The number 88 means something in Dallas. Drew Pearson, who's in the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor, wore the 88, as did Hall of Famer Michael Irvin. These days, no one gets the 88 unless the Cowboys think they're going to be something special.
That is indeed what the Cowboys thought of Dez Bryant when they drafted him in the first round in 2010. They believed that Bryant had the potential to be great. In 2012, though, that's what Dez Bryant remains ‒ someone with potential.
Pearson is calling Bryant out on his failure so far to live up to that potential. Via the Midland Reporter-Telegram, Pearson said this to a group of students at Odessa College:
"He's not living up to the expectations that were placed on him by wearing that number," Pearson said. "Drew Pearson took it to the Ring of Honor level and Michael Irvin took it way beyond that to the Hall of Fame level.
"When Michael and I had a chance to talk to Dez when he came in his rookie year we told him, 'Don't do what Drew Pearson did in it. Don't do what Michael did in it. Do more than that.' I know that's a lot to live up to, but what else is there? You live up to those expectations and people will cherish you for the rest of your life."
Monday night against the Bears, Bryant caught eight balls for 105 yards, which is a pretty good night ‒ except for all the catches, yards and possible points that he left on the field. Bryant had at least two critical drops against the Bears, and while it's not like the Cowboys would've won without those drops, they could've made a difference. In any case, Romo and the Cowboys are counting on Bryant to make those plays.
Bryant is on pace for a 1,076-yard season, which, for most receivers, would be pretty good. That's the problem, though ‒ when you watch Bryant, it's so plainly visible that he has the talent to be head and shoulders above "pretty good." The size, the speed, the hands, the route-running ability ‒ the guy is drenched in talent.
What he's not drenched in, though, are focus and concentration ‒ and, according to some, work ethic and character. He's still just 23 years old, and there's plenty of time to get on a Pearson/Irvin career path. Maybe he'll do it, and maybe he won't ‒ if not, he and Antonio Bryant will have gone a long way toward destroying the legacy of the number 88 in Dallas.