Mike McCarthy’s Ezekiel Elliott injury update calls entire season into question

Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

If you watched the Dallas Cowboys throughout the 2021 season, then it should come as no surprise to learn that Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott was struggling through injury.

Despite the results of both the numbers and eye test, Dallas also continued to give Elliott more snaps than Tony Pollard, who proved himself to be a great rushing option on countless occasions. But week after week, Elliott and head coach Mike McCarthy continued to tell reporters that the RB1 was healing, getting better, and healthy enough to play.

Just four days after Dallas’ heartbreaking playoff loss, Cowboys Nation is finding out this may not have been entirely true. Mike McCarthy told reporters on Wednesday that Elliott had been playing on a partially torn PCL since Week 4.

This was incredibly frustrating to hear. Why wasn’t Elliott rested? Why wasn’t Pollard given more snaps if he proved he was doing better than Elliott? What else was McCarthy not disclosing throughout the season? From Week 9-18, the Cowboys produced a 37.7% success rate on the ground. Maybe that’s because they refused to rest their RB1.

You can literally see Elliott’s productivity go down each week in the chart below. Yet the organization continued to play him and give him more snaps than Pollard — and please, don’t use Elliott’s blocking as an excuse to justify the disparity here.

If Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott was playing on a partially torn PCL, why did he get more snaps than Pollard?

What is even more shocking is that the game where Elliott had the most carries (21) was in the Week 5 game against the New York Giants – the week after the game where McCarthy says the running back sustained his injury. This is dangerous and reckless. The Cowboys did not need Elliott to win that game and he certainly could have been given rest against one of the worst teams in the league.

After Week 5, the next time Elliott had more than 80 rushing yards was when he had 87 in the final week against Philadelphia. Sure, it was nice to get him 1,000 yards on the season. But why not rest the guy in a game that was virtually meaningless? From Week 8-18, he had seven games with 50 yards or less.

How does playing Elliott at full capacity make any sense when Pollard was a capable and healthy option for most of the season? There is no question that the former Ohio State Buckeye has long been a top running back. But this year, he wasn’t even the best rusher on his own team.

If McCarthy, Kellen Moore, and the front office have the numbers, facts, and evidence above, how can they justify not resting Elliott? If not fully resting, at least feeding him less. Pollard had a mere six touches in his final two games after returning from being dinged up — so, what, we rest Pollard when he’s hurt but not Zeke?

Sadly, this was just one of many frustrating moments from the head coach’s press conference on Wednesday. He disagreed with those who said Dak Prescott shouldn’t have handed the ball to the center in the final seconds of the game. He dodged questions about Pollard’s usage. He said the final play call was the right one. It’s just all confusing.

Thankfully, McCarthy did say that Elliott will not need surgery and is expected to make a full recovery. But, at this point, we don’t know what to believe.