Did Dez Bryant cross the line Sunday at Ford Field? Did his emotional release on the Dallas Cowboys' sideline look worse than it was? Did it distract the Cowboys' focus and contribute to a late collapse in a 31-30 loss to the Detroit Lions? Or is it merely an excuse to cover for the Cowboys' deficiencies?
Reasonable people can disagree on the substantive impact of Bryant's prolonged expression of outrage. Speaking on ESPN, former NFL receiver Keyshawn Johnson said Bryant had a right to be upset about the Cowboys' failure to get him the ball in critical situations. ESPN columnist Jason Whitlock wrote: "He was clearly out of bounds on Sunday. He was too caught up in the one-on-one duel he was having inside his head between himself and [Lions receiver Calvin Johnson.]"
What's indisputable is that sideline outbursts, and even fights among teammates, long have been a part of NFL culture. Coaches often get into the act, as we saw earlier this season between the Green Bay Packers' Mike McCarthy and quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and sometimes it devolves into coach-on-coach crime. (See: Buddy Ryan and Kevin Gilbride, Houston Oilers, circa 1994.)
If you accept the premise they are part of the game, you move on to what might be a more important question: How should they be dealt with in the heat of the moment? Bryant's episode provides instruction on the various possibilities.
Cowboys receivers coach Derek Dooley quickly snapped at Bryant and moved on. Quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson didn't acknowledge him, while head coach Jason Garrett kept Bryant at arms' length while trying to speak with quarterback Tony Romo.
What's best when a player is out of control? ESPN's NFL Nation tried to find out: