IRVING, Texas -- Remember when Dez Bryant dealt with intense scrutiny and constant criticism?
That might seem like a distant memory, but it really wasn’t that long ago. The Dez doubters have run deep for most of his career, a horde that didn’t thin out until he dominated on a consistent basis in the second half of last season.
Suddenly, it’s hard to find anyone who isn’t a believer in Bryant as he enters his fourth season in the NFL and his first as the Cowboys’ No. 1 receiver. It’s to the point that Bryant is politely dancing around questions about whether he’s the NFL’s best receiver or even an MVP candidate.
How will Bryant handle the hype?
“I don’t think about them,” Bryant said of high external expectations. “That’s how I manage them. You just do what you love to do and just play football. Once you think about what everybody’s saying, good or bad, it’s going to kill you. It always [does]. I don’t care who you are, it’s going to kill you.”
Sound like a philosophy that Jason Garrett might share? That’s not a coincidence.
Garrett has drilled the importance of detail-oriented preparation into Bryant’s head. Boring as it might be, Bryant has bought into Garrett’s message about tuning out the hype and maintaining a narrow focus.
“I think the advice would be the same advice you would give him when people are being critical of him: Just to focus on being the best you can be each day,” Garrett said. “A lot of people in this world are going to say things about you, positively and negatively, and what you have to do is wake up each morning and try to be your best.”
Garrett has said that Bryant’s success last season, when he finished with 92 catches for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns, just scratched the surface of his potential.
However, Garrett insists that Bryant’s improvement shouldn’t necessarily be measured by his statistics. Bryant told ESPNDallas.com this offseason that he believes he’s capable of putting up 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns, but he has shied away from setting statistical goals.
So how will Bryant measure his success?
“With the win, you had a good day,” Bryant said. “And the reason why I say that is because I feel like it’s somewhere you’ve got to look at the respect factor that the team was giving you. If they’re going Cover 2 or double you the whole game, you’ve got to feel good about that, regardless of who touched the ball or not. That means you were a big part of that.”
How will Bryant handle hype or any other potential challenges he encounters? The simple answer: However his coach thinks is best.