During the offseason one way I cope with the lack of football is watching old Dallas Cowboys games. I have put together a pretty good collection and have most of the past four seasons on my computer. The past week or so while watching games from the first half of the 2007 season I started to make mental notes about Patrick Crayton. He was extremely valuable to the Cowboys last season and a major reason why the team had the success they did. With Terry Glenn out for most of the season Crayton was thrust into a starting role and for the most part excelled. While he was technically the #2 receiver, Terrell Owens and Jason Witten were always Romo's targets of choice before him, yet he still put up very respectable numbers (50 rec, 697 yards, 13.9 ypc, 7 TD.)
Crayton has always been regarded as a guy with the best hands on the team. He plays best in the slot and has the toughness to catch a pass across the middle and take the hit. Crayton has played with Romo his entire career and the two have developed incredible chemistry. Whenever Romo goes on one of his patented scrambles out of the pocket, Crayton instinctively knows when to break off his route and slide to the open spot. He has become reliable and a go to guy in the red zone and with teams gunning for Witten and Owens his value in that area continues to grow.
One thing is wrong, though. Football fans predominantly have a "what have you done for me lately" attitude and Crayton is the current thorn in every Cowboys fan's side. As last season progressed he started to take TO's spot as the team's big mouth receiver; during the week leading up to the playoff game against the Giants he was the lone Cowboys spouting off to the media and gave the Giant's defense some material for motivation. Unfortunately, he was unable to back it up on the field and had one of his worst games of his career on a national stage. It is tough to pin a loss on one player in particular, and while the offensive line is deserving as well, Crayton's misplays seemed to cost Dallas the game. Neither Owens nor Terry Glenn were playing at 100% and the team needed Crayton to step up his game; instead all he did was let the air out of the Cowboys' balloon.
On Tuesday Crayton made his first public statements since the game, and it seems he is on the road to learning a valuable lesson.
"I dropped a big pass and everybody can say one play didn't make all the things, but it's a big turning point in the game," he said. Crayton said that drop will stay with him for a while.
"It's a motivating thing to myself," he said. "It's one of those things to never let it happen again that's why I started early to get ready. It will be a motivation factor."
Crayton also had this to say about the New York Giants, a team he talked smack about several times during the season: "They got the last laugh, man," he said.
It was very disappointing to see that type of performance from a guy who is supposed to be the most consistent, and who had just scored a new contract. Yet just like Romo against Seattle the year before, I'm not going to dwell on the mistakes that Crayton made that game. All you can ask for from a player is to learn from them and grow as a player and a professional athlete and put a better product on the field the next time he has the chance.