Cowboys’ fans getting robbed by inactivity

By David Mullen

As April turns to May, the Texas Rangers are the reigning World Champions. While off to a mediocre start, which was anticipated due to a rash of early season injuries, the Rangers are still near the top of the AL West. As they await the healthy return of third baseman Josh Jung and starting pitchers Max Scherzer, Cody Bradford, Tyler Mahle and two-time Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom mid to late season, Rangers fans are undaunted.

Ezekiel Elliott is returning to the Dallas Cowboys.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

In the midst of a testy and physically grinding playoff series against the Paul George, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and the hobbling Kawhi Leonard-led Los Angeles Clippers, the Dallas Mavericks remain competitive in a talent-laden Western Conference. It’s a tough road ahead but Mavs fans are hopeful.

The Dallas Stars started the Western Conference playoffs as the No. 1 seed. But as fate would have it, they drew the stiffest first round competition in the defending Stanley Cup Champion Vegas Golden Knights. Defying long odds, the Stars won two games in Vegas and are trying to gut it out over a challenging Vegas squad. With a series win, the path through the playoffs could actually become easier. Stars fans are confident.   

Coming off a 12-win season and early playoff exit, the Dallas Cowboys have many holes to fill coming into the 2024 season, including a glaring need at running back. Thus far, they have signed eight-year veteran Ezekiel Elliott for a return engagement in Dallas while his career appears in decline. 

Elliott joins an unimpressive group of running backs including Royce Freeman, Rico Dowdle, Deuce Vaughn and Hunter Luepke. Cowboys’ fans are befuddled. 

Tyler Guyton got a chance to tour The Star on April 26 with his parents, and get a feel for his new home.
Photo courtesy of Mike Leslie/Facebook/via The Star

So far this offseason, the Cowboys have lost tackle Tyron Smith, RB Tony Pollard, WR Michael Gallup,  center Tyler Biadasz and defensive linemen Dante Fowler, Neville Gallimore, Johnathan Hankins and Dorance Armstrong, while signing Elliott and linebacker Eric Kendricks. GM Jerry Jones said the Cowboys are “all in” on free agency. It looks like Dallas is “all out.” The Cowboys are behind the velvet rope trying to get into the club. 

In 2023, after Pollard (who signed with the Tennessee Titans) and Dowdle, the next three leading rushers were QB Dak Prescott and wide receivers CeeDee Lamb and Kavontae Turpin. Reportedly, Jones, 81, has told anyone who will listen that he “sees remaining tread on Elliott’s tires” and that “he’s good enough to be a running back for us and play for the Cowboys,” which doesn’t speak well of the current roster. 

“He’s good enough to be a starter.” 

Like holding on to head coach Mike McCarthy and building the team around Prescott despite playoff futility, Jones shows he is unwilling to adapt to change. Time to turn in, Mr. Jones. “Matlock” is over. Enjoy a glass of warm milk. The Cowboys’ most glaring weakness may not be at running back, but at general manager.     

Running back is a young man’s position. Since 1970, players more than 30-years-old account for less than 50 1,000-yard rushing seasons, including multiple times by Hall of Famers Walter Payton, John Riggins and Emmitt Smith. Elliott is no Emmitt. Only one in every 14 1,000-yard seasons in the last 55 years have been accomplished by running backs over 30. Elliott turns 29 in July.

The NFL Draft was April 25 through April 27. With eight picks, Jones and the Cowboys inexplicably still didn’t draft a running back. Granted, this was not a deep draft for the position, but young bodies are better than committing to a familiar player whose average gain per carry has fallen off dramatically. Elliott averaged just 3.5 yards last season in 17 games (five starts) with New England. 

Why does Cowboys football matter this time of year when the other local teams are in full swing? Despite the success of the area baseball, basketball and hockey teams, Dallas is football country and the NFL is unquestionably the most popular sport in America. 

On Day One of the 2024 NFL Draft, TV coverage across ABC, ESPN and the NFL Network drew roughly 12 million viewers, according to Sports Business Journal. More people watched April’s NFL Draft than the 2023 World Series and the NBA and Stanley Cup Finals. 

Three of the Cowboys eight draft picks were offensive linemen. First round pick Tyler Guyton of Oklahoma, who is 6-foot, 7-inches and 328 pounds, appears to have potential as a pass protector and is slated to replace the departed Smith at left tackle. Gayton played right tackle in college. 

Third round pick Cooper Beebe from Kansas State is an All-American guard projected to be an NFL center. Seventh round Nathan Thomas of Louisiana is a big-bodied tackle. Late round picks rarely make the final roster.

“Why do you rob banks?” Jones told The Athletic after drafting three offensive linemen in a lineman rich NFL Draft. “Because that’s where the money is.”

Successful teams like the Kansas City Chiefs, San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens have strong running games. Entering the 2024 season, the Cowboys are without a running game. That’s not getting away with a crime. That’s spending a season in solitary confinement and it’s Cowboy fans that are being robbed.