Whitt's End: The Emmitt Solution To The Zeke Problem
Whether you’re at the end of your coffee, your day, your week or even your rope, welcome to Whitt’s End 10.23.20 …
*Emmitt Smith learned the hard way. Here’s hoping Ezekiel Elliott has done the same.
In November 1991, Smith was on his way to the NFL rushing title and leading the upstart Dallas Cowboys to the initial playoff berth that would ignite their dynasty. But in front of the largest crowd to ever watch a football game in the Astrodome, Smith fumbled a win into a loss against the Houston Oilers.
In overtime, Smith ran for seven yards to the Oilers’ 18, more than comfortable for a game-winning field goal by Ken Willis. But he wanted more. Got greedy. He left his feet, trying to squeeze between two defenders. In doing so, he compromised his trademark ball security – turning his secure cradle into a flailing elbow – and was stripped by safety Bubba McDowell.
The Oilers recovered and drove for a field goal and a 26-23 win.
In Week 10, it was Emmitt’s first lost fumble of the season. In a Hall-of-Fame career in which he rushed for a seemingly unbreakable 18,355 yards, there wouldn’t be many more.
I remember talking to Emmitt in the post-game locker room. I never saw him more dejected.
“I take pride in not losing the ball,” he said. “Maybe I was trying too hard. It won’t happen again.”
In the wake of Zeke kick-starting last Monday’s disastrous loss to the Cardinals with consecutive fumbles, it’s clear he has the yips. He’s so mentally obsessed with “don’t fumble” that he’s forgetting the fundamentals of not doing so. And, contrary to some DFW talking heads, it has nothing do with which arm Elliott carries the ball or the fact that wore long sleeves.
I covered Emmitt for 13 years. Often saw him wear long sleeves, and I’d estimate that he carried the ball in his left arm 90 percent of the time. (He covered the ball with both arms in traffic, but became habitually adept at fighting off tacklers with his stronger, right arm.)
No, the key to Emmitt’s ball security was knowing – after the Oilers’ experience – when enough was enough. Sure he could’ve fought to turn countless 4-yard runs into 5 or 6 or more, but at what risk? To his body? To the ball?
Efficient Emmitt, he was.
Evidenced by their stats – Emmitt fumbled once every 82 touches; Zeke 1 every 74 – the current Cowboys’ star is not a “fumbler.” But this season he has committed four of Dallas’ league-high 15 turnovers. Like Emmitt, Zeke just needs reminding – hopefully the Cardinals catastrophe was his version of the Oilers oops – that ball security is Job 1.
Reckless effort might win highlights. But fumbles will lose games.
*Read this, stopped, tilted my head, read it again and then read it some more. I hope we fully realize how special the Dallas Mavericks are about to be: “Luka Doncic is the youngest player in NBA history to finish in the Top 5 in MVP voting.” For all he’s already done, he won’t be 22 until February.
Meanwhile ... In normal circumstances, the Mavs would be playing their season opener right about now. I miss normal.
*I’ve long opined that the best way to keep sports out of politics is to keep politics out of sports. As in, no need for the national anthem before intra-country games. And save it with the military flyovers.
Fox’s Joe Buck and Troy Aikman caught on a hot mic criticizing a flyover over an empty NFL stadium last week were spot-on. Said Aikman, “That ain’t happenin’ with the Kamala/Biden ticket I’ll tell you that right now, partner.”
In response, I’ve read several long-time Cowboys fans saying they are “done” with Aikman. It’s official, our country has gone batsh*t crazy. Buck swears it was all an inside joke. But regardless, Aikman’s blood is as red and as patriotic as any athlete I’ve covered in my 35 years in DFW.
Pick another target, "Cancel Culture,'' because Aikman ain’t it.
*With teams using four pitchers in the first four innings, scoring more than half of their runs (11 of 21) via homers and seemingly every single hitter stepping out of the batter’s box – even after taking a pitch – to unwrap and then rewrap the Velcro of their gloves, I have no genuine interest in the World Series at Globe Life Field. But I am curious as to why the old ballpark across the street has all its lights turned on? In the blimp shots of GLF, it’s just a sad reminder that the new place didn’t need to be built because, look, there’s the old place still alive and well.
*Speaking of blimps, I’m surprised we’re not getting our overhead sports shots from the Goodyear drone.
*I’m not saying there is systemic voter suppression in Dallas. But I am saying the mechanisms in place make it awfully difficult for residents to cast absentee ballots. This week I wrote about one woman and her myriad hurdles.
*My idea for future Presidential debates: Give each candidate 45 minutes of “talk time.” They can use the minutes however they see fit: To answer a question, pitch a plan, interrupt the other, mock the moderator, whatever. But when the 45 minutes expire, that’s it.
Mic cut. Silence. It would inject some strategy to the insanity.
And, like it did when our cell phone usage was mandated by minutes, it will tell us in no uncertain terms what is really important to the candidates.
*Despite changing coaches, systems and players, the Cowboys’ defense remains historically inept at creating turnovers. And, specifically, making interceptions. With only one pick (by Chidobe Awuzie in Week 1) in 196 passing attempts, they are on pace for 10 or fewer interceptions for a sixth consecutive year, which would extend a record dating back 88 years.
This is unexplainable, mind-boggling stuff. The last Cowboy to have at least five interceptions in a season was Bruce Carter in 2014. The last to have at least six was Anthony Henry in 2007. Only one of the franchise’s Top 25 interception seasons has occurred since its last Super Bowl in 1995. In an attempt to find a ball hawk, the Cowboys have drafted (Morris Claiborne) and signed (Nolan Carroll) DBs that have failed miserably.
Hard to fathom that once upon a time Everson Walls intercepted 11 passes in a single season.
*You want a wacky 2020, wrapped around a zany NFC East? The Cowboys lead their division heading into Week 7 despite running only one play – one – with the lead in the fourth quarter.
*What happens when the 88-year-old patriarch of one of America’s largest privately-owned advertising agencies blurts out something stupid and racist? The Dallas-based company – The Richards Group – immediately loses primo clients Shiner Bock, H-E-B, Home Depot, Dr Pepper, Motel 6 and 40% of its business. Overnight. Words have meaning, and consequences. There’s no coming back from “it’s too black.”
*Lots of DFW homers that bet with their heart going broke this season. Two NFL teams are 0-6 against the spread: Jets and, yep, your Cowboys.
*You know why they named it TikTok, right? Because while getting hypnotized watching other people’s homemade mini-movies, you are – second-by-second, minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour – wasting your time.
*Taking very different paths back to the NFL, Dez Bryant is in Baltimore and David Irving is in Las Vegas. Dez was released and then suffered a major injury. Irving quit to be a marijuana activist, but soon learned it didn’t quite pay the bills like football. Signed to practice squads, surely both are humbled.
READ MORE: Cowboys Ex David Irving Signs With Raiders
There’s enough there for me to root for both of them. Cowboys play at the Ravens Dec. 3. Intriguing, sure. But nothing like if Dez was returning to AT&T Stadium.
*Because all of us could use a laugh in 2020, I highly recommend Borat 2. Not gonna ruin it for ya, but when you watch Borat popping into the State Fair of Texas, you’ll thank me for the recommendation.
*Nobody knows nuthin’, including NFL analytics geeks and talent evaluators. If they did, Taco Charlton wouldn’t suddenly be a playmaker for the Kansas City Chiefs and the Chargers would’ve given the starting job to quarterback Justin Herbert in Week 1.
*Two of my favorite shows are in limbo: Daniel Tosh is leaving Comedy Central after Season 12 of Tosh.O concludes in December and Howard Stern’s contract with SiriusXM also expires before Christmas. Tosh hints at landing on another network and Stern says talks are promising, but … end of days, indeed.
*Americans are so irrationally sports arrogant. How can it be the “World” Series when it includes teams from only two countries? Same for the Los Angeles Lakers being crowned “World” Champions. However, the Super Bowl winner can indeed boast being the “world” champion of professional American football because no other place on Earth plays a similar game at a similar level. Not true with MLB or the NBA. Little events called the World Baseball Classic and The Olympics reiterate the point every couple of years. We become so trained to look down our nose that we forget to ever look past it.
*For the love of everything sane and sacred, please stop flicking your lit cigarettes out the truck window. Why? Because it’s rude. It’s littering. And, most of all, it starts fires.
*Shame that the NFC East has deteriorated into a punchline, because it’s the greatest division in the history of the NFL. There was a time – going on 30 years ago – that the division’s head coaches were immortal. Bill Parcells with the Giants. Joe Gibbs in Washington. Buddy Ryan with the Eagles. Jimmy Johnson here.
In 1992 and 2007, three NFC East teams with winning records made the playoffs. Despite this year’s historic hiccup the NFC East can boast to the best, supported by the most Super Bowl appearances (21) and wins (13).
*Signs we have a broken system: When our population is only 20% Catholic but our Supreme Court is 78% Catholic. Americans who don’t identify with any religion also total 20%, but I’m pretty sure we’re not close to having an Atheist confirmed to our highest bench.
Further revealing our flawed representation, Republicans have lost the popular vote in seven of our last eight Presidential elections, yet have appointed five of our last seven Supreme Court justices. Random time of death should not be the No. 1 influencer of the makeup of a group of people prominently responsible for shaping the laws of the land for 300 million citizens.
*SMU’s undefeated season notwithstanding, can’t we just have Alabama and Clemson play two outta three for the title and call it a season? Clemson is favored by a remarkable 46 points over Syracuse on Saturday. For what it’s worth, college football teams favored by 40+ points since 2015 are 8-19 against the spread. Beware. On second thought, no. Don’t be scared. Clemson could win by 100 if it desires.
*Until he proves otherwise, to me Mike McCarthy will remain the Packers’ cast-off that managed to win only one Super Bowl despite 13 years in Green Bay with quarterbacks named Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers.
So far in Dallas he’s merely the guy leading a team that has set an NFL record by allowing 34+ points in five consecutive games, has trailed by 14+ points in five straight, committed 15 turnovers in 24 quarters and that it seems every damn game gets at least one penalty for too many men on the field.
*Bad news: Andy Dalton is 6-16 all-time on Monday Night Football. Good news: Cowboys have no more MNF games in 2020.
*Best advice I ever received: Never exchange principles for popularity.
*Enough is not being made of this: Dodgers’ payroll = $225M; Rays’ payroll = $75M. It’s the equivalent of a Texas high school Class A team going toe-to-toe with a 6A.
*Wait, we’re seriously still supposed to set our clocks back an hour on Nov. 1? The last thing I want is an extra hour of 2020.
*Something’s gotta work Sunday in Washington, doesn’t it? The Cowboys’ run defense ranks 31st in the NFL, allowing 1,040 yards and a staggering eight rushes of 20+ yards. But Washington’s rushing offense is 32nd, dead last.
While the Cowboys have surrendered rushing days of 307 and 265 this month, Washington has run for only 493 all season. Will be fascinating to watch Washington’s very stoppable force vs. Dallas’ extremely moveable object.
*This Weekend? Friday we hang out with new friend Ja Ja and old friend Wally Lynn. Saturday we brave what is predicted to be an ugly cold front for some tennis. Sunday we visit Mom and cringe during Cowboys-Washington. As always, don’t be a stranger.