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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Cowboys Were Not Ready for Life Without Zeke

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Jason Garrett, head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.

It would be painfully obvious to say that the Dallas Cowboys will miss Ezekiel “Zeke” Elliot on the field.

Last year, he was the focal point for a Cowboy team that took the league by storm and made one of the NFL’s proudest franchises relevant again. Now, Dallas has to find ways to win without Elliot for the remainder of the 2017 season.

After being suspended at the beginning of the season, Elliot continued to fight the decision until he no longer could. This leaves Dallas in a difficult position: fighting for a playoff spot without their best player.

Before I continue, it is important to understand that the Cowboys are far from a bad team. They are built with a terrific offensive line, an extremely talented young quarterback, and a defense that gets better with each passing game. The Cowboys are built to be a contender for years to come, as they should be.

This year should be a write-off for them. It’s not that they are inept or untalented, it’s just that a lot of what the Cowboys are able to do goes through Elliot.

I like to think of it this way: if you took the oil out of a car’s engine, how would it run? Not very well. It would be clunky and eventually break down. That is what Elliot is for the Cowboys offense—the oil that allows the engine to run. It’s not good for any team to rely on one offensive talent this much, especially in a sport as team-oriented as football. This problem was caused by Jason Garrett, longtime head coach for the Cowboys, who has allowed the team to be so reliant on Elliot, despite having a very talented quarterback that won Offensive Rookie of The Year last season.

Of course, the Cowboys have had to deal with the injury to their Pro Bowl left tackle, Tyron Smith, through the first two games of the Elliot suspension, but it certainly feels like the issue is bigger than an offensive line. It’s hard to judge this, since the Smith injury and Elliot suspension have coincided thus far, but the Cowboys have struggled to put up numbers, scoring only 14 total points and two touchdowns the past two weeks combined.

Ultimately, this problem falls on three people: Elliot, Garrett, and Jerry Jones, owner of the Cowboys.

Elliot, of course, is responsible for committing the act of domestic violence, but further than that, Elliot and Jones delayed the seemingly inevitable. Despite the NFL having some clear evidence of Elliot’s crime, the ever-feisty Jones and Elliot led a crusade taken right off of the pages of Tom Brady’s book.

However, this was about more than deflated footballs.

Instead of just taking the suspension at the beginning of the season, they got Elliot to play the first eight games of the season, and the Cowboys went 5-3.

In the first six games, the Cowboys went 3-3. With the three wins coming against a 2-8 New York Giants team, a David Johnson-less Arizona Cardinals team, and a 1-9 San Francisco 49ers team, the argument could be made that the Cowboys would have had the same record with or without Elliot. Instead, they took the suspension heading into a game against the Atlanta Falcons, followed by one against the Philadelphia Eagles. They lost both and now will have to play the Los Angeles Chargers, Washington Redskins, and Oakland Raiders during this span.

Garrett’s reliance on his young running back—not his young quarterback—caused this suspension to blow up in their face as well. Instead of preparing for life without Elliot, he built a playbook around a player that isn’t there when they needed him most.

I hope the Cowboys learned their lesson here: it’s important to check the metaphorical oil that allows your team to run smoothly, because right now, the Cowboys are sputtering all the way to the mechanic, and they’re getting passed by other teams while they sit in the breakdown lane.