The collective hearts of Cowboys Nation were shattered into a million pieces as Tony Romo walked into the tunnel at Lincoln Financial Field with his hand on his collarbone as ominous clouds hovered in the air on September 20th, 2015.
When word trickled out that Romo had in fact broken his collarbone… the resolve of Cowboys Nation reared its legendary force as hope for the season remained despite the fact that we were, two weeks into a season rich with Super Bowl hopes, suddenly down our offense's top two weapons (Dez Bryant being injured the week before in a last-second victory over the Giants). “This team will survive until Tony comes back,” was our battle cry.
Such would not be the case as the Cowboys would go on to lose seven consecutive games without number nine behind center. It was, being blunt here, a pathetic display of just how much the team needs Tony Romo to have literally one modicum of success. Romo would return on a day with actual ominous clouds as it rained in a victory over the Miami Dolphins while Tony's resurgence gave us visions of sunshine once more.
The exclamation point of misery was put on the season when Tony Romo laid on a football field writhing in pain for the second time in a season – just one week after our hopes were reincarnated. There would be no sunshine in 2015… just cold and dark despair.
As it stands the current roster of the Dallas Cowboys seems like one that could in fact challenge for Super Bowl supremacy. This is what makes the club's inability to overcome the loss of Tony Romo, and Dez Bryant in stretches, all the more frustrating. With so much supposed talent everywhere else – why couldn't they do more?
The ineptitude of just a year ago was enough to earn the Cowboys the 4th Overall Pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. While many believe the selection, The Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott, is an indication that the Cowboys are doing all that they can to aid Tony Romo himself… I began thinking recently that perhaps they are doing everything they can to thrive in a situation without Romo.
I'm not projecting into the future here. I'm speaking specifically in the instance that Tony Romo suffers an injury that causes him to miss time. Ezekiel Elliott helps with that. How, though?
The simple answer is that thanks to Zeke's supreme skill set running the ball, whoever is calling the signals has significantly less responsibility on their shoulders and the overall composition of the team isn't compromised too severely. How can I be so confident in that?
Zeke has done it before.
Braxton Miller Goes Down For Season With Injury (August 18th, 2014)
Ohio State's 2014 campaign, which ultimately ended with a championship in the inaugural College Football Playoff, started off pretty miserably for Buckeye Nation.
Braxton Miller, then a top Heisman Trophy candidate, reinjured his right shoulder to a degree that would cause him to miss all season. Consider that the loss of a player of Miller's caliber, then two-time reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, would surely have ramifications on the team's top tailback in Ezekiel.
Suddenly the most explosive player in the Buckeye backfield was the man in a crop top. How did he respond?
J.T. Barrett Era (August 30th, 2014 – November 29th, 2014)
|@ Penn State||26||109||1|
|@ Michigan State||23||154||2|
What can we discern from this?
It obviously took Zeke a few games to rev up that engine, but once he did he didn't really look back. I urge you to again consider that this ride started just twelve days after the biggest offensive threat besides him was taken away.
Imagine if someone could have come in and had this kind of success when Romo went down? At this point Zeke was averaging 98.5 yards per game and an astonishing 6 yards per carry! That's insane!
For some perspective on that consider that Adrian Peterson, the NFL's Leading Rusher in 2015, averaged 92.8 yards per game and only 4.54 yards per carry. That was with the full compliment of weapons surrounding him, granted in Minnesota that's not much but the point still stands.
What Zeke did up to this point in his 2014 season is nothing short of remarkable on its own, it's beyond comprehension when you consider the handicap placed on him just twelve days before it began.
Buckle up. This is about to become unfathomable.
Cardale Jones Era (December 6th, 2014 – January 12th, 2015)
Dallas Cowboys fans know just how cruel the game of football can be with its wicked twists and turns. Sometimes when you feel like you can't sink any lower – the football gods come roaring with a surprise.
As if the loss of Heisman hopeful Braxton Miller wasn't enough, 11 games into the 2014 campaign J.T. Barrett had thrown his hat into that ring while leading the Buckeyes to a 10-1 record. During the annual showdown between The Ohio State and the University of Michigan, Barrett's season was ended as he broke his ankle and seriously fractured any National Championship hopes for tOSU.
Zeke Elliott just shrugged. The dawn of his finest hour was fast approaching.
Urban Meyer and his staff, who deserve a ton of credit obviously, plugged Cardale Jones in. His first game? The Big Ten Championship. No big deal. In the season's remaining three games as the Buckeye QB Cardale never completed more than 18 passes. Zeke though, he shined.
Take a moment to calm down. I'll wait.
Before our little math lesson let's consider the facts regarding Ezekiel Elliott at this point:
- He is 19 years old.
- His season began with twelve days notice that his starting quarterback would miss it.
- His College Football Playoff run began with a week's notice that his new starting quarterback, the one he already adjusted to and performed valiantly with, would miss it.
- He was the primary focus of opposing defenses.
232 yards per game. 9.16 yards per carry. Wow.
When the pressure was the highest and when he was counted on the most he didn't just deliver he was legendary. When you really think about the circumstances he was facing… what he did is unparalleled.
How Do Dallas RBs Do Without Tony Romo?
What can we deduce from all of this information? What's the point of this, really?
It's no secret that Tony Romo has a history of injuries that we all pretend to avoid. The hard truth is that it's not just likely, but it's arguably probable that he will miss some time in 2016. The selection of Ezekiel Elliott aids that in the most supreme way possible.
2015 is a weird parallel to this because Romo missed so much time, but do you remember when he missed the game against the Arizona Cardinals in 2014? Here are DeMarco Murray's stats from that game plus the ones immediately before and after it.
|@ Jacksonville Jaguars (London)||19||100||0|
You're probably wondering why I included the games immediately before and after. Allow me to explain.
It was during the third quarter of the Washington game that Romo suffered the injury that would keep him out of the Cardinals game, at which point DeMarco already had 65 yards on the evening (a 51-yard run right after Brandon Weeden came in the game would heavily inflate his statistical night), and it was the Jacksonville game where the world was uncertain just how much Tony Romo would be involved. Is it a serious stretch to say that these were the three games where DeMarco Murray was counted on most? Not at all. In a time of no Romo he was supposed to be the man.
DeMarco averaged 5.6 yards per carry and 106.67 yards per game in this stretch, and you might be wondering why I'm being so critical considering that that's pretty respectable in terms of NFL standards.
In the seven games preceding these DeMarco averaged 4.9 yards per carry and 130.43 yards per game. Look at how significantly he decreased in production when Romo was out/questionable.
If I got really picky and removed that 51-yard run Murray had immediately after Romo went down, the run which significantly inflates this data to his benefit, his numbers from those three games would be 4.8 yards per carry and 89.67 yards per game. Abysmal.
Comparing the situation that Ezekiel Elliott faced in 2014 to the time that the Cowboys couldn't lean as much on Tony Romo in the same season is quite fascinating.
While Zeke flourished in an environment where more was expected of him, DeMarco Murray faded. We saw a similar situation across the majority of 2015 when the Dallas Cowboys as a whole essentially faded without the services of Tony Romo.
Zeke Elliott is the answer to this conundrum. He singlehandedly aids the team more than anyone in recent memory in the event that Tony is down. This is all also indicative that he'll be the perfect piece for the heir to Tony Romo's throne to lean on when it's his time.
Zeke Elliott is everything that we need. Thank God he's ours.