The Dallas Cowboys are in deep trouble this season. Even among an uncharacteristically weak NFC East, they’re spiraling to the point of making genuinely bad defenses look great. The loss of Dak Prescott to a terrifying ankle injury was a brutal blow to a year that had already spiraled out of control.
Ezekiel Elliott’s uncharacteristic fumbles are a major part of that story. Elliott has never made these types of mistakes. But unlike many players in similar situations, he owns up to it. If there’s any hope for America’s Team to turn things around, it likely starts with the beleaguered running back’s leadership.
Ezekiel Elliott is in the middle of the worst stretch of his career
CBS Sports reports that Elliott was directly responsible for putting his team in a 14-0 hole during a recent game against the Arizona Cardinals. That’s a rare weight for a RB to carry, to say nothing of the culprit being a superstar like Elliott. This is, objectively, the nadir of his career to date.
The extent to which this is out of the norm can’t be understated. Last season, Elliott fumbled three times across 16 games. This year, he’s already up to five, with two in a single game. It’s enough to demoralize anyone, set them toward a petulant attitude with the press. Or, worse yet, have them displace their ire on their own locker room.
The mistakes of Elliot alone were enough to hand a rapidly improving Kyler Murray and his Arizona Cardinals offense a huge cushion to play with early. With the Cowboys’ offense in this sordid condition, it was more of a matter of how badly they lost to that team.
But this team has also been exposed by their own division, making awful squads like the Washington Football Team look far better than they are.
How Ezekiel Elliott handles his mistakes on the field
Elliott was always the bright spot on these Cowboys. Even in failure, he still asserts himself in a way that draws positive attention to him. He hasn’t given up on himself or his team, but he’s not being delusional about it.
NBC Sports reports that Elliott took full, public responsibility for his foibles. “[I’ve been] studying my fumbles and seeing where things went wrong and what I can do to keep that ball tighter and have better ball security,” Elliott said at the post game presser.
He notes that in his high school days, before he was the superstar RB we all know, he made many mistakes. That’s where he learned this approach.
He also apologized to his team directly. “I just wanted to let them know how terrible I felt,” Elliot said after the Cardinals game. “I told them that I was sorry and I promise [to improve].” Given how abnormal this stretch has been compared to the rest of his career, we have every reason to believe he means it.
Why the Dallas Cowboys should follow this approach to improving
On that Monday night game, Ezekiel Elliott had the rare opportunity to experienced getting benched over his dismal performance. That he mentally recovered rapidly from that, and was named to start the next game, speaks volumes about his character. It’s an approach to the game that the rest of the Cowboys, the offense, in particular, need to embrace right now.
Their true leader, Prescott, is out for the year. Elliott is not only the biggest remaining name on the offense, but he’s a key locker room leader. Backup QB Andy Dalton is a steady presence, and well-liked around the league as Heavy reports. But he hasn’t been the panacea for this team’s woes. It’ll take a team-wide dedication to forget the awful start to this season and moving on completely fresh, just like Elliott has.