Football is the only professional sport where the owners have complete and utter power over the players. Unlike basketball, baseball or hockey, where once you agree to pay a player you’re bound to their contract, football owners can get rid of a player any time they deem fit.
If an owner or a team has a problem with a player – whether it be for performance, attitude, or off-the field issues – he has two clear and definitive options. Fine him. Or cut him.
But if you’re Jerry Jones and the Cowboys brass, apparently, you have a third option for dealing with a troubled player. You can ground him.
That’s essentially what Jones is doing to talented yet troubled receiver Dez Bryant. The Cowboys have put various stipulations on Bryant to ensure he stays out of trouble.
There’s good reason the Cowboys have shown this level of concern. Trouble has seemed to follow Bryant since college. He was suspended for his last year at Oklahoma State for lying about having dinner with Deion Sanders, who at the time was his mentor. Since, Sanders has come out and said that Bryant was essentially out of control.
Bryant’s also been kicked out of a mall for trespassing, accused of not paying thousands of dollars worth of jewelry expenses, and most notably, potentially striking his mother earlier this summer.
The Cowboys solution was to put on him the types of stipulations you’d put on a troubled teenager, rather than a superstar wideout and grown man. Bryant is allegedly not allowed to drink, or attend strip clubs. He’s supposedly only allowed to attend nightclubs that are approved by the team, and his curfew is midnight (unless he informs the team ahead of time).
It’s clear that Bryant has very real issues, both in terms of maturity and behavior. But these stipulations are ridiculous. Jerry Jones came out and said all of the typical things you’d expect him to say about Bryant accepting such a bogus punishment:
“Oh yeah, very much willing to do anything he can to help himself and help the team,” Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said of Bryant. “He’s very open-minded and cooperative. He’s doing the right things by his teammates and everybody is counting on him.”
Jones and the organization want it to appear that they’re looking out for the best interest of Bryant. They want it to seem that they’re trying to help him, get him on the right path, and maybe help change his life.
Yes, some of the stipulations will benefit him. He’s required to attend weekly counseling sessions, which may help him with some of his anger issues. He has to have security with him at all times, including driving him to and from team facilities, which could deter him from the natural issues that occur when athletes are out after dark.
But make no mistake, these stipulations are in the best interest of the Cowboys. If they really had an issue with his behavior, they’d just cut him. When Santonio Holmes famously wore out his welcome in Pittsburgh, they traded him and never looked back.
The Cowboys won’t do this simply because Bryant is too talented, and too cheap, to make such a harsh move. He’s oozing with potential, and in the short spurts he’s been on the field, he’s been a game changer.
He’s also still on his rookie contract, so his skills come at a bargain for the team. If he were, say, a 5th year player who just signed an extension, the Cowboys may not be so sympathetic with their punishment.
It’s also not a given that these new rules will actually work. When the Cowboys took a chance on Adam “Pacman” Jones, they also assigned security to him at all times. Jones ended up getting in a fight with one of the security guards during a night out. I don’t think it would surprise anyone if Bryant, a noted hothead, has a similar reaction to men he doesn’t know constantly around him everywhere he goes.
It would be one thing if Bryant asked the organization for this. But he’s an adult, who needs to make these decisions on his own. He shouldn’t be treated like a child, even if he’s prone to acting like one.
If the Cowboys want to help Bryant, they should make him attend the counseling sessions and put him on a one-strike policy. If he messes up again, he’s out of a Cowboys uniform. As an adult, that warning should be enough to wake him up. If it doesn’t, it’s not the Cowboys’ responsibility to reform him.
It’s possible that these rules will work, and Bryant will shape up and have a tremendous season in Dallas.
If that happens, the “Dez Rules” worked out perfectly. For the Cowboys.
Follow Stefen Lovelace on Twitter at @StefenLovelace