Cowboys Dez Bryant Dazzles At Least One Codger

"The Natural"


Researchers and historians call it "bias to recency."  The idea is that we tend to favor recent events, people, and achievements when ranking their significance.

Not much to argue about there, unless you're just habitually argumentative.  We all do it.   Our last great meal, the favorite song we heard five minutes ago, the new hottie at beach marker 41, this year's July 4th fireworks show--they're all personal list-toppers.  Bias to recency.

I'm as guilty as anyone.  So figure that in when I say this, but...

Dez Bryant is the most impressive NFL rookie receiver I've seen.  

Admittedly, I'm a sportswriter and sportscaster, and hyperbole is in our DNA.  We never encountered a superlative we wouldn't overuse, and we're biased in favor of words that end in "st."   Most.  Best.  Go-to tools in our breathless Sports Guys verbal kits.

But Dez is dazzling.

Full disclosure.  My Era of Cognition spans the existence of the Dallas Cowboys.  In other words, I'm a codger.  Can't necessarily remember where I put my truck keys, but I've got a pretty good handle on all the pass-snaggers of the past half century.

Let's start with our Boys.  Freakiest athlete among metallic blue rookie receivers?  Bob Hayes.  "Fastest human" earns one that distinction, hands down.

Michael Irvin?  I covered every practice of his rookie training camp in Thousand Oaks.  Big.  Strong. Smart.  Bold.  Good.  Not nearly as good, or as polished, then as Bryant was in his first day in San Antonio in August.  Not close.  Some of you will dispute that.  And you will be wrong.

Drew Pearson?  All he is is my favorite receiver, and Cowboy, and, hell--football player--of all time.  But remember that virtually no one knew about that undrafted free agent converted quarterback from Tulsa until he replaced an injured Otto Stowe (Otto Stowe?) in that 1973 midseason game in Denver and instantly displayed his "Drew Zone" toughness between the hashes.  Ultimately, Dez Bryant may never be Drew Pearson.  But Dez is an even better rookie than Drew was.

So much for "us."  How about the other 31 teams that comprise "them"? 

Don't give me Jerry Rice.  Folks forget that Bill Walsh and the Niners were initially disappointed with Rice's development.  Of course, they got significantly more satisfied later. 

Randy Moss?  I'll have to listen to that one, won't I?   Sure enough, Moss looked like a man among boys from the jump, catching 69 balls for 1,313 yards and 17 touchdowns with the Vikings in '98.  Dez isn't going to get close to those numbers for a variety of reasons including his injuries, Romo's broken collarbone, and Bryant's position in the club's pecking order behind Miles Austin and Roy Williams.  True, Moss ran the streak and the fade better than any other NFL rookie until...Dez Bryant.  That's a wash in my eyes.  The reason I give Dez an edge is that he is a more complete and versatile receiver---and a much better overall route runner--as a rookie than Moss was in his first year.

The converse is true about a guy like Anquan Boldin.  A pro's pro from the get-go in his maiden voyage with the Cardinals in '03.  Boot tough. Excellent technician.  But not as naturally talented as our current 88.

Andre Johnson?  You got my attention, at least.  I'm still going with Dez.

Is it just me?   That was my fear.  Bias to recency?   I wondered that to myself, even as I thought in Bryant's second day at the Alamo Dome, "Dang, that's the best looking and most polished NFL rookie pass catcher I've ever seen."  So I screwed up my courage, and asked every beat writer, every NFL correspondent, every broadcaster, every visiting college and high school coach in attendance that very question, fearful they were going to make me feel like a "rookie"  myself.  "Uh...is it just me...or is that dude the best looking rookie receiver you've ever seen?"  I held my breath each time. And each time the response was identical:  "I'm kinda relieved to hear you say that.  Because I was just thinking that myself."

Bias to recency?  Not in this case.

Yes, I would like to see the Cowboys expand their use of Bryant to include more inside and intermediate routes.  They will.  Because Dez can handle it.  He can do it all.  Beat press coverage either with his feet or his strength.  Come out of breaks even faster than he goes into them.  Snag 'em off his shoetops or climb the ladder with his ridiculous hops.  And more than anything else, track the football with more ease and precision than any other rookie I--and apparently a whole lot of other folks--have ever seen.   Finally, there has never been a more natural "hands" catcher than Bryant.  Everything out front.  Everything smooth.  Everything "quiet."

No wonder Bryant is making so much noise around the NFL.

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