Including the playoffs, Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has lost just five times in 19 NFL games. So perhaps the unfamiliarity with losing played some part in his inexplicable decision to stand idly by as Broncos cornerback Chris Harris returned an interception just yards in front of him.
Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones made the case that Elliott wasn't the only Cowboys player loafing on the play. But for Browns veteran Joe Thomas, who has experienced just one winning season since coming into the league in 2007, Elliott's issue is a simple one.
"[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 Tuesday during an appearance on PFT Live. "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."
If anyone would know about this transition it's Thomas. During four years at the University of Wisconsin, the Badgers went 38-13. In the 10-plus NFL seasons since: 48-114, including a 1-15 record last season and an 0-2 start in 2017. And through all the losing, Thomas has not only made the Pro Bowl each and every year, he hasn't missed a snap. Ever. In last Sunday's loss to the Ravens, Thomas played in his 10,000th consecutive snap since being drafted.
"I think for young players it's difficult sometimes because they just don't know how to handle it," Thomas continued. "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."