Earlier in the week, we were afforded the opportunity to speak with Cowboys Legend and Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith about several football topics. Among them, his take on the Cowboys use of the running game throughout the season, especially if Tony Romo was struggling with a back injury throughout the season.
Despite DeMarco Murray becoming the first Dallas back to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season since Julius Jones in 2006, the Cowboys barely crept over 1,500 yards on the season. So was Emmitt satisfied with the team's commitment to the running game?
No, not by any stretch of the imagination was I satisfied with their commitment to the run game. To me, I think that's been part of the problem. When we look at whether or not we ran the ball enough this year, I think if we could have been committed a lot more than what we were, I think things could have gone a whole lot differently than it did. For me, as a running back and as a fan watching the game, I think we just put too much pressure on the passing game and we didn't have to do that.
Cowboys fans didn't have it confirmed for them that Romo was suffering a back issue until late in the season. But if it was bothering him throughout, did they conduct the offense in a proper fashion?
My thought process would have been as a running back and a football player, once a starting quarterback went down or was hurting himself, then you would shift the pressure and the workload over to the running game. But maybe the Cowboys didn't feel comfortable enough to the point where they could keep DeMarco Murray healthy by doing such. Regardless, this is professional football and you have to do some things to protect everybody else and protect the football. Not put your quarterback in a position where he's forcing throws.
Knowing that your offensive linemen can gear their minds up to running the football, and your defense can say "Ok, guys, we got to buckle down, we got to play tougher defense. We got to make plays defensively because we know our offense is going to do certain things. We gonna play field position, so we gotta get them the ball back every chance we get." I think [running] sends a sense of urgency throughout the entire team, and the expectation [rises] to a level to where the players have to meet that."
Emmitt also broke down how vital having a viable run game can be for a team, shared his thoughts on new play caller Scott Linehan, recounted his Scouting Combine experience and spoke of his battle with gout. We'll share those insights over the next few days.