At 28 years old, it’s time for Dez Bryant's maturity to catch up to Dak Prescott’s. Bryant has been in the league for six-and-a-half seasons, Prescott for half of one. Yet, it was Prescott, the 23-year-old rookie quarterback, who had to get Bryant’s head in the game last Sunday.
No one doubts Bryant’s talent. No one doubts his passion. It was widely known that he had maturity issues when the Cowboys took him. After a long two years, it appeared the team’s and fans’ patience had been rewarded when Dez turned in three seasons worthy of someone considered to be one of the league’s elite receivers. Injuries (admittedly not a measure of one’s maturity) have diminished his stats the past season and a half.
While injuries cannot be held against a player when they are taken out of a game, being taken out of the game because of your emotions certainly can. In the first quarter of Sunday’s game versus the Browns, a potential first-down was nullified when Dez was clearly interfered with on a third-down pass from Dak. No call. That’s frustrating, for sure, especially because it killed a drive. In the second quarter, a touchdown was negated when Joe Haden held Bryant’s arm and the pass fell incomplete. Again, no call. Bryant was obviously upset and rightfully so. However, this was not a third-down pass. This was on first down. In this scenario, you have to let that go and make the next play. Instead, Dez was on the bench the next two plays, still visibly upset by the non-calls.
Gambling a PI on what would have been a sure touchdown, Joe Haden effectively eliminated Dez for three crucial downs. At his age, and with his experience in the league, it’s time for Bryant to show some maturity and keep his head in the game when things don’t go his way. Instead, it was Prescott who had to reel him back in. Dez called it “real, true leadership”. Some may call it head-scratching that a six-year veteran would have to be led by a rookie in such matters.
Bryant ended the game with one catch for 19 yards, which came two minutes into the third quarter. He was targeted only one other time, for four targets total. Was it the defensive scheme of the hapless Browns which limited his targets? That seems unlikely, since he was targeted 14 times the previous week against a much better Eagles defense. Or did two non-calls get in Bryant’s head and effectively take him out of the rest of the game?
Whatever the answers are to those questions, what is unquestionable is the need for Bryant to get a grip on his emotions during the game. It is possible, one may say optimal, to be both passionate and in control of your emotions. Not being able to control your emotions is a hallmark of immaturity.
If all goes well for Bryant and the Cowboys, Dez is about halfway through his NFL career. The team and the fans should not still be waiting for him to figure this out. It certainly should not take a rookie to get him to focus on the fact that the game has not come to a halt while he continues to focus on a play three downs prior.
Dez Bryant has come a long way. The situations and circumstances of his life prior to joining the Cowboys have to be taken into account when looking at the progress he has made – not everyone starts from the same starting line in life. However, he is six-and-a-half years into this race. If the next six or seven seasons are going to be as productive for him and the team as they can be, Dez Bryant needs to get to a place where he does not take himself out of plays, drives, or games. Hopefully, he can apply that lesson from the rookie quarterback sooner rather than later.