The events of the last few days in the life and times of Dez Bryant bring into focus one clear reminder that was front and center 27 months ago when the Cowboys went out of their way to select the talented wide receiver. There was a significant risk to selecting him and if the Cowboys were to do so, they would have to ignore a number of red flags that many organizations simply were not willing look past.
Not many teams in the last two decades seem more willing to play with fire than Jerry Jones and his Cowboys. While sometimes it turns out to be typecasting, stereotyping or misinformation, other times it is Bryant.
The wideout, as it has been mentioned a number of time in the last 48 hours, has never been arrested before. OK, that's great. But since the Cowboys drafted the Oklahoma State product with the 24th overall pick in 2010, he has generated more headlines than the rest of the team combined.
Sure, this is first arrest, but it’s always something. Missed meeting, missed treatment, missed hot route, missed autograph signing, disagreement with the police, disagreement with security, unpaid bills, contracts with clothing companies gone bad, lawsuits and on and on and on.
Bryant is everything one hopes to avoid when trying to run a football team. One of the complimentary phrases repeatedly used when describing a veteran who has his act together is that someone is a "pro's pro.” It is reserved for the guy that requires no babysitting or maintenance. When a player is signed, he’s expected to take care of his business.
But with Bryant, it’s quite the opposite. He has missed countless appointments and has been locked out of a team meeting for being late. He has not always been familiar with his assignments and has offered the occasional sideline temper tantrum because he’s not getting the ball when and where he sees fit.
The talent is unmistakable. If it wasn't, then why would he be worth this amount of trouble? Why would the Cowboys hitch their wagon to his train, living and dying on his big performances because they are so leveraged on making sure it works out?
Fully realizing that if he or wide receiver Miles Austin is lost for a fraction of the season, the Cowboys fortunes could go up in smoke before they even leave the starting gate in 2012.
At the 2010 draft, it seemed a given that the Cowboys would pick Bryant. Allegedly, Jones was still reminiscing about the "mistake" he made in 1998 when he didn't take Randy Moss because of red flags.
What has been interesting over the last year or so is the frankness with which Jones and Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones have started speaking about Bryant. They are more than willing to go to the media with challenges for the young receiver to grow up and take care of his business. They have tried coddling and now they’ve adjusted it to somewhat tougher love — at least in various interviews where they ask him to step up his game and career to the next level. Basically, to stop making them look silly and start making them look smart for believing in him.
Jerry Jones is considered by many to take chances and be successful at them when most wouldn’t take the risks. He showed one legend the exit and brought in a college coach when others predicted that wouldn’t work in the NFL. He worked the system and understood how to get an edge. The Cowboys won three Super Bowls between 1992-’95.
Then the stains of public controversy started invading Valley Ranch and the winning stopped simultaneously. From then until now, Jones has been going in one big circle of trusting his gut, getting burned, changing his ways, not liking it and going back to trusting his gut all over again.
The latest version of gut-trusting involves Bryant, who enters his third season. He has delivered glimpses and an overall performance record that is quite reasonable given comparisons to other wide receivers in the NFL. But the "it will always be something with this guy" prediction has come through as advertised.
If Bryant was a model player, one could get over his issues off the field (see countless examples). If he was a model citizen, one could get over his occasional issues on the field (see countless other examples). But, sadly, he is neither at this point. A guy who is not where he is supposed to be on the field when it matters most, and a guy who makes Jones cringe when the phone rings late at night.
Bryant can be as good as he wants to be — a cliché often used for this type of athlete. Blessed with the tools and intangibles to dominate at the highest levels, but not consistent or dependable enough in the way he sees life to ever fully realize it.
Now with rumors rampant about the Cowboys’ intentions when contract time arrives, we are reminded why sometimes it makes good business sense not to gamble. When the rest of the NFL won't touch a guy because of questionable character, maybe there is a solid reason or rationale. Maybe, because of some of these traits, he just will never be worth the trouble. Maybe, going against the crowd can go wrong.
Bryant can still be something special in Dallas, but it seems more undetermined than ever before as these speculative projections of life with Dez have become a reality with each passing headline. Make no mistake, most people inside the organization, if off the record, will say that these issues are not a figment of the media's imagination.
Time will continue to tell ... but if it continues at this rate, there will be yet another cautionary tale to put in the books about Jerry being Jerry and how that wildcatting is not always the best strategy in the NFL.