Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant tore a ligament in his left index finger during the fourth quarter of his team’s 20-19 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 14. The former Oklahoma State Cowboys troubled star is seeing a hand specialist to see whether he’ll have to have his season cut short to undergo surgery. Regardless of what that specialist says, the Cowboys should end Bryant’s season and get him ready for 2013.
After suffering the injury, Bryant caught a 27-yard touchdown pass late to bring the Cowboys to within two, allowing Dan Bailey to kick a 40-yard field goal to win the game as time expired. Thus, it’s clear the injury doesn’t hinder Bryant to the point he can’t play, but the possible long-term effects greatly outweigh the upside.
The Cowboys have three games left this season against two good teams and one hot one, which is worse than just three good teams. Dallas hosts the Pittsburgh Steelers and New Orleans Saints in Weeks 15 and 16 before hitting the road to take on the Washington Redskins in the season finale. Even if Bryant plays, the Cowboys aren’t going to win all three of those games, which is required to have any hope of making the playoffs.
Sure, the Cowboys can technically or mathematically (or whatever you want to call it) make the playoffs without winning all three games, but anyone who believes that shouldn’t be allowed to watch professional football ever again. Dallas isn’t going to make the playoffs and even if Jason Garrett stumbled into the postseason, his blindly-led squad would be quickly ousted by whoever they played.
In addition, the Cowboys have several guys on the roster who need regular season snaps. With Bryant out, Dwayne Harris could move to the outside opposite Miles Austin with Cole Beasley in the slot. The younger players need reps and time with veterans like Austin to build chemistry with Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo because Lord knows both Bryant and Austin won’t always be healthy. It’s a “when” not “if” for these two guys, so Dallas needs to make sure youngsters like Harris and Beasley are ready to go when (not if) needed.
Thus, it makes the most sense for the Cowboys to shut Bryant down for the season, schedule the surgery on this finger and began the rehab process as quickly as possible. Risking a serious injury to Bryant’s finger for nothing isn’t smart, so his third pro season should be cut short. However, Dallas doesn’t always do the smart thing, so don’t be surprised if Bryant is out there straining that injured finger for the rest of this futile season.