What if Mark Richt is right and Todd Gurley returns to All-Pro form for Falcons in 2020?

Atlanta Falcons, NCAA Football
Mark Richt thinks Todd Gurley will look good rocking the Red and Black again.

Former Georgia Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt thinks the world of running back Todd Gurley.

Gurley spent three years in Athens playing for Richt from 2012 to 2014. During Gurley’s freshman season, Georgia came up one play short of playing for a national championship. The 2012 SEC Championship game defeat to the Alabama Crimson Tide will forever live in infamy in the minds of Dawg Nation. After five years with the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams, Gurley returns to Georgia.

Despite a degenerative knee condition, Gurley will suit up for the NFL‘s Atlanta Falcons in his sixth year out of UGA. Though a Tarboro, North Carolina native, Gurley first made a name for himself playing in The Peach State for Richt over in Athens. Richt, as well as two of his former Georgia teammates in quarterback Hutson Mason and running back Keith Marshall, spoke highly of him.

In Kelsey Conway’s feature for AtlantaFalcons.com, Richt has a strong believe in Gurley’s ability to be an All-Pro again in his NFL career. “I would not be shocked to see him end up being All-Pro again if used the right way,” said Richt. What if Richt is right and Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter puts his star running back in the best position possible to succeed in Atlanta uniform?

Todd Gurley can be the most complete running back Atlanta has had in years.

Though the Falcons have had many great running backs over the years, from William Andrews to Gerald Riggs to Jamal Anderson to Warrick Dunn to Michael Turner to Devonta Freeman, the Dirty Birds haven’t had a playmaker out of the backfield who can run, receive and pass protect as well as Gurley can. His size and versatility makes him an upgrade over his predecessor Freeman.

“When one of your best players on the team is one of your hardest workers, it makes a difference with the rest of the group,” said Richt. Gurley’s former starting quarterback from 2014 Mason echoed similar sentiments about his former teammate’s work ethic. “You’ve got this superstar, but he’s got a work ethic like he’s a nobody almost,” said Mason.

Marshall was recruited alongside of Gurley out of North Carolina to headline the 2012 recruiting class. While Marshall was the five-star, it has been Gurley who had the superior college and pro career over his former Georgia roommate. Through the ups and mostly downs of his football career, Marshall knows first-hand what type of player the Falcons are getting in Gurley.

“When it comes to football, he’s as talented as anyone you’ve ever seen,” said Marshall. “I’m excited to see what he’s going to do in Atlanta. I think it will be great for the city, I think it will be great for him to get a resurgence. I’m excited to see what happens.”

Admittedly, Gurley has a long way to go to achieve All-Pro status in the NFL again. In the NFC South alone, he’ll have to prove to the NFL world he’s a better running back over Christian McCaffrey of the Carolina Panthers and Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints. Given what we’ve seen out of Gurley since the 2018 playoff run, him being an All-Pro again is wishful thinking.

However, he can be the featured back in an Atlanta offense in dire need of being able to run the ball. Pounding the rock has been an issue for the team since the Falcons went to Super Bowl 51. They had the Kyle Shanahan zone blocking scheme working wonders for them, as Freeman was a two-time Pro Bowler in that system and quarterback Matt Ryan won NFL MVP in 2016.

However, Atlanta has had great success as a team in recent presidential election years, dating back to 2004. The Falcons made their second trip to the NFC Championship in 2004, winning the NFC South for the first time since 2002’s realignment with Dunn as the star running back and Michael Vick as the team’s superstar at quarterback.

2008 was Ryan’s rookie year out of Boston College. The Dirty Birds had a winning record and made the NFC playoffs for the first time since 2004. Four years later in 2012, Atlanta had the best record in the NFC and played in its third NFC title bout. Blowing that 17-0 lead at halftime still makes Falcons fans mad. And we all know what happened back in 2016 for this NFL franchise.

Next: Which NFL offenses will take a giant leap forward in 2020?

Is it merely coincidence, a trend or a pattern? Does it really matter? What matters is Gurley giving the Falcons well over 1,000 all-purpose yards and some much-needed viability in the ground game in the red zone. He has potentially three future Pro Football Hall of Famers on offense with him in Ryan, wide receiver Julio Jones and center Alex Mack. What if Gurley is an All-Pro in 2020?

Richt has been wrong about a lot of stuff before, but Dirty Bird Nation sure hopes he’s right.

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