Author John Feinstein stopped by 105.3 The Fan to discuss the Dallas Cowboys with radio hosts Shan and RJ. Feinstein wrote a book titled "A Season On The Brink" which discussed Bobby Knight and his Indiana University Basketball team, lately Feinstein has been more relevant in the golf world. However, we here at BTB know very well that just about every single human being has an opinion on the Cowboys.
Feinstein called Dez Bryant selfish for threatening to miss games if he couldn't reach a long-term deal with the organization. Here's what Feinstein said:
"I think that there’s nothing wrong with playing salary-cap poker, which is what Dez Bryant and his reps were doing with the Cowboys. I don’t have any issue with that at all. He won, and good for him. But that fact that he would threaten to miss regular-season games if he didn’t get more than the $12.8 million he would have gotten as a franchise player says to me that his first concern is Dez Bryant, not the Dallas Cowboys. This is a team that last year took steps forward, finally won a playoff game, looked like they could have been in the conference championship game and for him to be saying to his teammates publicly. Unless I get long-term money, I will miss regular-season games. I think that’s selfish."
First of all, if you think there is nothing wrong with playing "salary-cap poker" as you call it, then how exactly is it selfish for Bryant to do so? I dismiss the notion that this was strictly a win for Dez Bryant. In the NFL, rarely do players make it to a third contract at all. Your first contract is pretty much standard to what the CBA dictates it can be, and rookies have no leverage in trying to hold out because it's all slotted now. Dez being drafted at 24th overall due to issues in college cost him money plain and simple. All Bryant has done since coming into the NFL is dominate. His 56 touchdowns since 2010 are a league's best and he deserved to be paid for it. This isn't any different than negotiations of the past. The Cowboys win too because now his cap figure drops to $7 million. He wasn't negotiating to get more than $12.8 million this season, he was trying to settle his future by having long-term security. If you asked every single player or coach in that locker room about this, there would be unanimous agreement that it's a "business" decision. Bryant is a proud and passionate man and he's the heart-and-soul of this team. This isn't some Darrelle Revis-type deal where he goes to the highest bidder each season. Dez is the definition of team-first. There is no acrimony in that and there is certainly no reason to scold Bryant for taking care of his family and his future.
Feinstein then was asked about Jerry Jones and Stephen Jones and the timetable it took to reach the agreement. Again, that word selfish came up:
"Well I think all owners are selfish just to begin with. I’ve always been amused when there’s some kind of work stoppage in any sport, and the players are always the ones who get blamed, when in the last 20 years, every work stoppage has been caused by the owners. There haven’t been strikes; there have been lockouts because the owners want to make more money. I’m certainly not defending Jerry Jones or Stephen Jones on any level. Now they made a business decision back in February to not franchise DeMarco Murray, who personally I would have franchised him and taken my chances with Dez Bryant because I think even though running backs are undervalued in the NFL right now that DeMarco Murray was a huge part of the improvement of the Cowboys last year, and I think they’ll miss him, in spite of the great offensive line, this season. But my point was that as a player, OK, as a player, you owe something to your teammates, just as they owe — it’s not an individual sport.
"And Dez Bryant’s a great receiver. I never said he wasn’t one of the most gifted receivers in the NFL but I would also ask you guys this question: how many playoff games have the Cowboys won since Dez Bryant joined the team five years ago. … The point is the great players, you just said Dez Bryant is one of the greatest receivers in the league, I agree with you, I believe he’s probably the best or the second best, but the best players, and a lot of this gets put on quarterbacks, as you know, the best players are the ones who are held responsible for team success or lack of success. And if you want the big money, and again I think Dez Bryant deserves the money, then you have to take the responsibility if the team isn’t successful, just as a coach takes the responsibility, just as a quarterback takes responsibility."
Now, it seems that Feinstein is panicking a bit, he mentions the owners being selfish then completely rants on with just a whole lot of jargon and nonsense. Two things here; Dallas was never going to pay DeMarco more than what they believed was a fair offer somewhere between $5-6 million a year. The overwhelming statistics of aging running backs mixed with the same for big-time performances suggest that Murray is likely to never repeat that type of performance. The other is that smart teams don't pay players based on what they did, they pay them based on what they believe they can do for them. Murray is a great player, but the fact remains that toward the end of last season, it was Tony Romo and the passing game that won in the playoffs. Murray was pretty beat after running for 1,845 yards and having nearly 400 carries.
As far as the responsibility shots fired at Dez Bryant, these are just completely unfounded. When has Dez ever stood at his locker following a loss and placed blame on anyone else? Never. Not one single instance. Bryant has always had the back of every single teammate or person that is associated with the Dallas Cowboys. This was merely unnecessary sentence placement with no true validity.
The guys then pose an interesting question to Feinstein and he certainly took the bait. When asked if he judges Bryant from his past, Feinstein says:
"That is a very good question, and I think I would be lying if I said that I’m not influenced by Tiger Woods’ past or anybody else’s past. Rory McIlroy’s past because I like him – to show the other side of the coin – of course, I think we’re all influenced by what we know of someone’s past. Now that doesn’t mean people don’t evolve, that doesn’t mean they don’t mature. He’s clearly become a better receiver than he was when he first came into the league, so my honest answer would be it probably was, but to me it’s just part of that pattern. I think when you lose your temper on the sideline, for example, and people said, ‘well that’s passion.’
Well I think everybody who plays football has great passion for the game. I’ve been on NFL sidelines. I know what it’s like to try to get into the emotional state you need to get into to play in the NFL, but that being said, when you start screaming at a referee in the middle of a playoff game in the key point of the playoff game, to me that’s selfish. That means, ‘OK my emotions matter more than the other 52 guys on the sideline’ because the other 52 guys are just as upset, but only one guy is yelling at a referee. So yes, the answer to your question is probably it was influenced by his past."
Here is a case of another misguided response. There are passionate players in the NFL, then there is someone like Dez Bryant. I distinctly remember the audio from that Detroit Lions' game where everyone exploded that Bryant was being a "diva" among other terms. Once you hear that played, listen to the words he says, don't look at his demeanor. If you listen, you see a guy that is definitely frustrated but he's also lifting his teammates at the same time. "We are the best in the NFL at that, Tony." Hardly sounds like a guy that is being selfish and berating his teammates. Then you fast forward to the call in Green Bay. Yes, it was probably not ideal to run out on the field, but the referee was able to handle Bryant there and found no need to throw a flag. At some point, you have to let the players decide the game on the field and if there is some disagreements, you find ways to handle it as an official. However, Bryant wasn't using foul language or being derogatory towards the referee. All he was doing was demanding an explanation of the rule.
What Feinstein tends to forget is that those 52 guys we're feeling the same way on that chilly day in Green Bay. Even the Packers' defender believed that it was a catch. The majority of the country believes it was a catch, that is something Bryant will live with forever. Now onto the judging of people's past. Well that is just human, but most people have been judging Bryant since entering the league. In college he was suspended for a season, though don't even get me started on the backward-operation that is the NCAA.
Dez Bryant has faced judgment countless times and earlier in his career, it was probably somewhat warranted. Yet, this is not the same person anymore. This is a man taking responsibility for his own life, his young children and for the team of which he's a leader. Bryant doesn't need babysitters or people to make decisions for him. He's a grown man who has made leaps and bounds to become one of the NFL's best receivers. To call him selfish for being passionate, demanding respect, and securing the future of his family is unfair to every person walking this earth. We all want the same things, don't chastise Bryant for being human. Feinstein's unfortunate commentary is unfounded, unjust, and simply untrue.