Dez Bryant's defiance, frustration aren't as profane as Cowboys' QB situation

·NFL columnist

ARLINGTON, Texas – In the final moments of Sunday's game, with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Matt Cassell driving another loss into the AT&T Stadium turf, team owner Jerry Jones sat alone near the front of his skybox balcony. The look on his face was vacant, a 1,000-yard stare into the wreckage of the past month.

He looked numb, in the worst kind of way.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

"This was an important game for us," Jones said after the Cowboys' 13-12 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, dropping Dallas to 2-5 and last place in the NFC East. "The third win is critical. I never thought I would be standing here saying it in this way."

Dallas still doesn't have that all-important third win. It lost that opportunity, and seems to be losing more with each passing week. Starting with the early season optimism, which had this franchise pegged as a Super Bowl favorite in the NFC. That hope fractured somewhere between the clavicle of quarterback Tony Romo and the foot of wideout Dez Bryant. Next to go were the emotions, which reached a rolling boil between Greg Hardy's sideline antics last week and Bryant's locker room composure Sunday night. The mindset of the Cowboys' star wideout was a far cry from the season-opening win against the New York Giants, when he hopped around on his broken foot, singing the praises of Dallas' resiliency.

That seemed so far away Sunday night, as Bryant profanely snapped on a group of reporters gathering near his locker.

"Stay the [expletive] away," Bryant yelled, in a moment described by USA Today. "Why don't you all get the [expletive] out of here? This is our [expletive] locker room. You [expletive] dirty [expletive]."

Even when he had his composure, Bryant remained agitated over what he thought were questions about Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman shutting him down. Later he took to Twitter, hammering away at videos that had been posted allegedly catching him talking trash during a moment when Seahawks wideout Ricardo Lockette had been knocked unconscious on the field.

All in all, it was emotional and over-the-top, but nothing close to Hardy's confrontation with the Dallas special teams coach last week.

"I don't feel good, man," Bryant said. "It was a tough loss, man. A tough loss for me. Let me get something straight real quick. Hey man, nobody [got] locked down over here. Let's get real. I understand our situation. I understand that. So come on with it, man. Look at the tape right."

Bryant finished with only two catches on six targets for 12 yards. And Sherman did play well against him. But Bryant's point was crystal clear and more than fair: Look at the tape and see what the defense did to the whole offense, especially the run game and quarterback.

That's really what this is all about. We can go on and on about Seattle's defense and quarterback Russell Wilson driving 79 yards for a game-clinching field goal. But the reality is the Cowboys' defense played very well despite failing to net any sacks. It limited Seattle to 13 points, and in most situations, that's a winning effort.

But as Bryant said, go to the tape, and you'll see exactly what you'd expect: a quarterback situation that has unraveled everything. That storyline is familiar. Since Tony Romo went down in Week 2, the offense has been a cesspool, and expecting that to change with Bryant stepping back onto the field is short-sighted.

Instead, the Cowboys are coming to terms with what many suspected after Brandon Weeden's first loss and Cassel's insertion two weeks ago – the idea that any quarterback other than Romo could have held this together was folly. It wasn't going to happen with the injuries to Bryant and Lance Dunbar, nor with Joseph Randle going off the rails. And as much as Hardy may have been a distraction, at least he was balancing it out on the field, with plays that made the headache worth it.

That's what Jones meant when he called Hardy a leader and excused his run-in with special teams coach Rich Bisaccia. Jones would rather stand in a mosh pit of reporters answering questions about character and discipline than he would having to explain repeated losses. That was on his face Sunday night. Similar to each of the previous weeks, that lonesome skybox stare. You can't imagine a billionaire ever looking so lost. But Jones is in that space right now. He knows he needs Romo back, as soon as possible. Maybe as soon as Week 11 against the Miami Dolphins. Until then, he knows the fate of the team is now hanging on others falling flat on their faces.

Bruce Irvin #51 of the Seattle Seahawks sacks Matt Cassel . (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Bruce Irvin #51 of the Seattle Seahawks sacks Matt Cassel . (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

"If you let me say how fortunate we are by how unfortunate others are playing [in the NFC East], I'll go there with you," Jones said. "We have to depend upon the consequences of these other ballgames to have something positive. This is quite a different visit that I'm having with you than I thought I would be having after seven ball games. We have a lot of work to do."

And the future?

"To be realistic, it's going to be a daunting task, even with Romo, to get our feet back under us," Jones said. "The team is playing at a level of effort. To some degree, with Cassel out there, we have a better level of execution. I think we have a chance to win games over the next two or possibly three weeks. Obviously, we think we'll play better when we get Romo back."

There it is. That's the cold, numb reality. Maybe Dallas wins next week against the Philadelphia Eagles and digs itself out a little bit. And maybe if Romo comes back as early as Week 11, things can still be turned around. But this is all about the quarterback.

Good effort or not, Romo has got to save this situation. He's got to rescue this team and snap the Cowboys' owner out of those stares.