The reason, according to Rams coach Sean McVay, is quite simple.
“Me not being an idiot,” McVay said Wednesday.
The Rams have sputtered through a 7-5 season as McVay has been hesitant to commit to the run and eager to rely on the passing game. Gurley, once the focal point of McVay’s offense, has been relegated to a role player, sharing a portion of his workload with backups Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson Jr.
Until recently, that is.
Last Sunday, in a 34-7 win over the Arizona Cardinals, Gurley rushed for 95 yards and a touchdown in 19 carries. Two weeks earlier, Gurley tied a season high as he rushed for 97 yards in a season-best 25 carries in a 17-7 win over the Chicago Bears.
Gurley had at least 100 scrimmage yards in two of his past three games. The only other game he accumulated more than 100 scrimmage yards this season was in a Week 1 win over the Carolina Panthers.
“He’s done a nice job handling a bigger workload,” McVay said.
That should come as no surprise given Gurley is a two-time All Pro and three-time Pro Bowl selection, whom the Rams awarded a record-breaking four-year, $60 million extension, with $45 million in guarantees, before last season.
Quarterback Jared Goff chuckled when told that McVay called himself an idiot in regard to Gurley’s usage.
“He’s being hard on himself,” Goff said about McVay. “We all want to get Todd involved as much as possible. I think these last couple of weeks we’ve seen that, and good things tend to happen.”
McVay pointed to the Rams’ Week 10 loss to the Steelers as a wake-up call when it comes to Gurley, who was averaging 6.1 yards per carry but was kept on the sideline early in the fourth quarter, despite the Rams trailing 14-10. By the time Gurley was inserted late in the game, it was too late to utilize the run and the Rams lost 17-12.
“The Steelers game stands out in terms of where we were running the football well and you didn’t really give him a chance to get back going based on how that thing played out,” McVay said. “You always try to learn from your previous experiences.”
McVay denied Wednesday, as he has throughout the season, that Gurley has been on any sort of load management program.
“It has nothing to do with that,” McVay said. “It was really just, you’re just kind of working through the 2019 season — the best way to utilize all of our players and figuring out what our identity is.”
In 11 games, Gurley has averaged 58 yards in 14 carries, down from the 89 yards in 18 carries that he averaged in 2018, when he rushed for 1,251 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Gurley has rushed for 642 yards and 8 touchdowns and has caught 22 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown. He has yet to rush for more than 100 yards in a single game, something he accomplished six times in 2018.