Much has been said by many about Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott‘s lack of hustle following the Chris Harris Jr. interception on Sunday, from wagging fingers to making excuses to many things in between. Browns left tackle Joe Thomas, appearing on PFT Live, had the best (and perhaps only) explanation regarding the reasons for Elliott’s lack of hustle: Elliott hasn’t learned how to play when his team isn’t playing well.
“[T]he problem when you’re a young player and some people will take this the wrong way but you have to learn how to lose,” Thomas said. “Because in college a lot of times these guys come from programs where they didn’t lose a lot, and so as soon as things are going poorly it’s easy for those guys to just throw in the towel, and I think we saw that with Ezekiel. Obviously they had a tremendous season last year. He came from an organization in college at Ohio State that hardly ever lost, and if you find yourself in a situation where you’re losing sometimes those guys don’t know how to handle it and they don’t understand you have to play at the highest level and give everything you have on every single play no matter what the scoreboard says because that’s your job and that’s what you owe to your teammates.
“I think for young players it’s difficult sometimes because they just don’t know how to handle it and it takes sometimes, you know, public shaming like Ezekiel’s getting right now to learn that just because you’re losing a game doesn’t mean it’s time to go quit because you’re quitting on your teammates and you’re quitting on the game. In the NFL, that’s not acceptable and that’s not how you play and hopefully he’ll learn from that situation.”
Joe is absolutely right. For Elliott, losses have been rare. Decisive losses have been even more rare. In an age of Madden “rage quits,” where it’s easy to pull the plug on a lost cause and start over, Elliott assumed the demeanor of a kid who threw his controller down and stormed off to the kitchen for another juice box. Part of the maturation process for Elliott and any teammates who have may slid into that same mindset is to understand that they owe it to the game to keep trying until the game is over.
Even if they already want the game to be over.