One of the most prominent topics this offseason revolved around the rushing game. More specifically, given Tony Pollard's and Ezekiel Elliott's production last season, what share of the opportunities should each running back receive in 2022? The Dallas Cowboys might be better off acknowledging the sunk cost fallacy and give the lion's share to Pollard.
But that is not what Jerry seems to think. In a recent interview, Jerry Jones expressed that he wants Zeke to remain the focus of the running game.
We can feature [Elliott] in a lot of different ways. We all recognize what he does in the passing game because of his protection ability. Don’t ever underestimate that especially with Zeke. Zeke takes some tolls when he’s out there as a back blocking. So it’s critical that we make Zeke — because he’s capable of being that — really the focus of what we’re doing. Now then, Pollard, there’s plenty of room for Pollard. There’s plenty of room for Pollard when Zeke’s in there. Pollard needs to get the ball.
The issue is that this now puts immense pressure on Kellen Moore not only to succeed, but succeed the way Jerry wants.
Comments about Ezekiel Elliott’s workload puts unfair pressure on Kellen Moore
It is difficult to say that an offensive coordinator is coaching for their job when they received multiple requests to interview for head coaching positions this offseason. But the end of last season was not pretty for Moore, and in 2022, he has to prove he is the same "boy-wonder" the NFL world once thought he was.
The issue is that Jerry has not made Moore's job any easier. Because Jerry is not an owner that likes to take a back seat, he wants to help in game planning and personnel decisions. This is not just a quote where an owner is providing their opinion, this is closer to marching orders for Moore. Moore now needs to make sure Elliott gets his proper share.
So, if Elliott is having a down game or slow start to the season, will Moore be hesitant to ride the hot hand with Pollard? Moore knows that his employer wants to see the running game revolve around Elliott, which might inhibit him from playing the superior running back at times.
We discussed this idea in greater detail on the latest episode of 1st and 10 on the Blogging The Boys podcast network. Make sure to subscribe to our network wherever you get your podcasts so you don't miss any of our shows! Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here.
Now, obviously Pollard was mentioned in the quote. However, saying that Pollard "needs to get the ball" after most of the answer revolved around Zeke seems empty. Everyone who read or heard the quote knows Jerry wants Elliott to be the focal point. And that might come at the expense of Pollard, who will be the better running back in certain situations this season. Fans just have to hope that Moore will be a little defiant.
But it goes deeper than choosing between Pollard and Elliott. The Cowboys are playing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in week one, the team that saw the second-lowest rushing attempts against them last season. Does Moore have to fit a square peg into a round hole and continue feeding Zeke when it isn't working?
Last season, Moore's play-calling in week one was superb. He decided that the ground game would not work, and there was no point in trying, so he let Prescott pick the Buccaneers apart through the air. But with comments like these from Jerry, is Moore now going to force unproductive touches to the 27-year-old running back? Jerry wants his investment to pay off, but if that comes at the expense of Moore's game plan, then Zeke's contract will be actively jeopardizing the season.
There is no issue with an owner providing their opinion about their personnel. But Jerry knows that the Pollard versus Zeke debate has reached an all-time high. Maybe he didn't intend for the quote to sound like a demand, but that is the effect. When an OC’s marching orders are in opposition to what will best set a team up to win, what happens?
Maybe Moore knows that winning solves everything. That has to be the hope. Moore has to be willing to ride with whatever running back is playing better and call whatever game plan puts them in the best position to win, regardless of what the front office believes. However, Moore's job would be significantly easier if the decision of who gets the ball rested solely on his and Mike McCarthy's shoulders. Unfortunately, that is not the case. So, Moore and McCarthy, be a little defiant this season.