They expected to have Romos skill as a passer and experience as a game manager to direct that attack, but when that was ruined by still another injury before the team even had played a game, Elliotts role grew in importance. And as the Cowboys worked to survive without Romo, Elliotts consistent production allowed fellow rookie Dak Prescott to grow into the daunting role of rookie quarterback.
Elliotts consecutive games of 140, 138, 134 and 157 yards into mid-October were essential to establishing the Cowboys could win with Prescott at the controls.
A group of NFL personnel executives surveyed by USA Today before Christmas agreed, by a slim margin, with my assessment. Of a dozen who participated in the anonymous survey, five picked Elliott, two more than Tom Brady. But the quote one of them offered aligned exactly with my position:
Hes changed their team,the GM said. Theyve had that offensive line for a couple years now. Hes come in there and dominated games. Hes running over people and smashing people. Hes a dominant force.
He carried the ball 322 times in 15 games, the most of any NFL running back in the 2016 season. Only 139 players in the history of the league have attempted that many runs in a single season.
The biggest argument against Elliott seems rather lame: that he is blessed with an extraordinary offensive line. As though other legitimate candidates are not surrounded by excellence Matt Ryan has Julio Jones, Aaron Rodgers has Jordy Nelson and Tom Brady has Bill Belichick. No one does this alone.