There were many disappointing moments for the Dallas Cowboy’s last season: The lost leads, the late game turnovers, the complete failure in the final do-or-die match-up against the Washington Redskins. All of these were upsetting moments that certainly stand out to Cowboy fans everywhere. Yet, one management decision stands out to me as the MOST disappointing moment in the 2012 season. It may be less assuming than the in-game debacles above, but it’s no less important.
Dec 2, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) catches a pass before the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Cowboys Stadium. The Cowboys beat the Eagles 38-33. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
In early December, amidst Dez Bryant’s brilliant rise to dominance as an NFL receiver, Dez broke his index finger. The Cowboy’s had been floundering all season and no longer sat in the driver’s seat on the road to the playoffs. They needed to win and they needed teams to lose. The odds were stacked against them. The team was decimated with injuries. Injuries to key players at key positions. The Dallas Cowboy’s just weren’t very good anymore.
When news broke about Dez’s injured finger needing surgery, Cowboy fans knew the season was done. Dez was the lone bright spot on the team. His performance was going up while the rest of the team was going down. This was the figurative nail in the coffin. But wait – just as ticket and merchandise sales started slowing, Jerry Jones jumped up declaring it Dez Bryant’s decision to hang up the cleats or not. Despite most assuredly incurring permanent damage to his index finger, Dez was given the final say on whether he plays or has surgery.
This was the most disappointing day for me.
I wrote about this situation on December 12th titled, Dez Should Not Play: It’s a Franchise Decision. Not surprisingly, Dez decided to postpone the surgery and finish the season. The final 8 games of the season Dez caught 72 passes for 879 yards and 10 touchdowns. With some help from others around the league, the Cowboy’s even had a chance at the playoffs the final week of the season. That would not have been possible if Dez Bryant was on IR. I’m pretty sure we can all agree with that.
Dec 23, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant (88) catches a touchdown pass against New Orleans Saints cornerback Patrick Robinson (21) in the second quarter at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
But even in hindsight I am no less passionate about this issue. The Dallas Cowboy’s should not have allowed Dez Bryant to permanently damage himself by playing through the injury –no matter how great the need. He is a young man with questionable decision-making skills. Of course he will respond passionately and decide to play. Did anyone think for a moment he would rationally weigh the situation?
A mentality like this is what got the league into the mess it’s in today concerning concussions. When the league (and especially the team) refuse to keep the health and safety of the individual players in mind, they are forced to overreact with absurd rule changes down the road (and after it’s too late for many).
My opinion on many of the recent concussion-preventive rule changes are topics for another day. But I think many of us can agree that some of them were long overdue while others are massive overreactions used to overcompensate for negligence of the past.
NFL players will always have the mentality that they must play through injuries for the good of the team. Media romanticizes true grit like this. A player using his heart rather than his brain. Forgoing the future for the best interests of the team. All of it.
"Listen to Tedy Bruschi on NFL Live discuss Dez’s decision, “I saw him last year with that broken finger and we were talking about will he play, will he not play and he decided to postpone the surgery. You go through an injury, you get a little bit more mature as a player and you start putting the team first.”Added Ryan Clark, “I think for him to say, ‘I want to play through it. I want to play for my team,’ it also shows toughness. …"
That short-sighted macho attitude is exactly what ran the NFL into their concussion issue today. This mindset can end a career before it begins. Dez Bryant is a vital part to the Cowboy’s today and the Cowboy’s tomorrow. It’s just bad business to risk his bright future on an unlikely shot at the postseason.
"In Early April Dez said this to the El Paso radio station AM600: “Finger is great. I’m catching passes the same. I’m not missing a beat.”"
So everything is fine then? A lot of fuss over nothing? Not so fast.
"He recently said this, “It’s never going to be normal, but I promise it’s never going to be an issue,” Bryant said at a charity home-run derby, to the Dallas Morning News “I’m ready to go. I’ve been catching footballs and I actually feel like I’ve been catching better, so I’m ready to go.”"
Dec 2, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant (88) runs after a catch in the fourth quarter pass against Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (23) and Kurt Coleman (42) at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
I don’t think the finger took on bionic capabilities in its healing process. It’s not helping him catch better. It has been forever handicapped. This is just Dez saying he will not use it as an excuse. But even if the effects are extremely minimal (and I expect it will be minimal), the Cowboy’s should not have handled the future of the franchise so haphazardly. It’s classless and stupid.
Stop laughing Redskins, I’m talking to y’all too. Everyone knew RGIII shouldn’t have been on the field. He’s not going to say something. He’s a competitor. You should have done something for the good of the player.
I’m like everyone else. I like my players tough. My best memory of Emmitt Smith is when he played with a painfully dislocated shoulder collecting over 160 yards to beat the NYG. We all love that stuff. Players themselves, teammates, and fans will always love and respect the player that risks his own health for the good of the team. That’s why they will keep doing it time and time again. And that’s exactly why the team needs to step in and make the right call for the player.
Decisions should be based on medical advice and not handed back to the player against medical advice. We all know what the player will do. We know what fans will clamor for. That’s why often times doing the right thing is so damn hard. I am willing to accept questionable draft picks, personnel moves, and play calling. But I will never accept selfish and classless behavior from a front office willing to mortgage a player’s future for so little.