After nearly four years without a 100-yard rusher, Frank Gore finally broke the most infamous streak of the 2016 season in last week's dumbfounding collapse versus the Texans.
That accomplishment is little solace to the 33-year-old running back, spending his NFL swan song on a wheel-spinning 2-4 Colts outfit.
"I didn't come here for this," Gore lamented after Sunday's loss. "I came here to get into the tournament."
Indianapolis Star columnist Gregg Doyel described the weathered backfield star as "furious, frustrated almost to the point of tears" in the postgame locker room.
It's hard to blame Gore for feeling trapped on a poorly constructed Colts roster. He thought he was signing with a Super Bowl contender after Indianapolis reached the AFC Championship Game in January of 2015.
With the Nov. 1 trade deadline looming, it's the perfect time to survey the landscape of standout talents held hostage by the surrounding cast, coaching staff or combination thereof. With apologies to injured stars NaVorro Bowman, Sammy Watkins and Reshad Jones, below is our list of the top 10 trapped players.
1) Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams: The inspiration for this topic, Gurley managed the same stat line (14 carries, 58 yards) as Lions fourth-string running back Zach Zennerlast week. That pedestrian figure of 4.14 yards per carry was the best of the season for the 2015 Offensive Rookie of the Year. Gurley is averaging a league-low 2.91 yards per tote as the focal point of opposing defenses with little regard for Case Keenum's arm.
Since exploding for more than 125 yards in each of his first four NFL starts, Gurley has topped the century mark just once in 14 games, averaging a measly 3.45 yards on 254 carries in that span. The problem with Gurley's production isn't Todd Gurley. It starts with a poor run-blocking offensive line that affords the former Georgia star a league-low 1.2 yards before contact. The game film shows an explosive runner on the rare occasions when Gurley is given a crease to exploit at the line of scrimmage.
It's maddening to watch such a unique talent mired in a dysfunctional ground attack. If Gurley were operating behind Dallas' offensive line, he would be mentioned in the same breath with David Johnson, Le'Veon Bell, Ezekiel Elliott and LeSean McCoy.
2) Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts: There is a misguided notion that Luck should start shouldering a generous portion of the blame for the Colts' woes. That's pure poppycock. Since he arrived in Indianapolis, Luck has taken more hits than any other quarterback. He's never enjoyed a consistent running game to keep defenses honest. At times this season, the entire right side of his offensive line -- from center over to tackle -- has been composed of rookies. Breakout candidateDonte Moncrief is injured and 2015 first-round pick Phillip Dorsett has taken a backseat to undrafted newbie Chester Rogers, too often leaving Luck with journeyman blocking tight end Jack Doyle and undersized rookie scatback Josh Ferguson as the second and third targets in the passing game.
Luck has been the team's brightest light through six games, flashing sublime ball placement when given time to operate in the pocket. With T.Y. Hilton as his lone reliable option, Luck has led the Colts to the fifth-most points in the league. In analyzing Luck's value, the case of Atlanta's Matt Ryan is instructive. Did Ryan take a magic pill that transformed him from a 2015 liability into a 2016 MVP favorite? Football is the ultimate team sport. The performance of the quarterback cannot be extracted from that of his surrounding talent.
If you're seeking the root cause of the Colts' woes, start with the architect and the overseer of a threadbare roster.
3) Joe Thomas, OT, Cleveland Browns: The premier left tackle of the past decade has spent the prime of a Hall of Fame career on a perennial doormat with suspect surrounding talent and a carousel of overmatched quarterbacks. Although Cleveland finally has the makings of an intriguing offensive nucleus with Pro Bowl tight end Gary Barnidge, running backs Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson and game-breaking wideouts Terrelle Pryor and Corey Coleman, the Browns are still looking for their first win of the season as we approach Halloween.
This is a rebuilding organization stockpiling draft picks like the 1989 Dallas Cowboys. NFL Network's Courtney Fallon recently reported that the Browns are willing to trade "any All-Pro" -- an obvious nod to the six-time first-team All-Pro tackle. Thomas nearly landed in Denver at last year's trade deadline. Perhaps he will escape to a contender this time around.
4) Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago Bears: This wasn't how the Bears' franchise player envisioned his contract year playing out, battling Eddie Royal, Cameron Meredith and Zach Miller for targets on the league's 31st-ranked scoring offense. As a true No. 1 receiver and one of the league's most dangerous deep threats, Jeffery should be the focal point in Chicago. Imagine the numbers he would generate with a quarterback of Luck's caliber.
5) Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans: The "exotic smashmouth" offense is like an aging heavyweight boxer, bullying tomato cans such as the Lions, Dolphins and Browns but unable to pound quality opponents into submission. Mariota has shown progress after a disappointing September, but his lightning-quick release and run-action potential are going to waste in a ground-bound offense with receivers unable to win downfield and outside the numbers.
Mariota's scintillating pro debut was as exciting as any we've seen over the past decade. In the history of the NFL, he's only the second player ever to produce at least four four-touchdown performances in his first 17 career games. If he was paired with a more creative offensive mind, Mariota would be one of the most fun quarterbacks to watch.
6) DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans: The league's premier boundary receiver is a contortionist on the sidelines and in the corner of the end zone, consistently beating cornerbacks at the catch point. Last year, he rose above the underwhelming QB quartet of Brian Hoyer, Brandon Weeden, Ryan Mallett and T.J. Yates to become the first player ever to produce 100-yard receiving games with four different starting quarterbacks in the same season.
Through six games with free-agent bust Brock Osweiler this season, Hopkins ranks just 30th in receiving yards, topping the 75-yard mark just once. This wasn't what the 24-year-old had in mind when he ended his brief training-camp holdout to focus on a contract drive.
7) Allen Robinson, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars: Buoyed by a breakout season from Blake Bortles, Robinson led the NFL in plays of 20-plus yards last season, using his 6-foot-3 frame, astonishing 42-inch vertical leap and exceptional ball skills to post up smaller cornerbacks. Now Bortles' sloppy mechanics are backsliding to rookie-year form, sabotaging the offense and leaving Robinson out of the top 50 in big plays.
8) Cameron Wake, DE, Miami Dolphins: Wake has been as disruptive as any pass rusher since fleeing the Canadian league in 2009. Although he's managed just 1.5 sacks coming off of Achilles surgery this season, he has been a constant backfield presence, putting heat on opposing quarterbacks. Looking down the barrel of his mid-30s, Wake is unlikely to be a key cog on the next great Dolphins team. A contender in need of difference-making edge rusher (Dallas Cowboys?) should see if the four-time Pro Bowler is available for the right price.
9) Jarvis Landry, WR, Miami Dolphins: Landry is an interesting case. If he weren't the focal point of an aerial attack that lacks a legitimate No. 1 receiver and the ability to threaten downfield, he wouldn't have set an NFL record for most receptions in the first two seasons of a career. Landry's volume statistics have benefited from playing with Ryan Tannehill, but his ceiling is the best slot receiver in the game. Would any defense stand a chance of stopping Landry if he played the Julian Edelman role in Tom Brady's offense?
10) Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers: Rivers has outplayed Eli Manning since the two were swapped in a 2004 draft-day blockbuster. So why is the Giants quarterback widely viewed as a stronger Hall of Fame candidate? If the primary reason is two epic Super Bowl runs, the secondary issue is surrounding talent. As much as any elite quarterback of the past decade, Rivers has been held back by his supporting cast.
A year ago, he lost his top wideout and every member of his offensive line for stretches of the season. This year, injuries robbed him of No. 1 receiver Keenan Allen (again), veteran slot receiver Stevie Johnson and ultra-effective shotgun sidecar Danny Woodhead. He's still picking defenses apart with pinpoint passes to rookie tight end Hunter Henry, undrafted second-year receiver Tyrell Williams and speedster Travis Benjamin. Rivers' offense has scored the second-most points in the league through six games, but his team's record stands at just 2-4. Does he need to defect to another organization to embark on a Super Bowl run that will cement his Hall of Fame case?
MORE TRAPPED PLAYERS:Cameron Jordan, DE, New Orleans Saint; Lavonte David, OLB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Gerald McCoy, DT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Carlos Hyde, RB, San Francisco 49ers; Joe Staley, OT, San Francisco 49ers; Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans; Tavon Austin, WR, Los Angeles Rams.