If Michael Jordan's "The Last Dance" documentary taught us anything, the best players are always finding ways to stay motivated.
Safe to say Ezekiel Elliott is fueling up for the 2020 season.
Elliott has taken exception to critics who suggest he's no longer a dominant running back after just four NFL seasons:
He's got a point. The stats don't lie.
The best way to measure Elliott's total impact on the Dallas Cowboys since 2016? Compare his numbers to the most productive running back in franchise, and league, history.
Emmitt Smith, the NFL's all-time leading rusher, through his first four seasons with the club (1990-93):
62 regular-season games
1,262 carries for 5,699 yards (4.5 average), 50 touchdowns
189 catches for 1,235 yards, 3 touchdowns
Elliott through his first four seasons (2016-19):
56 regular-season games
1,169 carries for 5,405 yards (4.6 average), 40 touchdowns
189 catches for 1,619 yards, 8 touchdowns
Very comparable. Very little difference.
Maybe a brighter spotlight is a byproduct of a big-money deal. Elliott, 24, became the NFL's highest-paid running back last September with a six-year, $90 million extension.
Some critics aside, he is still widely considered one of the league's best backs.
How could he not be? He's a two-time NFL rushing champion and might be a three-time champ if not for his six-game league suspension in 2017. Last year, despite missing all of training camp and preseason over a contract holdout, he still ranked fourth in rushing (1,357 yards) and tied for the fourth-most touchdowns (12).
A popular critique of Elliott's 2019 season was his lack of long runs -- just four of 20-plus yards. But the league's primary definition of "explosive" runs is at least 10 yards, and Elliott's 38 runs ranked third behind only Tennessee's Derrick Henry (42) and Cleveland's Nick Chubb (39), according to Pro Football Focus. He also ran for 78 first downs, the most in the league.
Back in November, Elliott himself stated that other running backs were having better seasons. Yet, he still worked his way into the Pro Bowl for the third time and the All-Pro team for the second time.
Even with a career year from quarterback Dak Prescott, Elliott is still the engine for the Cowboys' offense. His career rushing average is 4.6 yards a carry. When hitting that average or better, the Cowboys are 23-6, including 6-2 last year. When he gets below 4.0 yards a carry, the Cowboys are 6-9.
Zeke is right. Just check the stats. Respect is deserved.