Is Cowboys' coach sending the right message?
IRVING, Texas — Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett whiffed on a golden opportunity Wednesday. He could've told reporters how disappointed he was that wide receiver Dez Bryant was in the news again for something other than football, but Garrett took a different route.
He has talked extensively about creating a culture of accountability in the organization, but he has a funny way of showing it. Bryant, heading into his third season with the team, has left an embarrassing trail of incidents since being selected in the first round of the draft.
Bryant is now accused of family violence against his mother, although she's now insisting that nothing of the sort took place. Despite her frantic 911 call and subsequent claim to DeSoto police that her son had struck her on the arms and across the face with a baseball cap, she has filed an affidavit with the Dallas County district attorney's office asking that her son not be prosecuted. Dez Bryant's attorney, State Senator Royce West, wasted everyone's time Tuesday by staging a news conference/photo-op during which he read from a prepared statement while mother and son sat next to each other, peacefully. There's a good chance the case could be dropped, but that won't be binding in the court of the NFL's judge and juror, Roger Goodell.
There's nothing to prevent the league's commissioner from suspending Bryant for a game or two of the regular season. And maybe that's a good thing since Garrett offered only soothing words to the Bryant family Tuesday. He even indicated the Cowboys were prepared to offer support to Angela Bryant.
Garrett went on to suggest that the Cowboys have one of the best player-assistance programs in professional sports. But with all due respect, it seems like an odd time to give a "shout out" to a program that has apparently broken containment on Bryant.
The Cowboys head coach has never been willing to call out players publicly, but he should've made an exception with Bryant. Because of his freakish athletic ability, the receiver has been enabled at every level. Jerry Jones is scared to death of drafting players with substance-abuse issues, but he jumped at the chance to select Bryant because he simply needed some help in the "life skills" department. From what I can tell, that meant that Dez was known for showing up late for meetings at Oklahoma State and probably not devouring his playbook.
The Cowboys knew Bryant had a uniquely difficult childhood in Lufkin, Texas, and that it would be important to provide structure for him. But unlike how they approached the Pacman Jones affair, the Cowboys haven't placed a security detail on Bryant. When he has too much down time — like July, for instance — he tends to run into trouble. But being detained for sagging in the mall (last summer's adventure) seems quaint compared to being accused of striking your own mother.
And that's why it was so disappointing to hear Garrett take such an understanding tone in regard to Bryant's recent arrest. There's no reason to hide behind a weak, "We're still gathering information" line. How hard is it to say something along the lines of, "No matter what happens legally, Dez has caused another huge distraction off the field." Instead, Garrett sounded more like a therapist than a football coach. (And I'm all for good therapy, by the way.)
"I think a lot of people who are in our business understand the importance of mental toughness and focus," Garrett said. "And you have to do that. Players and coaches in the NFL are people. We have issues that come up in our lives and we have to be able to handle them and still be a pro and handle the task at hand."
So we're supposed to accept that Dez is just like the rest of us when it comes to handling life's issues? Sorry, but most of us can't relate to our mothers feeling the need to call 911 because we've allegedly knocked them around.
If Garrett truly wanted to send a message to Bryant, he could let Goodell know he's suspending him for a game. The commissioner would probably appreciate one of his head coaches being proactive.
But based on Garrett's recent comments, it's much more likely Goodell will have to take matters into his own hands. And, by the way, he seems pretty good at that.