-8-1) is Gurley’s final opportunity to show the form that made him one of the NFL’s fastest-rising stars going into the season.
He has rarely flashed it against defensive schemes designed almost solely to stop Gurley and force the Rams’ worst-in-the-NFL offense to beat opponents with passes.
Interim coach John Fassel will take satisfaction if Gurley can produce his best game in the finale.
“It would be great,” Fassel said. “I’d imagine from Todd’s perspective, it would almost be like a big sigh of relief.”
It’s mostly been groans of frustration and anger for Gurley as the Rams (4-11) lost 10 of their last 11 games.
A back known for his breakaway ability does not have a run longer than 24 yards.
“I found myself a couple of times, the last couple of games getting a little frustrated,” he said. “But if you’re not getting frustrated then I don’t think you have the passion for the game.”
Gurley is nearly three weeks removed from the Rams’ 42-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, when his frustration boiled to the surface. He jawed at rookie quarterback Jared Goff and a coach on the sideline and left for the locker room well ahead of the rest of the team at halftime. He said after that it looked like the Rams were running a “middle-school offense.”
Gurley stood by his remarks before the next game and has tried throughout the season to remain patient. Former and current NFL running backs have offered advice.
“It’s kind of all the same,” he said. “You know, just control what you can control, just stay patient. Everybody’s not going to have eight good years in a row, unless you’re... [New England Patriots quarterback] Tom Brady.”
Gurley, 22, does not absolve himself of blame. Asked if there was anything he could have done different to produce more, he said he had made mistakes and attempted to correct them.
“But other than that, not really,” he said. “I felt like I’ve prepared myself every week and tried to play as hard as possible.”
Gurley said he has learned not to annually compare seasons and achievements.
“As a player you find yourself doing that,” he said. “It’s just growing up from high school to college. 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.”
Despite his struggles, a 1,000-yard season is still within Gurley’s reach: He needs 155 yards to achieve the feat.
It qualifies as a longshot for a player who has not rushed for more than 85 yards in a game this season, and has only one 100-yard game in his last 23 starts.
But Fassel said he would give Gurley every opportunity to achieve the goal. Offensive lineman Rodger Saffold also is on board.
Next season, a new coach and staff will try to maximize Gurley’s talent.
The struggles Gurley experienced in 2016, “in a real twisted way” should serve him well moving forward, Fassel said.
“It’s really good for a coach or a player that’s been successful to have to go through a tough time, and kind of see really what they’re made of and see how they respond to either the critique, or lack of production from what they’re used to,” Fassel said, adding, “He’s handled it really well, and I think it’ll be good for him going forward to go into the offseason with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder and a little extra hunger, rather than coming off a lot of accolades.”
Gurley indicated that he would wait until the season ends before looking ahead to 2017 and the new coaching situation and offensive scheme that will be installed.
“I really haven’t even thought about,” he said. “Honestly, just trying to finish these last couple games off and make sure I end this last Week 17 on a good note.
“Get a win and just try to do as good as possible.”