Dez Bryant’s meltdown on the sidelines in Detroit was wildly entertaining for NFL fans, maddening for Cowboy fans and business as usual for the Cowboys themselves.
Anarchy is the rule at Valley Ranch. Has been since Jimmy Johnson was deposed almost 20 years ago. That’s the Cowboy culture. There is no authority, at least not with the football delegation.
Jerry Jones is the boss, the coaches are mere strategists who need not concern themselves with discipline and personalities and the like, and players answer to Jones. No one else.
It’s been that way for a generation, and it’s not a secret. So Dez Bryant, like Terrell Owens and others before him, knows the ramifications are limited if he rants and raves along the bench area at quarterback Tony Romo, receivers coach Derek Dooley, head coach Jason Garrett or even team leaders DeMarcus Ware and Jason Witten.
That kind of thing wouldn’t be tolerated in New England or Pittsburgh or East Rutherford (Giants). It’s not that Dez would be summarily cut after such hijinks. It’s that he would have been taught better. Or if he hadn’t time to realize what acceptable behavior is, Dez in those ports would have been reamed out in private and largely straightened out. But in Dallas, the culture is enabling. Whatever the marquee men want.
Dez, of course, is an extreme example of what can happen without borders. He grew up with virtually no parental supervision; the school people in Lufkin, Texas, tried to give him some love and direction; OSU football provided Dez with guidance for 2 1/2 years; and even the Cowboys, with a virtual chaperone service to curtail his off-field antics, have tried to keep him in line.
But when shoulder pads are on, the chaperones go away. And despite the presence of veterans like Ware and Witten, who try to police the mayhem the best they can, there is no atmosphere of accountability. And a player/personality like Dez operates without a filter, and it explodes in certain situations like Sunday.
In the 19 1/2 years since Johnson and Jones split, Jones has employed only one strong-character coach. Bill Parcells. They butted heads often, but give Jones credit for trying to acquiesce. However, he couldn’t sustain it. He returned to laid back coaches who don’t try to instill their own will on a team.
You don’t have to have a Captain Bligh coaching your team to succeed in the NFL. But you do need a coach who can maintain — or at least instill — a culture of accountability. Every receiver in the NFL wants the ball more. Every receiver in the NFL has a cross word with his quarterback at some point. But to turn the sideline into a stage show? Unacceptable. At least in most NFL organizations. But not in Dallas.