A little less than two years ago, Tom Brady got into a heated, obscenity-laced argument with his offensive coordinator, Bill O’Brien, during a 34-27 victory over the Redskins. Tom Brady threw an interception in the red zone. He came off the field frustrated, and O’Brien sought an explanation. Cameras picked up the confrontation, which ended when Bill Belichick came over and told everyone to squash it.
Here’s what O’Brien – who left a few months later to take the Penn State job – said after the game:
“It’s just two competitive guys that want the best for the team, and we’ve moved onto Denver and getting ready for Denver now.”
The media hounded him with questions, but he stuck with that line and eventually, everyone moved on. Brady, a 3-time Super Bowl champ, accepted full responsibility for the sideline screaming match:
“I threw a pretty bad interception and he wasn’t happy about it,” Brady said. “There are probably a long line of coaches and players that were pretty pissed at me after that, but Billy got to me first. He let me have it and I deserved it.”
“We’re both pretty emotional guys,” Brady said. “That’s what I deserve. You make a bad throw, you’re supposed to get yelled at by your coaches. It’s certainly not the first time and it probably won’t be the last. You can’t do it in that situation. It was just a stupid play by me.”
“No, I made a terrible play,” he responded. “He just wanted to let me know I made a terrible play. It’s football, man. It’s emotion. That’s athletics.”
Sunday, Dez Bryant of the Cowboys made a stellar touchdown catch, and later blew up at Tony Romo on the sideline. All indications are that Bryant was not thrilled he only had two receptions at the time (five targets) while his counterpart, Calvin Johnson, was in the process of having one of the greatest receiving days in the history of the sport. [UPDATE: It remains unclear why Bryant was yelling at Romo. Nobody has gone on record saying why.]
Later, Bryant caught a pass, shook two defenders, and raced 50 yards for a touchdown, putting Dallas up 10 with six minutes left. Dez was happy.
When the Dallas defense blew a gasket late and the Lions shockingly marched downfield for the game-winning score, Bryant was seething with anger on the sideline, and initially refused to huddle up with Tony Romo on the sideline and the offense to plan a last-second play. Tight end Jason Witten tried to wrangle Bryant over, but he angrily refused, saying the game was over. Injured DeMarcus Ware was forced to step in to diffuse the situation. Bryant eventually calmed down and was on the field for the final play.
“It says something about the leadership of the Dallas Cowboys.” – Ron Jaworski, ESPN
One of the Hasselback brothers, on ESPN radio: “the idea of defending his behavior is crazy.”
Mac Engel of the Star Telegram had one of the few measured takes: “The Cowboys have one of the best receivers in the game that happens to be a hothead but, thanks to semantics, we will settle for “passion.” (Also, see former Chicago Bear Matt Bowen.)
Of course Bryant was in the wrong to demand the ball from Romo in such a manner – just as Brady was in the wrong to fire back F-bombs at his offensive coordinator. Let me guess: ‘Hey, Brady’s won three Super Bowls, he can do that!’ Or is it, ‘the Patriots won, the Cowboys lost.’ Or is it, ‘Dez Bryant has been a clown for years, Tom Brady just had a moment in the heat of the game!’
While all the attention is focused on the highly-sharable GIF of Bryant flipping out on the sideline, few are looking inside the numbers at Romo and the offense, which has been in steady decline since the shootout against Denver:
* Just 13 first downs vs Detroit
* 3-for-13 on third downs (Romo was 3-11 passing on third down, with one negated by penalty)
* Romo didn’t take a sack against Detroit, or turn the ball over, but the Cowboys line was pushed around by the Lions DL, forcing him to rush throws
* No running game (26 carries, 62 yards)
* Through 8 games, Jason Witten is on pace for his worst statistical season since 2006
* How do you lose a game when you win the turnover battle 4-0?
Video is a powerful medium, so Bryant’s outburst is the story. But as Engel points out, the Cowboys have significantly deeper problems. Like the worst pass defense in the NFL. Like a defensive line that has five sacks in the last four games.
Maybe the media will get around to this by Thursday. After they’re done hammering Dez Bryant. And acting like this is somehow dramatically different from Tom Brady’s 2011 incident.