The Cowboys gave rookie receiver Dez Bryant jersey No. 88 of Hall of Fame legend Michael Irvin because they felt he was going to be the team’s new playmaker on the field.
Clearly it was a self-fulfilling prophecy as Bryant’s emotional sideline demeanor has been Irvin like as well.
Bryant drew some criticism during the Thanksgiving loss to the Saints for several emotional outbursts on the sideline. It was a game in which Bryant didn’t a catch a pass for the first time all season.
Interim coach Jason Garrett said that Bryant’s passion indeed reminded him of Irvin, his former teammate with the Cowboys who was fiery on and off the field.
Garrett said he had no problem with Bryant’s emotional out bursts, blaming them on his competitive nature. He said he was not a distraction to his teammates.
"No, I don't see that as a negative,'' Garrett said. ``With any player, you want to make sure they're focused on the task at hand, but he's such an enthusiastic, passionate guy. In no way was it to me, and I don't think to the offensive guys or anybody on the team, a distraction. ‘Hey Dez, let’s just go to the next play.’ And I think he understood that and he went about his job.''
Garrett couldn’t deny that Bryant became a distraction to himself late in the game when he continued to complain about a penalty and had to be replaced in the lineup.
"That's something that all players need to be able to do,'' Garrett said. ``You let it go, you move to the next one, and our job as coaches, if you can see a player for whatever reason not able to do that, you just sub them out for a second and kind of get him under control, but that hasn't been an issue with him in the past."
What was an issue according to Garrett is the increased attention Bryant is getting from opposing teams. That more than anything contributed to his catchless performance against the Saints. It’s something he is going to have to start getting used to and find a way to deal with.
"One of the things he can learn is the attention he's going to get going forward,” Garrett said.” He's probably had that since he was at Lufkin High School. People know who Dez Bryant is. He's certainly shown people in this league so far that he is worthy of some attention. You just have to keep playing, keep fighting through it and emotionally keep yourself ready to go. He's a great competitor.”
Clarence E. Hill Jr.