Now that the season is over, it is time to look back and assess the performance of the Cowboys over the course of the year.
Everyone will get their 15 minutes, but we might as well start with Dez Bryant since he offered his own review of the 2011 season while clearing out his locker on Monday afternoon. Bryant finished the year with 63 catches for 928 yards and eight touchdowns in a year marred by injuries and more off-field issues creating questions about his prospects for long-term success. Bryant offered up a succinct and rather accurate read on his year.
"I felt like I did OK," Bryant said. "I feel like it could've been 10 times better."
That sounds almost exactly like what anyone who followed the Cowboys closely this year would say about Bryant's season. There's no doubting his talent and his ability to make an impact on the game, but there's also no doubting the fact that he left you wanting more almost every single week.
Bryant didn't have any 100-yard games in 2011 and there was a long stretch early in the season where he would make a great play or two in the first half of games before disappearing after halftime. Much of that had to do with the multiple options the Cowboys had on offense, especially when DeMarco Murray was doing his thing before getting hurt, but it still felt like there was more to get from a player who has the talent level of the best receivers in football.
That leads back to the non-playing issues. Bryant's problems all seem to stem from the mental aspect of the professional game. That manifests itself in the continuing issues with paying bills, but it also comes up when it comes to route running and decision making on the field. There's still a rawness to Bryant's game and he won't leap to the next level until he polishes his game.
There's only so much the Cowboys can do to help him on that front, although it should help that Bryant has a full offseason this year after a truncated one following a rookie year that ended early because of an injury. Repetition and refinement can come with the help of coaching, but a good portion of the growth will have to come from Bryant himself.
It's encouraging that he sees the room for improvement. It will be even more encouraging to see that improvement when Bryant gets back on a football field. And the most encouraging thing of all would be to hear nothing about disastrous visits to malls or unpaid bills because Bryant is spending too much time working on his game to get into any scrapes away from the field.