Dez Bryant’s Beastmode-esque touchdown on Monday Night Football overshadowed what I saw as a glaring issue; he was bad. Again. He caught two passes for 12 yards. And it wasn’t like Dak Prescott was having a bad game–he had a 141.7 passer rating– Bryant simply wasn’t getting open.
Some may say that we should disregard this game, as he was shadowed by Patrick Peterson, one of the league’s premier corners. Usually, I’d agree. Usually. But not in this case. This performance fits a trend that’s become painfully obvious over the past two seasons: Bryant was a product of Tony Romo.
The term “product of” became popular with Peyton Manning, especially in his Denver years. Check out the per-game stats of his go-to receivers during his Bronco reign before and after they had him as their quarterback:
|Catches per Game||Yards per Game||Touchdowns per Game||Catch Percentage|
|Emmanuel Sanders||Catches per Game||Yards per Game||Touchdowns per Game||Catch Percentage|
These two have now shed the “product of” label because they have both had 1,000+ yard seasons after Manning left with a mediocre quarterback at the helm. The same can’t be said about Bryant. Check out his per-game stats from 2012-2014 (with Romo) and every season since:
|Dez Bryant||Catches per Game||Yards per Game||Touchdowns per Game||Catch Percentage|
Clearly, there’s a significant drop-off, and the only explanation is that he was a product of Romo. In the 2012-2014 seasons, he was 24-26 years of age, just before his prime. Theoretically, his prime should’ve started in 2015, when Romo first went down. His performance doesn’t indicate that.
And it’s not like his quarterbacks have been bad, either. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders have had bad quarterbacks (Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch) since Manning left, and they still produced quality seasons. Though he had to deal with Matt Cassel back in 2015, he’s had Dak Prescott the past two seasons. The Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2016!
To put in perspective just how awful Dez Bryant has been, in 2016 alone, there were 35 wide receivers and running backs that averaged more receiving yards per game than Bryant. Among them were Tyrell Williams, Cameron Meredith, and Pierre Garçon, who aren’t exactly upper-echelon wide receivers, which is the way most people still perceive Bryant.
So Dez Bryant is a good wide receiver, but that’s it. He’s not a great wide receiver, and certainly not an elite one. There was a time in 2014 where bunching his name in with Antonio Brown and Julio Jones was commonplace, and it was a (somewhat) acceptable opinion to think that he was the best receiver in the league. What’s become clear over these past few years, however, is that he was just a product of Tony Romo.