Jul 23, 2013; Oxnard, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) at training camp at the River Ridge Fields. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports.

2013 Dallas Cowboys: Team of Deztiny

Throughout all of the Dallas Cowboys’ Super Bowl seasons, there has been a #88 on the roster to propel them to glory (though one could argue about how momentous Reggie Rucker and his 19-yard touchdown catch in Week One of 1971 were in propelling that team to glory). The #88 almost the numerical value of the Dallas Cowboys’ blue star itself.

The Dallas Cowboys have had other #88’s on the team (e.g. Antonio Bryant), and they have had other seasons of success. Right now, the celestial events are aligning to where this season’s Dallas Cowboys could be something special.

Mickey Spagnola does this thing where he anoints a Cowboy player as being “Mr. Indispensable,” or something along those lines. It was funny during the mid-2000’s when he would name someone “Mr. Indispensable” and then the player would get hurt or whatever. The fans would go nuts and blame him for putting a hex on the player, as though Mickey Spagnola is absorbed in the powers of voodoo. In a similar vein, I think that the Dallas Cowboys’ hopes for success rely on our present #88. For the 2013 Dallas Cowboys to be a team of destiny, they have to saddle up Dez Bryant.

I know it’s out of the norm to value a wide receiver so highly, but Dez Bryant is a guy that has a superstar quality about him to lead a team that hasn’t been seen in Dallas since Michael Irvin. In fact, out of the three Triplets, Michael Irvin’s absence caused the second-greatest number of losses from 1990-99. Think back to that 1999 season in general. The Cowboys finished 8-8 limping into Minnesota to have Jeff George, Robert Smith, and Randy Moss finish them. To win the division, they needed to capture two more wins. Do you think Michael Irvin would have been good for that October 10th game against the Eagles, a loss by three points, and also that December 19th game against the Jets, a loss by a freakin’ field goal?

People recall Emmitt Smith’s 25 touchdowns that led Dallas to a 12-4 mark and homefield advantage en route to an NFC East crown in 1995. Additionally, Michael Irvin set the Cowboys’ single-season record for catches (111) and yards (1,603). What’s remarkable about it is Alvin Harper wasn’t playing on the other side; he was playing in Tampa Bay. The only threat on the other side was Kevin Williams. That means Michael Irvin caught all of those balls and gained all of those yards with teams knowing he was Aikman’s target. And he still made those plays.

After following up a breakout season, wherein Dez Bryant put up incredible numbers in the last eight games of the season, Dez Bryant hasn’t rested on his laurels. Now, maybe he would if he had a Pro Bowl berth, but that’s highly unlikely. We’ve seen Michael Jordan reward this “mercurial” wide receiver with an endorsement deal. How did Dez handle it? He forfeited a year’s worth of the contract to prove to Jordan that he was worthy of the entire contract. This is a small fry of evidence compared to the huge potato of evidence we’ve seen out of Dez, where Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne talk about his challenging them constantly. We also have reports from Terrance Williams on how Dez mentors him. Then, don’t forget Mike Fisher a couple of weeks ago recounting a Dez Bryant story where the fourth-year wide receiver needed more than thirty seconds to tell a group of underprivileged high school footballers at Valley Ranch that they needed to take things seriously to succeed and rise from the underserved community. This stuff defines leadership and maturity, two traits of Dez Bryant people thought he just didn’t have.

By natural talent alone, Dez showed glimpses of greatness in his first two seasons. Now, Dez has been working diligently on his route tree. I’d love for Patrick Peterson to face Dez in the playoffs and see if afterwards he’s caught on camera saying #88 only knows a couple of routes. The NFL isn’t ready for Dez Bryant. In 2013, no one is going to have an answer, other than to crash on Romo. But when it comes to coverage and cornerbacks, no one is going to have an answer, only disconsolation as they see #88 throw up the X.

Dez Bryant is this year’s most necessary player. Yes, without Romo, we’re doomed. I get that. We’re 3-13. But without Dez, the Cowboys don’t have a chance for 13-3. Romo keeps us from losing, but Dez Bryant gives us a chance to win.

If you own a fantasy football team, don’t be afraid to be a homer and pick Dez Bryant. He’s really going to pay big dividends this year. Now, mind you, this is all based on the assumption he’s healthy for a 16-game season. We’ll have to see how this sore hip development plays out. If it’s nothing and he’s 100% come Week 1, take Dez Bryant. Pick him up in your fantasy leagues.

Even with Dez Bryant, I think a Super Bowl victory for the Dallas Cowboys is quite fanciful in 2013. The balance of power has shifted in the NFC, and there are more good teams over here than there used to be six years ago. Nevertheless, #88, Dez Bryant, gives these Dallas Cowboys a chance to be a memorable team, a team of Deztiny.

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