After having heard Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' interview with KTVT's Bill Jones on Monday, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the Cowboys not-so-kindly old owner might finally be getting it when it comes to the ongoing drama with running back Ezekiel Elliott. Jones, as children often do, expressed a truth that he himself doesn't seem to understand.
“The point there is, you don’t have to have a rushing champion to win a Super Bowl. ... Emmitt was the first one to do it. ... That’s one of the dilemmas at running back is that the league knows that you can win Super Bowls and not have the Emmitt Smith back there or not have Zeke back there,” Jones said. “You’ve gotta do all of the things along with having Zeke that allow you to have other players so that you can win the Super Bowl. That’s what we’re going through.”
Every word of what Jones said above is true. The NFL is officially in the post-running back era. While a team's ability to run the ball effectively in specific, limited situations is important, the analytics that are slowly revolutionizing the way teams operate show that offenses that pass more are more successful.
Running backs, even elite ones like Elliott, burn out quicker than players at other positions and contribute less to the success of their teams relative to their counterparts at other positions. The Cowboys would've been better served taking Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey with the fourth pick of the 2016 draft instead of Elliott.
Since making the mistake of burning a premium pick on Elliott, the team, and the player, have made the best of it. Elliott has led the NFL in rushing yards in two of his three seasons in the league, and the Cowboys have gotten as much for their draft capital as possible, giving the ball to Elliott a league-high 868 times over that span.
Assuming he plays the entire 2019 season, Elliott stands to be in for similar usage this year. Given Jones' comments and the fact that Elliott might already be on the back side of his prime years, it would stand to reason that the Cowboys would be unlikely to give Elliott the long-term extension he craves.
It might stand to reason, but reason has never been Jones' strong suit.
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According to multiple reports Monday, Elliott is in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, where he intends to continue his preseason holdout until either he or the Cowboys give in. Elliott wants something similar to the $45 million guaranteed the Rams gave Todd Gurley II ahead of the 2018 season.
It might seem like the Cowboys have leverage over Elliott. He's got two years left on his rookie contract, and the Cowboys can fine him for every practice he misses moving forward. Nevertheless, Elliott's holdout appears destined to end with Jones caving.
Within 48 hours of Elliott beginning his holdout Friday, the team offered him a new deal, according to the NFL Network. That's not the move one would make if he or she planned to stand firm.
Jones knows that his team doesn't need Elliott. He said as much Monday. Just don't count on him listening to himself.