Ezekiel Elliott

With all that is going on in America, including his personal bout with COVID, Ezekiel Elliott is upset about (of all things) several NFL media pundits saying last week that he has lost a step and is not among the NFL’s highest echelon of running backs.

“Check the stats,” he wrote during a Twitter storm.

“Since I entered this league, I have dominated year in, year out. Put some RESPECT on my name.”

Over a four-year period, that’s true. His first three seasons earned him a contract that made him the highest-paid running back in the NFL. But, following a holdout and missing most of the preseason, Elliott turned in his least productive season in 2019.

Elliott averaged a career-low 84.8 rushing yards per game and 111.1 scrimmage yards per game last season. His 22.2 touches per game were also the lowest of his career.

It also doesn’t help his profile that the Cowboys woefully underachieved last year, ended the season at 8-8 and did not qualify for the playoffs.

Elliott did rush for 1,357 yards last season, which was fourth in the NFL. Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey was the lone running back to tally more yards from scrimmage (total of rushing and receiving yards) than Elliott.

In his four-year career, Elliott led the NFL in touches (1,169), rushing yards (5,405) and scrimmage yards (7,024) and ranks second to the L.A. Rams’ Todd Gurley in rushing touchdowns (48) and scrimmage touchdowns (60).

He borrowed a lyric from artist Yo Gotti when he wrote, “Women lie. Men lie.” He continued, “The stats don’t. Go do your homework.”

Elliott did support his fellow running backs by writing, “There are a lot of great backs in this league but I don’t understand why the media has to talk down on my game just to uplift other backs.”

“We all are talented football players and can ball.”

Gus Frerotte, a retired journeyman NFL quarterback who was Elliott’s coach at John Burroughs, said all his former star needs to hush critics is more playoff wins.

“He’s with the Cowboys organization, he’s proved that he’s an elite running back. I think that they haven’t gone deep into the playoffs and won those games they need to win,” Frerotte told CBS Sports Radio.

“Until they do that, you’re always going to have that type of criticism.

“I feel like Zeke can break through. They need leadership from him and Dak. They’re going to have a new coach in Mike McCarthy, and I think Mike is going to try to solidify some of that stuff.”

Which brings us to the quarterback in question.

A step Dak

Let’s be honest. If someone offered any of us about $34 million in annual salary with $100 million guaranteed to do a job we like and excel at, we’d run through a door to sign the deal.

But Prescott doesn’t want to sign a deal that is five years in length, and the Cowboys reported to offer to the QB insists on at least a five-year commitment.

It’s not the years, folks. It’s Jerry Jones, owner of the franchise.

If Prescott leads Dallas deep into the postseason, Jones will have to pay up AND shut up. Prescott will make $31.4 million this season playing under the “franchise player” tag. That escalates by 20 percent in 2021 if he and Cowboys can’t reach a deal during the offseason.

The Cowboys will not be able afford that without wrecking the salary cap scale – which would mean not being able to retain young players and/or sign top-level free agents.

Jones and Prescott know one thing for certain and another for sure; if the Cowboys falter is 2020, Prescott won’t be the team’s quarterback in 2021.

Yet, just as he supported Jones when he threatened to fire any player that knelt during the national anthem in 2017, Prescott is publicly presenting a good-guy image.

“I’m a Cowboy and couldn’t be happier. ... I look forward to working along Coach McCarthy, the staff, and my teammates to be the best team we can be in pursuit to our goal of a Super Bowl,” he told USA TODAY.

I’m not alone in thinking choppy waters lie ahead for the Cowboys/Prescott relationship.

“This won’t be business as usual. There are cracks in the foundation,” wrote Cowboys longtime reporter David Moore.

“You can’t spend more than 16 months trying to reach a deal, fail, then have both sides claim there’s no emotional fallout. You can’t watch friends and teammates Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper and DeMarcus Lawrence receive lucrative, long-term contracts and not feel left out.”

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk must have had me in mind when he wrote, “Some think the Cowboys won’t tag Dak next year.”

“If they don’t, he’ll be able to pick his next team, unfettered by the Cowboys. That could mean the Jets or the Patriots or the Steelers (if Ben Roethlisberger retires) or the Colts or the Jaguars or the Raiders or Washington or the Bears or the Lions or the Saints or the Panthers or the 49ers.

“And then the Cowboys would have to find someone else to play quarterback.”

Maybe that’s exactly what Jones wants to happen.

Time to talk

Speaking of Jones, all the NFL is waiting for him to speak about the possibility of players taking a knee during the national anthem and the robust Black Lives Matter movement.

Several Cowboys, who don’t have the respective last names of Elliott and Prescott, are hinting that the peaceful, lawful, respectful protests are going to happen.

Jones has until the beginning of next week to prepare his most-awaited statement. He always holds court on the official first day of training camp. If he passes this year, it will not be because he does not want to discuss Prescott’s future with the Cowboys.

He’ll either abandon his “toe on the line,” philosophy on anthem protests or drive the majority of his fan base by crazy by changing his stance.

Stay tuned for the next exciting chapter of “Days of Our Cowboys” or “The Cowboys and the Restless,” or “As the Cowboys Turn.”

HBCU blues

The Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) has joined the Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference (MEAC) in announcing that all fall sports seasons are postponed – at least until spring.

The respective conferences are comprised of 23 respective Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and are following the path of the Ivy League and Patriot League in shutting down fall sports – including the money-making football programs.

“Obviously this is an arduous decision because everyone wants to have a fall season for student-athletes, fans and others,” MEAC Commissioner Dennis Thomas said.

Commissioner Charles McClelland and the SWAC issued a release that included, “The continued increase of COVID-19 cases across many portions of the league’s geographic footprint and Southern regions of the country played a significant role in the council’s decision.”

The decision was also based on “data that suggests African-American communities have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Howard University President Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick, who also chairs the MEAC Council of Presidents and Chancellors, said, “Most certainly, we’re going to take some type of a financial hit.”

“(But) we think the health and safety of our athletes and the staff around them is the thing that’s most important for us, so we needed to make sure that we took care of them.”

The Reid Roundup

The St. Louis MLS expansion franchise will not take the field until 2023 – which is probably a blessing in disguise financially. Its owners announced this week that it will unveil colors, crest and team name next month. How about the “Fighting McCloskeys?”… First-year manager Gabe Kapler and four players for the San Francisco Giants took a knee Monday night before the team’s exhibition game against the Oakland Athletics. Joining Kapler were Mike Yastrzemski, Austin Slater, Jaylin Davis and Antoan Richardson. Yastrzemski is the grandson of Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski. Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford put his hands on the shoulders of Davis and Richardson...Would someone please tell L.A. Lakers center Dwight Howard to quit complaining about wearing a mask in the NBA bubble in Orlando or just go home. The Lakers don’t need his sorry stuff anyway ... Zion Williamson left the New Orleans Pelicans because of a family medical emergency. The move comes as more detail comes to light about potential payoffs to family members in return for him attending Duke ... Texas has delayed football by a month at its large high schools. If that isn’t proof this COVID think isn’t a hoax, nothing is … Lewis Hamilton won the Hungarian Gran Prix last Sunday, his second win in three Formula 1 races this season, and when asked, promptly told reporters, “There is definitely not enough support for (Black Lives Matter.) It is like it has gone off the agenda. It is lacking leadership.”

Alvin A. Reid was honored as the 2017 “Best Sports Columnist – Weeklies” in the Missouri Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest and is a New York Times contributor. He is a panelist on the Nine Network program, Donnybrook, a weekly contributor to “The Charlie Tuna Show” on KFNS and appears monthly on “The Dave Glover Show” on 97.1 Talk.” His Twitter handle is @aareid1.

 

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