Dez Bryant’s recent outburst is being condemned nationwide. The talented wide receiver diva stigma plus his history has sportswriters vomiting cliches and unwritten moral code of NFL conduct. I get it, and, it’s fine. In fact I agree with nearly all of it. Dez’s antics were distracting, unwelcome, and 99% wrong.
But in this instance, on this team, I’m starting to believe in the 1%. Have a seat Mr. Romney, not that 1%.
You see, the Dallas Cowboys are so consistently consistent at consistently being mediocre that it’s embarrassing. They’ve stalled their engine a decade ago and have been afraid to turn the key ever since. In fact, since the end of the 90’s glory years beginning in 2000 and right up until this was written the Dallas Cowboys have a combined regular season record of 108-108. Even to the staunchest defenders of coincidence, this isn’t one.
Bad drafts, worse contracts, and a fan with enough money to change his title to Owner but not enough common sense to not also name himself GM/Emperor. Hindsight isn’t always 20/20 because it all still depends on what you’re willing to see. Jerry Jones is a revisionist of history. He believes Jimmy Johnson didn’t have as much to do with Dallas’ 90s dynasty as himself. It’s laughable but if Pharaoh Jones were standing next to you right now he’d fervently ask “What’s funny?”
This is why I am on Dez’s side in this instance. Sometimes evil can be used for good, not that Dez is General Zod, but he’s exactly what the Cowboys need right now. Somebody has to wake them up and force them to find a mirror. Like a barely potty-trained dog this team needs to have their nose pushed in front of their mistakes. Apathy is a disease. It’s not that to a man each member of the team doesn’t want to win, it’s that collectively they’re afraid to fail. It’s beyond evident in their play. They gave Peyton ‘Neo’ Manning and the Broncos a run for their money with the best game of Tony Romo’s career yet they failed to convince anybody (most notably themselves) that they might actually win. At no point does a Cowboys lead ever feel insurmountable. From the play calling to Romo’s happy feet, they’re like an insecure guy in the front row at a comedy club — you can sense their internal terror of becoming a punchline.
Sometimes in life people need wake up calls. No matter the situation or circumstance, at times you end up somewhere, no idea how you got there, frustrated about why you’re there, but afraid to move. It happens. That’s when you need to be shaken, whether by words or actions of the right person who can get you to view a different perspective (aka the one everyone else sees). I have no idea if Dez Bryant is that person. He certainly has his faults but at times like these it’s not so much the messenger, it’s the message. Dez is in his 3rd year. He’s seen his team lose these types of games before, and more than that, you can tell he felt it happening. As the recent audio revealed, it wasn’t all about getting the ball thrown his way. It was about the stranglehold mediocrity has on the Cowboys and trying to find a way to fight it. Even if part of his rants were about getting the ball, I’m with him. Six targets against a bottom 5 secondary is simply not smart football. Especially when he caught 3 of those passes and turned 2 of them into touchdowns.
I watched the game with my Grandmother who, God bless her, could care less about football these days. With about a minute left she said “Well that was close wasn’t it?” to which I replied, “These are the Dallas Cowboys, Gram. It’s far from over.” She laughed assuming I was being facetious. Approximately 3 minutes later she looked at me as if I had grown one of those cartoon glass-encased pulsating brains and said “You sure do know your stuff don’t you?” After allowing myself to bask in my moment of pretend genius I came clean, “It’s not me, it’s them.”
For most teams a sideline blowup like this would be catastrophic. A sign of a fracture in the locker room and a disconnect with the coaching staff, which would equal a death sentence midway through the season. But sports are weird and often a microcosm of life. The mediocrity that engulfs the Cowboys is a situation ripe enough for this to work. Mindsets are altered from within so we won’t know until we see a similar situation end differently. However, I fear this may also be a crossroads moment. With the salary cap disaster the Cowboys are staring at next year and beyond it’d be wise to change what can be controlled now, because changing math doesn’t work.
The problem with mediocrity is that you don’t often get an extended stay. Check-out time is fast approaching and the maid is knocking. It’s either up or down for Dallas. If these mired-in-mediocrity Cowboys had what they deserved, Albert Haynesworth would likely be the starting quarterback. That’s why Dez Bryant may be exactly what the Cowboys need right now.