Sportress of Blogitude

Dez Bryant on Cowboys’ 8-8 seasons: ‘I don’t think we worked hard enough’

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The Dallas Cowboys, at 7-3, are in a prime position to reach the playoffs for the first time in five seasons.

The Cowboys are in a tie for the NFC East division lead with the Philadelphia Eagles and are firmly in control of their destiny, especially given the fact that Dallas has yet to play Philadelphia this season, setting up two critical showdowns in the season’s final five games.

While the Cowboys deservedly feel pretty good heading into the home stretch, the spectre of three consecutive seasons preceding this one where the team underachieved and staked 8-8 records presumably weigh on their psyches.

If the haunting memory of those three lost seasons aren’t bad enough, it’s the dreadful way in which the Cowboys finished that likely causes even greater consternation.

In 2011, the Cowboys lost four or five down the stretch. In 2012, after a three-game winning streak got the team back in the hunt, Dallas dropped two straight. In 2013, the Cowboys dropped three of four games in December. See a pattern?

In all three ultimately disappointing campaigns, legitimate shots at the postseason were quickly derailed come crunch time.

To hear it from wide receiver Dez Bryant, it wasn’t bad play, superior competition or ineptitude that sunk Dallas’ respective pushes for the playoffs. It was all about effort, in that, the Cowboys were giving enough of it.

Bryant is in his fifth season with the Cowboys, meaning he was around for all three 8-8 campaigns, as well as a 6-10 mark that preceded them, so he reasonably has some perspective on what went wrong as Dallas tried to secure a playoff spot.

And he says the Cowboys came up short because the team did not work hard enough.

“I’m going to give you my honest opinion. The years that we did go 8-8, I think – me, because this is just how I am — I don’t think we worked hard enough,” Bryant said following practice Thursday, per an ESPN Dallas report. “I’m not saying we didn’t work, like, I mean the offseason, during the OTAs — not the coaches. That’s on us. The first thing that I did right after the game, we lost to Philadelphia (2013), my brother will tell you — I was working out the next day. Just because I felt like ‘Damn, we didn’t do enough.’ Obviously we didn’t do enough, they was the better team. It feels different, it’s a lot different — it’s a lot different from last year. We’re more together, we want it more, we’ve got the same vision, and that’s kind of hard when you’ve got a team like that.”

Bryant insists this team is different, though. He senses this team is better prepared, more focused. And he credits head coach Jason Garrett for instilling a better attitude.

“It is him, because he let us know how things should be, and we see that and we understand that,” he  said. “The older guys in this locker room should be accountable, making sure that the younger guys are doing right — not trying to haze them, but making sure that they’re on top of their game and trying to bring out the best in them.”

The Cowboys face the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, a game in which the team can make a big statement that it won’t fall into the same traps as it did in years past. The team has the Eagles the following week at home then wrap up the season playing three of four games on the road. The team’s mental toughness will be tested. But will the players work hard enough to halt the team’s disturbing trend of blowing it in the clutch? To hear it from Bryant, they will.

(photo credit: Ronald Martinez)