If the position of wide receiver in the National Football League brings out the child in a grown man, if not the full-blown narcissist, then Dez Bryant leads the new petulance parade. The other day, he went on Dallas radio and compared himself favorably with Detroit’s Calvin Johnson. We refer to Johnson as “Megatron” in the business for a reason: He’s the greatest receiver since Jerry Rice.
Even when Bryant tried to downplay his comments after being scolded by Detroit receiver Nate Burleson — “No way, no how. Sorry, Dez. Keep it real,” he said — Dizzy Dez still was placing himself in the same pantheon with Megatron. “What I was saying was, I can make catches and all that. Things he can do, I can do. But I wasn’t saying it as it was just me who was able to do it,” Bryant said.
Whatever he was trying to say, Johnson shamed him where it mattered: on the field, not behind a microphone. In one of the epic offensive peformances in NFL history, he finished eight yards shy of the league’s single-game record with a 329-yard day. His 14th and final catch was a 22-yarder in the final seconds to set up the Lions’ winning score, quarterback Matthew Stafford’s over-the-trenches lunge that caught the Cowboys by surprise in a wild 31-30 victory. Afterward, Johnson had no interest in dissing Bryant, preferring to ask why paying customers had left Ford Field when the Lions had trailed by 10 points with 6:45 left.
“Even our fans didn’t think we could pull this one out,” Johnson said. “They were leaving, but we knew we could do it.”
He left it to the critics to pounce on Bryant, who provided plenty of ammunition. We’ve been led to believe by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who generally is full of crap, that Bryant has grown up after a series of out-of-control episodes on and off the field. Sunday, he looked like a bigger troublemaker than ever during two sideline tirades that looked much like Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco/Johnson, Randy Moss, Keyshawn Johnson and all the other wideout temperamentalists of the genre. It is one thing to want the ball, but quite another — “Just Give Me the Damn Ball!” as Keyshawn titled his book — to be over-the-top demonstrative in demanding it.
Calvin Johnson does not have this disease, which is why he is compared to Rice, who also didn’t have it. Dez Bryant has it bad, which is why he’s compared to loudmouths and problem children.
In the third quarter, feeling he wasn’t being targeted enough, Bryant jumped all over quarterback Tony Romo with wild gestures even as the Cowboys controlled the game. This even though he’d already lit up the highlight shows with a spectacular, one-handed touchdown catch in the final minute of the first half. He should have been pacified when Romo later hit him on a 50-yard TD play midway through the final quarter, which gave Dallas a 27-17 lead. But after a furious Lions comeback led to Johnson’s late catch and Stafford’s touchdown, Bryant lost his mind and assured himself a spot in the national headlines.
Ever notice the good manners of the dignified Dallas tight end, Jason Witten? There he was, with 12 seconds left, engaged in such a heated and furious argument with Bryant that they had to be separated by teammate DeMarcus Ware, who was in street clothes with an injury. You’ll have to explain to me how this can be the least bit healthy for an sports team, any business, any relationship.
That’s what the Cowboys, from Jones and Romo and Witten all the way down to Bryant himself, tried to do after a typical choker defeat for a team that habitually melts down in crunch time. Maybe this is their problem — they are enabling a hothead because he happens to be ultra-talented — while the Lions have no such worries with the beautiful chemistry between Megatron and Stafford. Bryant was targeted only six times, and if he wonders why Johnson caught 14 balls and was targeted 18 times, he might want to ask coach Jason Garrett and defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin why they employed one-on-one coverage so often with helpless cornerback Brandon Carr. Instead, Bryant went after his own peeps in full view of the live TV cameras, then tried to downplay it all.
“My passion is always positive. It’s going to remain the same way,” Bryant told the media. “I’m not saying anything wrong. I’m not saying anything bad. It’s all positive. That’s just what it is.
“I’m the nicest person off the field. When I’m on the field, even when I look angry, it’s still all good passion. It’s all good passion. I feel like that’s what we need. I’m going to remain the same way. I feel like I love this game. I love it. In order to win, you’ve got to be passionate about this game. You have to be. You’ve got to let that dog come out and just put it all out there on the line.”
Um, why doesn’t Megatron let that dog come out? And does Bryant ever consider how this looks to fans and media? “That’s (the media’s) problem, because everybody knows up in this locker room who I am,” Bryant said, per ESPN.com. “It’s been that way since Day 1. The day that I got drafted, like I told y’all, don’t get it twisted. I love this game. I love my teammates. That’s what it is.
“It’s going to forever remain the same. It started in Pop Warner, went to middle school, went to high school, went to college, and it’s here. It’s going to stay that way. It won’t change.”
If he doesn’t change radically, the Cowboys won’t change, either. With Jones posing as a wannabe football executive who hasn’t won anything since the mid-’90s, they are among the biggest jokes in sports, America’s Team only in their minds. One minute, Dez was yelling at Derek Dickey, the receivers coach. Next minute, he was yelling at Romo, who tried to ignore him. But when he’s going at it with Witten, and Witten is giving it back to him and looking about ready to pop him, this is ugly no matter how Jones and everyone else in the locker room tries to spin it.
“Not in any way did it concern me,” Jones said, per ESPN.com “It’s not a negative for our team. Matter of fact, when he started that as I saw timing-wise, we started playing better on our offense and the defense didn’t hear it. They were out on the field. It’s not an issue. I’m not trying to make light of it. But he’s a very passionate player and he competes and works and does all the things that give him the collateral to use with his teammates and with me relative to a few awkward moments on the sideline, overexpression of passion. He’s bought enough slack with me.”
Said Romo: “He’s never complained to me about getting the ball. He knows that the ball’s going where it’s supposed to. When you guys sometimes see emotions from Dez, it’s just trying to `rah, rah’ more than it is being a `me’ guy. That’s not who Dez is. I think that would be completely out of character for him if there was ever a ‘me’ situation.”
Please. A rah-rah guy knows the difference being rallying the boys and throwing selfish fits based on his number of touches. He knows there is a time and a place. The Cowboys are so obsessed with trying to control the public perception of Dez Bryant, they are in denial.
He is a distraction, an ego monster, a clown.
And if you don’t believe me, take another good look at the man who won the game, almost broke a record and never has said a cross word to a teammate, much less thrown a hissy fit.
“It was crazy,” Johnson said, per the Associated Press. “We had a lot of one-on-one coverage, and we were able to take advantage and hit some deep balls. Matt made some great throws to me.”
He is the Jerry Rice of his generation.
Dizzy Dez is Ochocinco meets T.O., yet another diva who doesn’t get it and likely never will.