Dallas Cowboys 1st+10: Ezekiel Elliott on the Hot Seat; Top 10 Storylines

In this edition of Dallas Cowboys 1st and 10, we trace the circuitous route toward what might be a NFL suspension for Ezekiel Elliott

1. So is Ezekiel Elliott going to be suspended or not? What is the emoji for shoulder shrug?

So, Thursday night, I was tooling around Twitter like many of you and I saw this:

https://twitter.com/MichaelRapaport/status/885605632119717888

Michael Rapaport is an actor and comedian who has been in a whole bunch of stuff. He did a short stint on “Friends” in the 1990s as one of Phoebe’s many boyfriends. He also pops in from time to time on ESPN’s “The Jump,” hosted by one of ESPN’s top reporters and studio hosts, Rachel Nichols, which focuses on the NBA. Rapaport is a Knicks fan. Under the right circumstances, I find him to be quite funny.

This was not funny. In fact this was pretty serious. Rapaport was “reporting” that Zeke was about to get suspended, that Melo (Carmelo Anthony) was about to get traded and that it was all going down Friday. He later tweeted his sources were wrong about Zeke Elliott. I’d love to know who his sources were. Here’s a thought for the future, Mike. Since you have Rachel’s number in your phone, why not call her, tell her what you know and let her thumbs up or thumbs down be your journalistic guidepost?

Well, this ended up having legs because ESPN’s Adam Schefter picked up the story. I mean, he had to, of course. We’re talking about the NFL’s leading rusher from 2016 and a guy who has been under NFL investigation for more than a year. Schefter spent part of his Friday morning talking about the “growing sense” that Elliott would face a short suspension.

https://twitter.com/AdamSchefter/status/885899042672214017

Schefter is one of the best-sourced people in the business and he approaches the NFL gig with a ferocity for information and the truth. To that point, Sports Illustrated’s Tom Rohan spent 24 hours behind the scenes with Schefter on the first day of free agency this year and the story is illuminating in both Schefter’s journalistic process and how he works with team and league officials to get information. It’s well worth your time to read. 

So I won’t say that Schefter is wrong about this, but as Mike Fisher pointed out on Friday, there was a whole lot of hedging in Schefter’s reporting. In our business that usually means you have good information, but you don’t have that silver bullet that brings it all together.

Our Fish, of course, spent all day tracking down anything he could on the subject. This series of tweets, perhaps, puts everything in perspective.

https://twitter.com/fishsports/status/885904273443356674

https://twitter.com/fishsports/status/885905086110732288

https://twitter.com/fishsports/status/885918925137039361

https://twitter.com/fishsports/status/885919681361608704

https://twitter.com/fishsports/status/885925332414603264

https://twitter.com/fishsports/status/885925843968589825

https://twitter.com/fishsports/status/885929845007450117

https://twitter.com/fishsports/status/885930915276476418

I also had some time with Fox Sports Arkansas’s Wess Moore on the radio Friday and we talked about Elliott. I was asked why this was taking so damned long. Well, the NFL investigates in its own vacuum and can basically investigate anything it wants when it comes to its players. I think this is a case where the NFL is trying to take the last year of Zeke’s life, put it together in a snowball and say “Hey, stop doing stupid stuff.”

So here’s what the NFL is looking at, based on all the reporting that has been done the last year:

Elliott was investigated for domestic violence twice last year — once in Columbus, Ohio and once in Florida. Both cases involved the same woman and neither moved past the investigation phase due to a lack of consistent and sufficient evidence (SI’s MMQB writer Tim Rohan recaps it nicely in this story).

Elliott popped into a pot store during a preseason game in Seattle last August. A photo of his visit ended up on social media. The NFL doesn’t like pot.

Elliott pulled down a woman’s top during a St. Patrick’s Day parade in Dallas.

 

There is certainly an accumulation of incidents. Some are stupid. Some are inexcusable. But is it fair to suspend Elliott for an accumulation of incidents, rather than just one, especially if none of them led to criminal charges? And is this why the investigation by the NFL has dragged on for a year, because it’s waiting to have ENOUGH evidence to suspend Elliott for a game or two? I mean, either you do have enough evidence or you don’t, right? That’s how crime and punishment works.

But this is the NFL, and crime and punishment works in all sorts of ways.

https://twitter.com/fishsports/status/886055613268209665

It doesn’t seem completely fair. I think you should investigate each incident on its own merits and suspend on each incident’s merits. But Elliott isn’t facing that. He’s facing an accumulation of indiscretions and that’s what, ultimately, may get him suspended.

As of Saturday, he seemed unworried ...

https://twitter.com/fishsports/status/886398717695324161

But let’s be clear — Elliott put himself in these situations and he’s responsible for the outcome. He’s also responsible for avoiding these situations in the future. The NFL is free to investigate any incident it wants. I just wish they didn’t need a year to do it and weren’t combining all of this into an “all-you-can-eat” suspension.

2. Dak shines at the ESPYs. Frankly, I don’t have any use for the ESPYs as an award show. But the show supports the Jimmy V Foundation, and that makes it worth continuing. I just don’t watch it. But, as I understand it, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott had a good night.

First, Prescott signed a clear glass window in front of a camera, and, well, ESPN’s PR guy Bill Hofheimer had a little fun.

https://twitter.com/bhofheimer_espn/status/885276239371661312

Then, Prescott walked into the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles and won the Breakthrough Athlete Award.

https://twitter.com/jonmachota/status/885293391885606912

Then, the ESPYs had a little fun at Cowboys’ fans expense.

https://twitter.com/packers_fanly/status/885329711005609984

Yeah, that play. You know, the 3rd-and-20 pass from Aaron Rodgers to Jared Cook in the NFC Divisional Playoffs that … yeah, you know the play. He beat out Julian Edelman’s fingertip catch in the Super Bowl and the last-second basket from Mississippi State’s Morgan Williams that beat the UConn women in the NCAA Final Four, among others. Objectively, I would have voted for Williams’ basket and Edelman’s catch, I think, was more impressive than Cook’s. So, obviously, Packers Nation mobilized.

By the way, Prescott is back to signing football cards, and Panini REALLY wants you to know it’s him.

https://twitter.com/PaniniAmerica/status/885884260015636480

You know there was a little controversy over his signature last week, right?

https://twitter.com/JHoRadio/status/885913152189337603

3. On this edition of 'Cowboys STARCast' Jamie Horton and Mike Fisher discuss the (not really) official passing of the torch from Tony Romo to Dak Prescott. Well done, NFL Network.  Well done, ESPY's. Oh, and lots of Zeke Elliott talk, too.

It's good stuff ...  And it's all right here on this edition of 'Cowboys STARCast' ... and below, click on more important Cowboys links! And remember, you can download the Cowboys Sports Radio app on your phone for iOS/iPhone and Google Play/Android. ... Come on inside! Because it’s going to be training camp time soon enough.

https://twitter.com/fishsports/status/885138175999586304

4. Tony Romo’s dream is finally a reality. The National Fantasy Football Convention is this weekend here in Dallas. You might recall that Romo and the NFFC have tried this twice and both times the NFL put the kibosh on it. Now, finally, we get to see how this event will take shape for the first time. Romo has to be excited, and you can feel the excitement that he expresses in the story Fish filed earlier this week.

Oh, and Romo’s done with football, too. Just so you know.

https://twitter.com/cowboys_fanly/status/885497774749487104

Yeah, OK.

5. MIchael Lombard really took Jason Garrett’s head-coaching bonafides to the woodshed. Lombard, a former NFL executive, hit the airwaves on the NFL Network midweek and was asked about Jason Garrett. His response was, well, shady.

“I don’t see Jason besides clapping and cheering players. Losing to Green Bay was a revealing loss in this sense. It showed that his team wasn’t ready to play and couldn’t play a different style. I don’t see how Jason Garrett’s going to get better. He’s in the prime of his life and I don’t think he’s a good enough head coach. If I’m a Cowboys fan, I have real questions about Jason Garrett as the head coach. He’s supposed to be in the prime, he’s had six years to be a head coach. He was an offensive guru that never had a lot of roo in his goo. He was never really never this innovator offensive guy.”

Ohhhkaaay.

I’ll admit that I once wrote a column calling for Garrett’s firing. It came under the guise of that third 8-8 season and that the Cowboys, if they were truly interested in winning a Super Bowl with Tony Romo and Jason Witten, owner Jerry Jones had to make a move similar to the one he made for Bill Parcells. And, yeah, Garrett isn’t exactly Mr. Excitement on the sidelines or with the press. But some of that is intentional.

Here is what I think of Garrett now. I think he’s grown as a coach. I think he’s assembled a top-notch staff (just because he’s a CEO coach now doesn’t mean he’s not involved in game-planning). I think he’s benefiting from the talent the Cowboys have accumulated for him the past few years and he’s been a part of that decision-making. I think he sets the philosophical tone for his team on the field and, for two of the last three seasons, that philosophical tone of a bruising running game with play-action pass has led the Cowboys to the playoffs. And it will probably do the same this year. If you don’t like Garrett’s style, that’s your call. But it’s working. Every coach grows at their own pace.

Lombard’s opinions fit the tone of this offseason. It feels like most analysts are expecting the Cowboys to take a step back. We’ll see. And I’ll say this. When Lombard talks about Garrett not being an “innovator,” keep in mind that he worked under two of the NFL’s most innovative minds. Bill Walsh and Bill Belichick. So his standard is super-high.

https://twitter.com/CowboysOnScout/status/884764486124670977

6. Our Mike Fisher filed a piece this week about Jaylon Smith. The point of Fish's work here? That there’s every chance that Smith could end up in the Pro Bowl or starting the season on the Non-Football Injury list. That’s how wide open Smith’s recovery is right now. Cowboys fans have pinned plenty of hope on Smith’s ability to contribute in 2017. Heck, so have the Cowboys. But we’re still in uncharted territory when it comes to Smith’s injury and recovery.

In fact, the Dallas Morning News graphic below gives you a real indication of the injury, his recovery and what’s happening with that brace.

https://twitter.com/dmn_cowboys/status/885131361580986369

7. Just eight more days until opening ceremonies for Cowboys training camp in Oxnard. Just thought you needed to know.

8. Tweet of the Week

https://twitter.com/PFF/status/884944601987108865

You know, it’s OK to like both of these quarterbacks. Prescott certainly had the better season in 2016, but if Carson Wentz develops the way scouts think he will, the NFC East could have two of the best quarterbacks in the NFL for quite a long time.

9. This week’s “Great Moments in Headline Porn?” “Flashback Friday: That Time David Blaine visited the Dallas Cowboys” from touchdownwire.com

A magician shows up at Valley Ranch in 1996 and does random magic tricks for Cowboys players in their locker room? Well thank goodness there’s video because I never would have believed that.

10. One More Thing ….

The 2017 College Football America Yearbook, of which I am editor-in-chief, is out now. We’re really excited about this year’s book. We think the CFA Yearbook is important because we cover all levels of college football, not just Division I. We cover all 932 college football teams in the U.S. and Canada and every one of them is in our book. You can get it at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and, very soon, as a digital download at the iBooks and iTunes stores. We hope you’ll give it a chance.

https://twitter.com/PostinsPostcard/status/886264039810183168

Wanna talk Cowboys? Head for the CowboysHQ.com message boards or hit up Postins on Twitter at @PostinsPostcard or Mike Fisher on Twitter @FishSports.


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