Sometimes an athlete is so good that even when they’re having a good season by their own lofty standards, it’s hard to truly appreciate the accomplishment.
In MLB, consensus-best-pitcher-of-the-last-decade Clayton Kershaw has to strike out a whole lot of batters in any given year for it to stand out more than any other dominant season. In the NBA, Stephen Curry has to rain a ridiculous amount of three-pointers for anyone to actually take note.
Maybe that’s why we’re not talking much about the outrageous, possibly historic numbers Todd Gurley is putting up so far for the Los Angeles Rams in 2018. During his NFL Offensive Player of the Year campaign a year ago, Gurley led the league with 19 touchdowns and 2,093 yards from scrimmage. He’s on track to soar past those numbers this season.
On Sunday, Gurley was unstoppable against the Denver Broncos. He finished with 208 rushing yards — 49 more than any other game in his career — making him the first Rams player to top 200 yards rushing since Marshall Faulk did it in 2001.
Six games into the season, Gurley has 870 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns. He’s on pace to finish the year with 1,661 rushing yards, 659 receiving yards, 24 rushing touchdowns, and five receiving touchdowns.
Those are numbers that would be hard for any player to beat in the MVP race and aren’t far off from marks that would land Gurley in the NFL history books:
Which records are within reach?
As passing statistics have shot through the roof in the NFL, rushing records have become more difficult to break. There are 44 times when a player has reached 360 rushing attempts in a season, but just three — DeMarco Murray (2014), Michael Turner (2008), and Adrian Peterson (2008) — have done it in the last decade.
That’s put records like Emmitt Smith’s 18,355 career rushing yards into unbreakable territory. Even getting to 2,000 rushing yards in a season — something seven players have ever done — may be a thing of the past. In 2017, only nine cracked 1,000 and Kareem Hunt led the league with 1,327 rushing yards.
So unless Gurley, who’s on pace for 344 carries, starts rattling off more 200-yard games like his 208 rushing yards in Week 6, he’ll probably fall way short of Eric Dickerson’s record of 2,105 rushing yards in a single season.
But with his numbers as a receiver sprinkled in, Gurley has a shot at a few other records:
Rushing and receiving touchdowns in a season: 31 (LaDainian Tomlinson, 2006)
Gurley’s pace: 29
Catching up to Tomlinson’s record of 28 rushing touchdowns in a season isn’t impossible given Gurley’s current pace of 24, but the more realistic number to chase is 31.
Gurley already has two receiving touchdowns, so he’ll probably finish with more than the three Tomlinson posted during his unforgettable 2006 season.
Even approaching Tomlinson’s 31 touchdowns would be an monstrous feat, though. The last player to have more than 20 rushing and receiving touchdowns in a season was Randy Moss in 2007 when he had 23 touchdown grabs. Only five players — Tomlinson, Shaun Alexander, Priest Holmes, Marshall Faulk, and Emmitt Smith — have made it to 25.
Gurley’s 19 touchdowns led the NFL in 2017, but with 11 already this year, he’s likely to cruise past that number and into territory nobody has touched in over a decade.
Yards from scrimmage in a season: 2,509 (Chris Johnson, 2009)
Gurley’s pace: 2,320
Johnson was the second-to-last to reach 2,000 rushing yards in a season and it might stay that way for a long time. But an underrated aspect of his historic year in 2009 is that he added 50 receptions for 503 yards — giving him a total of 2,509 yards from scrimmage.
That average of 156.8 yards per game would be a challenge to catch, but Gurley’s not that far off at 145 yards per game.
There are opportunities left on the schedule
Gurley went off against the Broncos in Week 6, but who hasn’t shredded the Denver defense lately? Before they gave up more than 200 yards rushing to Gurley, they let Jets running back Isaiah Crowell do the same thing in Week 5.
But Gurley has also faced the Chargers, Vikings, and Seahawks — three relatively tough defenses. There are more hurdles ahead, like another tilt against Seattle and December games against the Bears and Eagles.
There are also more favorable matchups waiting for Gurley. The Rams have the Chiefs in Week 11, a defense on pace to allow the most yards in NFL history. There’s also a rematch against the Cardinals, who gave up three touchdowns to Gurley in a 34-0 blowout in Week 2.
Gurley’s biggest opponent may actually be the Rams, though. The team is now 6-0 — three games ahead of the 3-3 Seahawks for the NFC West lead. In the likely scenario that Los Angeles clinches early, Gurley may not see nearly as many touches late in the season.
He’s going to need more days like his explosive performance against the Broncos to have a shot at the record books. But even if Gurley falls short, we should all take a second to appreciate just how absurd his numbers are right now.