Dallas Cowboys

Jerry Jones on Zeke’s MVP chances and chasing Dickerson’s record

Ezekiel Elliott is an MVP candidate, leading the league in rushing.
Ezekiel Elliott is an MVP candidate, leading the league in rushing. jchristopher@star-telegram.com

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones chuckled when asked who he’d choose as the NFL’s MVP this season – his quarterback, Dak Prescott, or his running back, Ezekiel Elliott?

Jones tapped dance around that question, understandably, but only has glowing things to say about each player.

“I wouldn’t get into that. They’re both mine,” Jones said. “I just think it’s such a great thing not only the Cowboys but the NFL. We’re rewarded. They’re creating enthusiasm. What you saw Zeke do is something, in his own way, he has that kind of energy, he’s like a young puppy, he’s like that around the team and everyone just loves the way he has a zest for life. He really keeps it interesting. You’ve got to have some of that in a rough, physical environment.”

Elliott is leading the league in rushing with 1,551 yards, and is coming off his best game on Sunday night. Elliott rushed for a career-high 159 yards on 23 carries against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, memorably scoring a 2-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter.

Elliott celebrated by leaping into an oversized Salvation Army kettle by the end zone, something that drew a 15-yard penalty but not a fine by the NFL. It was Elliott’s 13th rushing TD, setting a franchise mark for most by a rookie running back.

For Jones, though, the publicity it generated for the Salvation Army is priceless. That’s a charity he holds dear to his heart.

“They’ve given me some numbers this morning that it’s really perked contributions,” Jones said. “Let’s give Zeke credit for that. It’s certainly fun. We have those kettles there because we do want the visibility of reminding everybody, certainly at this time of year, how doing the most good is to put a dollar in that red kettle. To have gotten that attention in front of probably 20 million or so people last night for the Salvation Army was just wonderful.”

Elliott has a chance to do something special on the field, too. He still has a chance to break Eric Dickerson’s rookie rushing record of 1,808 yards set in 1983.

Elliott needs to average 129 yards the final two weeks to accomplish the feat. Jones said a combination of factors would weigh into the team would want Elliott to break a record that’s been around for 33 years.

The biggest is whether they let Elliott attempt to break the record if the regular-season finale at Philadelphia is meaningless. The Cowboys could clinch the NFC East and home-field as early as Thursday should the New York Giants lose.

“I think you’ve got to just really see what the situation is, see what we’re doing,” Jones said. “Just the combination of things. Such things, I’m just reading off such things, as how close are you? All those kinds of things.

“But the first thing is right now as far as any thoughts that I might have we’ve got to be ready to beat Philadelphia as we sit here right today.”

Elliott also has an outside shot of setting the Cowboys’ single-season rushing record set by DeMarco Murray in 2014. Murray rushed for 1,845 yards that season, which means Elliott would need to average 148 yards the final two weeks.

For now, though, Jones is just happy with what Elliott has brought to the team as the fourth overall pick out of Ohio State.

“Zeke is as advertised and just better than advertised for us to pick him where we picked him,” Jones said. “But he was the complete back. He came here as the best back away from the ball that a high level of evaluators, his coaches in college said he’s had away from the ball.”