Ezekiel Elliott has been roundly criticized for his performance in Dallas’ 42-17 loss in Denver this past weekend – and not just because he rushed nine times for eight yards.
He also quit on his team.
Yes, with the Cowboys trailing 28-10, Dak Prescott was intercepted by Broncos cornerback Chris Harris – and Elliott, who was standing right by Harris, made no effort to tackle him.
Emmitt Smith did not see this play, but he’s heard what people have said about it.
It’s not positive.
“For the folks who are commenting on it – and these are former players – they know what they saw, and they know what it’s like in the locker room if you do something that’s not customary on the football field,” Smith said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “People see certain things, certain traits. They know that come Monday, when that film is on and they’re watching that film, they’re seeing every man’s performance: who’s performing well, who’s getting beat, how bad they’re getting beat, who let it down, who did not run after the interception – they see everything. So it’s an indictment on an individual by his own peers, and that is never a good feeling. And so, that part, I think every player has the right to earn the respect of his peers. That’s one thing you don’t ever want to lose is the respect of your peers.”
Then again, Elliott isn’t the first offensive player to not chase down an interception.
“I’ve seen quarterbacks not chase after interceptions,” Smith said, laughing. “I’ve seen Dan Marino just flat-out walk off the field (after) an interception. It happens. But as an athlete, one of the best athletes on the football field, I don’t think players want to see that.”
On the other hand, maybe Elliott was smart to do nothing.
“I’ve also seen Terrell Davis tear his knee up chasing after an interception,” Smith said. “So there’s so much going on onto the football field. Me personally, I wouldn’t look at this as an indictment on Zeke. I think what’s bringing more heat on Zeke is not just that; I think it’s so many other things, too. I think people are hearing his name in such a negative light. Anytime something shows up now, they’re going to point it out. That’s unfortunate for him in this particular situation, and he has to do things to overcome that.”
Elliott was also asked to reflect on his playing days: specifically, the 1995 Super Bowl. Daryl “Moose” Johnson said the Cowboys won that Super Bowl in spite of their coaching.
“Yes, I do. Yes, I do,” Smith said. “And I understand why I think he said that because for me, as a player, when I look at the ’94 season, it may have been one of the most challenging seasons for us because we were not as focused. We were completely distracted by a number of different things, and we were nowhere near as sharp. And probably we had lost that edge or that hunger all because we had won back-to-back Super Bowls.”
Indeed, the Cowboys won the Super Bowl in 1992 and 1993 under Jimmy Johnson. But in 1994, under Barry Switzer, they lost to San Francisco, 38-28, in the NFC Championship.
“Not having that edge or that focus or being distracted enough allowed for too much play to come in. You got to have all those things,” Smith said. “That loss to San Francisco in ’94 helped us refocus, feel the sting of a loss in the NFC Championship Game and the loss of an opportunity to go for a third Super Bowl, and it brought that hunger back that we needed and that fight back that we needed to go back again. That’s why he says in spite of. Because at the end of the day, I think in our minds we said, ‘Forget who our head coach is. We know the system. We know what to do as players.’ I think for the first time we actually took ownership. I think that’s where he’s coming from.”