Posted October 29, 2013

Dez Bryant’s sideline ‘eruption’ was not what you may have thought

Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions
When it comes to sideline discussions, appearances can be deceiving. .(Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

When it comes to sideline discussions, appearances can be deceiving. (Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

NFL players have learned that very little they do on the field isn’t mic’d up. And in the case of Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, that may help his case a great deal. Bryant engaged in two animated discussions on the sideline during Dallas’ 31-30 loss to the Detroit Lions Sunday, and many believed that Bryant was either trashing the overall playcalling, or insisting that he should get the ball more.

Not quite. When NFL Films released the audio of Bryant’s first sideline discussion, it became clear that the receiver was trying to get on the same page with quarterback Tony Romo — he was just doing it in a very emotional fashion.

The outburst happened after Romo threw an incomplete pass to Dwayne Harris on third down, leaving the Cowboys with the option to kick a field goal instead. That’s where the audio came in.

Bryant slammed his helmet to the ground, and instead of attacking anyone directly with his words, he told teammates and coaches that the Cowboys should have scored on that drive. He then went to talk to Romo about the fact that he wasn’t targeted on the play. Romo and receivers coach Derek Dooley talked with Bryant about the mechanics of the play, and why he wasn’t targeted.

“We good at that, Tony — we the best in the NFL on that!” Bryant said, insisting that he would be open on the play.

“What you’ve got to do is to set it down,” Romo replied, telling Bryant (it would appear) that Bryant needed to be somewhere else as a target on that play.

And that’s a legitimate concern — for all his talent on the field, Bryant will take liberties with routes that frequently leave him out of the action. It’s the inevitable downside of his athletic improvisation, and it bit him in this case. But he was not going after anybody in a destructive fashion.

We don’t yet know what happened on the second sideline incident, when Bryant and tight end Jason Witten had to be separated by injured defensive end DeMarcus Ware, but it’s also important to note that soon before Bryant “lost it” following that third-down play, Witten was seen expressing his own frustration.

So, it would seem that when Bryant’s coaches and teammates defended him after the game, it wasn’t just a cover-up for something systemically wrong with the Cowboys franchise.

“I’m sure you have seen him get emotional, which happens every game,” Romo said. “He’s a competitive guy. He’s never complained to me about getting the ball. He knows that the ball’s going to where it’s supposed to. He knows that. 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. He does a great job. Sometimes he gets emotional just about, ‘Come on guys, come on, we’re better than this.’ Things like that, really emotionally. He’s never a self-first guy.”

The tape would seem to back that up, as it backs up Bryant’s assertion that he was trying to motivate in his own way — through that way could use a bit of refinement.

“My passion is always positive,” Bryant said. “It’s always positive. It’s going to remain the same way. 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.”

Former Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin, who had a similar way of motivating VERY loudly on the sideline during his career — something his teammates respected because he backed up the volume on the field — was discounted by many when he spoke about it on the NFL Network because he has a habit of defending diva receivers (hello, Terrell Owens) to a fault. But upon further review, Irvin had a point.

“I talked people in Dez’s camp and people with the Cowboys’ camp and the way they see this is, it is passion on the sideline. Guys are telling me that [Bryant and Romo] were embracing on the bus ride and going to the plane talking about it. [People on the bus were] talking to Dez about it, [saying] ‘We don’t have any problem with it. We just want to make sure that the passion is directed in the right way.’ You have to know how to address that kind of passion.”

As Irvin concluded, “I would much rather hold you back than have to push you out.”

The challenge for the Cowboys is to find a middle ground with Bryant. Much was assumed because of Bryant’s youth and his off-field history, and those assumptions were incorrect. but team leadership is a fine balance, and Bryant is still learning his way.

Hopefully, those who jumped to conclusions in this case (including, it should be said, yours truly), will learn something from this as well.

34 comments
RichardHarris
RichardHarris

Acknowledging that Bryant wasn't asking for the ball, I am.  It seems that with a receiver as talented as Bryant is, you need to be getting the ball to him more than 3 times in a game.  Considering the number of plays run in a game the cowboys need to have Bryant catching a minimum of 6 to 7 passes a game if not more.  It's absurd that they were not utilizing his talent.   

A balanced attack should utilize each individual in an approximately equal manner.  There are 5 people who are eligible for the quarterback to go to.   If you run 60 plays a game each of those players should be the target roughly 12 times per game.  The reason you want to run a balanced attack is to keep the defense honest.  If you go to one guy in a disproportionate manner you enable the defense to get away with keying on that individual and ignoring other potential targets.  This makes your opponent's defenders better players than they actually are. 

HeatherHand3
HeatherHand3

It doesn't matter.  He was not ready to help in those last 12 sec. And more importantly, every def cood. now knows how to rattle Dez and get his head out of the game

The Donald
The Donald

All the Cowboys haters here want to make this out to be something that it's not.  It's because they remember the last Cowboys receiver that was passionate and loud and kicked their teams a$# year after year on his way to the Hall of Fame and 3 Superbowl wins.

learery7
learery7

Dez is like titus young and will follow the same path as young ! three quarters of his constant spoiled child act is so bad his next headline will be in the front page for his edge of the insane ! Just like titus young Dez has something wrong with him and its obvious to everybody else except the cowboys goodell should fine or discipline him for his tyrant on sunday!

tulane75
tulane75

Who cares? It had the "appearance of impropriety! Decorum matters, by the way.

Jed1
Jed1

I guess there's only a few "competitive guys" in the NFL because most players don't thow tantrums and act like spoiled children. I kept wating for Bryant to stamp his feet and hold his breath until he was targeted by Romo. 

bwilde
bwilde

http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-videos/0ap2000000271580/Dez-sideline-sound

The NFL just release the audio of the conversation between Dez and Romo and he's telling Romo he thinks they're the best in the NFL.  He's very animated while doing it …and so with no audio the Media couldn't wait to portray him as the Angry Black man 

We've seen Troy Aikman yelling at team mates ......Aaron Rogers yelling at coaches ....And Tom Brady yelling at coaches and team mates........When these guys do it ...its painted by the same media .....As "these guys are just big time competitors" .... But Bryant  gets animated and fired up and exhibits the same behavior as those  players do..... and the portrayal suddenly flips and changes to " Oh he's a bad guy, a malcontent or crybaby.....and none of those characteristics were attributed to Aikman, Rogers or Brady when they went off on team mates and coaches.....thats a clear example of a Double Standard when all of them want the same thing ....to simply win.

Its interesting the conclusions the media jumped to without audio…..that turned out to be a completely inaccurate portrayals of what the player was trying to accomplish with his team once the NFL release the actual audio for the video

jeff98
jeff98

Funny, you don't see the best WR in football have theses types of rants, and Calvin Johnson has played on some crappy Lions teams.

WHO*IS*ESPN
WHO*IS*ESPN

um, YES it IS as bad as it looked. He may be "passionate" as he says, but he is still an arrogant selfish prick who wants the attention......while using the passionate line.  yeah.

BrentHull
BrentHull

"So, it would seem that when Bryant’s coaches and teammates defended him after the game, it wasn’t just a cover-up for something systemically wrong with the Cowboys franchise."

This quote clearly tells me the author of this article is a blind tool that is trying to cover for the failure of the Dallas Cowboys.  The exact opposite is true.  This was in fact a cover-up for a bunch of losers.  Dallas was once the most winning franchise in the NFL now it just makes money and loses.  Dallas will never see another Super Bowl until Jerry Jones and the Jones family are not in control of this loser of a franchise, however, I would wager Dallas fans will still pay for the crap that is the Cowboys because they have proven time and again for the last 15 years they will pay good money for a proven loser.

gary41
gary41

It's all OK, but Romo is properly detached.  He doesn't need sideline encouragement.....doesn't even seem to respond much....

RearViewMirror3
RearViewMirror3

We didn't have a problem with it- white racist scum like John Farrar did.

meats29
meats29

I still don't understand how everyone is talking about this meaningless crap and no one even mentions how the Cowboys just gave away a game where they could have taken a knee and won. They got the ball back with 1:20 left and Detroit only had 2 timeouts. If they just take a knee 3 times then 40 seconds runs off the clock on 3rd down and there are about 25-30 seconds left. Then you punt and Detroit has the ball at their own 10 yard line with 20 seconds left and 0 timeouts making it virtually impossible to win. Instead they run a sweep play on 3rd down when they didn't even need a 1st down and they get a holding call. Why in the hell would you run a play where you could possibly get a holding call and a play where most holding calls are callled. It is the worst game management i have ever seen and it's the only game i have ever seen (besides the Herman Edwards Eagles-Giants game) where a team could have taken a knee to win and ended up losing.

emncaity
emncaity

Just such a big nothing-burger anyway.  Really just the result of over-over-OVER-coverage of every little action and statement.

JohnB.Hafford
JohnB.Hafford

Count me guilty.  I also jumped to the wrong conclusion.  Dez is passionate, but also smarter than anyone gives him credit for.

EaglesPdx
EaglesPdx

Hmmm...Bryant sounds as childish on the tape as he looked without the audio.  Bryant made it a comparison of him and Johnson and Johnson just crushed Bryant in play aking and sportsmanship...and Lions deservedly won the game.

Robert96
Robert96

Bryant will watch many games in the future, probably from a cell.

AnthonyPatterrson
AnthonyPatterrson

@bwilde sorry, one audio clip doesn't explain him going off several times, surely you can't be suggesting that.  Secondly, everybody you named is a QB, they yell all the time as they're seen as the team leader, Moon yelled, Vick yelled, McNair yelled too.

 Please explain the video of Witten, Ware, and Dez. Btw, he was ranting the whole game, read Whitlocks column. Everything isn't about race "Angry Black Man", how about just "angry man". Screaming "we the best" and getting emotional isn't helpful when its time to think your way out of a problem. People who aren't great thinkers tend to rely on emotions. 

bbowens8
bbowens8

@jeff98  Because he has a quarterback who plays to win and throws the ball to him, Tony Romo is a loser and every game he plays is a struggle, He can't put  togehter two good games in a row and very seldom wins road games.

KevinC
KevinC

@BrentHull How is it a coverup? They have the audio! It's been released. 

randomdeletion
randomdeletion

@BrentHull It is telling that they release just a portion of his maniacal tirade.  What did he say the rest of the time?  Hmm?  Conveniently that is not public. 

BrentHull
BrentHull

@gary41 Tony Romo is a good guy that never wins and always loses.

randomdeletion
randomdeletion

@meats29 I was stunned they were not kneeling the ball.  My girlfriend is a Cowboy fan and as I was laughing at the Cowboys for not kneeling she said "I think they know better than you what they should or should not be doing".  I said "well they should be kneeling the ball to ensure they give the Lions the least amount of time on the clock and not take any chances on anything else going wrong while running a play".  lol  In the end, I just looked at her "who knows better about what they should have been doing"? 

JohnB.Hafford
JohnB.Hafford

@EaglesPdx Spoken like a true Feebles fan.  How many takeaways did the Cowboys get? FOUR.  Where was Johnson when Sean Lee made his three interceptions?  In the mean time, Dez caught the majority of balls thrown his way. As well, Romo was not picked off at all.  The Lions may have won, but they did not play the better game.

bbowens8
bbowens8

@Robert96  shut up bigot you are here to try anf bad mouth a black man you arn't a fan you heep of crap!!!!!!!!!

AnthonyPatterrson
AnthonyPatterrson

@KevinC @BrentHull They have ONE (1) audio clip, he was ranting throughout the game, with multiple scenes, meaning more than ONCE. If releasing one clip explains multiple tirades, I don't know what that says about peoples level of comprehension, or they are being dishonest in their defense.

BrentHull
BrentHull

@randomdeletion @BrentHull He probably said Jerry Jones is a fool, that Tony romo works as Jerry Jones' little shoe shine boy thus ensuring Dallas losing  into the next decade and that he himself was an idiot to play for this slop for he will never reach the Super Bowl. 

sunalsorises
sunalsorises

@JohnB.Hafford @EaglesPdx Dallas was lucky to be up with two minutes left.  That being said, they still should have won that game.  They didn't deserve it, but they still should have won.  That they didn't is what this team has become.

AnthonyPatterrson
AnthonyPatterrson

@JohnB.Hafford @EaglesPdx you are out of your mind, the Cowboys had no business even being in the game. They were being beat up and down the field, if not for the turnovers, it would have been a blowout. While your boy was screaming like a child and struggling for 72 yards (50 on one play) Johnson was gaining over 300 yards, acting with class, and won. run along child...

tripsons
tripsons

@JohnB.Hafford @EaglesPdx  

Really except for the 4 plays that resulted in turnovers the Lions dominated the Cowboys.  Did you know the Lions gained over 600 yards of offense (most ever given up by Dallas in a game) and Romo was under 50% passing unheard of in today's NFL.  No way no how you can say Dallas played the better game.