It’s been roughly 72 hours since the Dallas Cowboys made the decision to part ways with the franchise’s all-time leader in touchdown catches. The seat is still warm from the chair that Dez Bryant got up from after his unsettling visit with Jerry Jones that ended with the wide receiver no longer being a part of the team. With some time to think about things, this is usually the moment I try to express that everything is going to be alright. Come on guys, just “trust the process” and you’ll see that this was ultimately for the best.
But today, you’ll get no such message.
On a scale of 1 to 100, I would put my confidence level in the mid 90’s when it comes to my belief that the team is under good leadership. Front office, coaches, talent scouts and decision makers of player personnel - they are all good in my book. And it’s for that reason I am stymied by this decision to part ways with Bryant. Often times I’ll tell people, “just wait, it’ll all make sense soon enough,” but these words are not being constructed from the strokes of my keyboard when it comes to the Dez ordeal. Maybe someone needs to help me see the light, because I’m just not seeing it. Here are a couple things still lingering on my mind that bother me about this situation.
It’s wasn’t about the money
The Cowboys now don’t have to pay Bryant the $12.5 million in base salary in each of the next two years. That’s $25 of savings. It’s easy to say that the team just didn’t feel he was worth that kind of money. Of course, in doing so the team must acknowledge they messed up when they signed him. They didn’t evaluate Bryant properly when they agreed to give him to a five-year, $70 million deal and now have to eat $8 million in dead money. That’s not good GM’ing. Sure, you don’t want to compound one mistake with another by continuing to throw money his way, but let’s not let the front office slide. They goofed.
In the past, the Cowboys have just bit the bullet with some of these bad contracts. For example, Brandon Carr was overpaid for years, but the team kept taking on the cap hit because they really didn’t have good enough options on the roster to replace him. It was essentially cheaper to keep him than to absorb the dead money hit and still have to go out and pay for someone else to replace him.
Despite Carr only contributing so much to the team, he was brought along for the ride. Dez wasn’t. The Cowboys could afford to keep Dez around a little longer, at least until they shore up the wide receiver position.
Silver lining: The Cowboys got eight years out of Bryant, with several outstanding seasons. Despite how this ended, that’s a pretty good showing for drafting and retaining good players.
It wasn’t about his character
There is no denying that Bryant was one of the more colorful personalities on the team. He will show emotion. He will speak his mind. He will let you know how good he thinks he is, especially if you are the opposing cornerback. Maybe this type of behavior is annoying to you as a fan or maybe it bothers you none. As far as the Cowboys organization is concern - it shouldn’t have been a big deal.
Dez Bryant didn’t just start acting this way in 2017. This has always been who he is and up until Stephen Jones’ recent comments about Bryant being a “distraction,” this has never appeared to bother anyone.
Bryant isn’t a “me” guy where he needs to have a bunch of catches to be happy. We’ve watched him be okay with not being the focal point of the offense for years. Dez only gets unhappy when the team is losing and he’s not being given the opportunity to help. He didn’t organize a coup, collaborating with fellow teammates about how Dak Prescott is playing favorites or create any type of problems in the locker room. In fact, his teammates love him. At least that is what they told the media whenever they talked about him. DeMarcus Lawrence just got done saying that “Dez is the face of our team” in a recent interview on NFL Network.
Contrary to what type of perception is created, Dez doesn’t get into any trouble. Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t start out good. After being ruled ineligible his last year at Oklahoma State because he lied about the details of his interaction with Deion Sanders, Dez would see his draft stock drop. His misfortune was the Cowboys reward as the team was able to move up three spots to draft him with the 27th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. Bryant would find trouble a couple years later when he was charged with a class A misdemeanor domestic violence charge for allegedly assaulting his mom. According to police reports, Bryant allegedly grabbed his mother by her shirt and hair and “hit her across the face with his ball cap.”
Right from the get-go, he’s been perceived as a bad apple, but to the surprise of many - he’s kept his nose clean. He’s been in no bar fights, no altercations with fans, and zero suspensions.
Silver lining: Bryant’s occasional sideline tirades are something we don’t have to deal with anymore.
If Dez’ personality didn’t push him out the door and he wasn’t released for financial reasons, then what’s the main reason?
He apparently wasn’t a “Garrett guy”
One of the reasons I felt Bryant wasn’t going to be cut was because of how highly Cowboys head coach, Jason Garrett, spoke about him on a regular basis. Garrett looks like a serious person, but he loves the players to exhibit passion. This “act like you been there before” philosophy when scoring a touchdown is not what Garrett’s about. He wants you express the thrill of such an experience. Bryant is a very competitive player and it is clear that he brings a lot of passion for the game with everything he does, but Garrett has always been supportive of him.
Garrett’s most awkward press conference came when the coach took the brunt of the fallout from Bryant failing to have an MRI done in 2016 when Dez was fearful that he might have suffered a serious injury. Dez messed up and the coach had his back. And regardless of Bryant’s emotional level, his coach always had his back...except now, he doesn’t.
As it turns out, Dez wasn’t a “Garrett guy.” He was one of the team’s All Pro players who had one of the longest tenures with the team. Only Jason Witten and L.P. Lodoucer have been with the team longer. But as great as he was, as hard as he worked, and as vocal as he was - he was not a team captain. Clearly what we’ve believed the team felt towards Dez has turned out to be something different.
Bryant openly criticizing the offensive game plan. No matter how true it could have been, that was not a good move. And if listening to Garrett talk over the years has taught us anything, it’s that you never criticize players/coaches publicly. There was a day when Bryant may have been good enough to get away with such a move, but that day has clearly passed. Whatever bridge he burned this time was severe because the team decided they are a better team with him not a part of it. And they don’t even want to bother with any transition period where a new rookie would be exposed to him in the locker room.
Silver lining: The Cowboys are trying to build a team full of players they can be proud of. Moving away from any players that aren’t focused on doing things for the greater good of the team is an improvement.
I believe in this team and the decisions they make, but it’s going to take a bit to get behind this one. Maybe this will all make sense soon enough, but for now I am having doubts about “the process” for the first time since Garrett became the head coach.