DALLAS – Former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson, whose coaching philosophy was always to treat every player differently, has no issue with the Cowboys holding Dez Bryant to a strict, personalized set of rules.
The question is whether Bryant, a talented receiver who has just scratched the surface of his potential in his first two NFL seasons, is worth the trouble.
“Time will tell,” Johnson said Wednesday before being the featured speaker at the PwC-SMU Athletic Forum. “I don’t think you can say yes or no right now. Up to this point, we don’t know. He’s just a young guy who hasn’t done it.”
Johnson describes Bryant, who ranked 30th in the NFL with 928 receiving yards and tied for sixth with nine touchdown catches last year, as “an extremely talented player who has underachieved.”
Johnson was adamant that Bryant has to be better, adding that the off-field distractions have likely hampered Bryant’s performance. Johnson acknowledged that Bryant has dealt with some injuries but said “sometimes attitude has to do with whether a guy’s hurt or not.”
“So everybody’s waiting for him to show what he’s capable of doing,” Johnson said.
Johnson, who won two Super Bowl rings with the Cowboys, was famous for being a stern disciplinarian. He often made examples out of bottom-of-the-roster players, such as cutting backup running back Curvin Richards for fumbling.
But Johnson readily admits that he’d have a heck of a lot of patience for a player with Bryant’s immense potential.
Johnson cited Ring of Honor defensive end Charles Haley as an example. When Haley popped his head into the room moments earlier, Johnson gushed that Haley deserved to be in the Hall of Fame.
However, Haley could be a handful to coach, which is why the San Francisco 49ers got fed up with him and traded him to the Cowboys. Johnson and Haley butted heads, very loudly in front of the team a couple of times, but the hassles were well worth it for a player whose addition made the Dallas defense dominant.
“The type of head coach that I was, I was going to go to the very last mile to give him a chance – if they were talented,” Johnson said. “If they weren’t talented, I might not give 'em a second chance.”