In light of Dez Bryant's release last week, it will only be natural for viewers of a soon-to-be-released "docuseries" that chronicles the Cowboys' 2017 season to scrub every second for indications the team would ultimately move on from its one-time superstar receiver.
Signs are there in "All or Nothing: The Dallas Cowboys," a Prime Original series produced by NFL Films. And the eight-episode show, available to be streamed in its entirety April 27 on Amazon, dives headfirst into the heart of the matter. It asks if Bryant is simply in a mid-career lull or a permanent decline. It captures his signature fire and growing frustration.
Yet the unfiltered dialogue and remarkable behind-the-scenes access doesn't necessarily surprise anyone who followed Bryant's eight-year career in Dallas.
What would be his last season with the Cowboys comes off as complicated, but that's not new.
His catches and drops, smiles and scowls have always been hyper-analyzed, but were simply part of the package before the 100-yard games and 1,000-yard seasons evaporated.
"We talk about his passion a lot," says now former receivers coach Derek Dooley during the documentary. "Dez wants to win as bad as anybody. And when Dez is at his best, there's no more fun player to coach than him. When he's not at his best, it can be challenging at times."
In the opening minutes, Bryant throws his arm around Jerry Jones at the team owner's over-the-top Hall of Fame party last August.
"This is our year," Bryant intones into Jones' ear.
Eight months later, Jones bade the franchise leader in touchdown receptions goodbye.
Bryant told the NFL Network last week he was a scapegoat for the team's offensive struggles and said some coaches and team captains played a role in his departure. Several teammates and coach Jason Garrett have since voiced praise for Bryant as a teammate and player.
Here are some storylines from All or Nothing that help detail how it got to this point.
(Warning: Spoilers ahead)
Bryant led Dallas in receiving last season but wanted more targets, and how he deals with the ongoing issue is a central theme.
"Just because you said something, you get viewed as if you're angry," Bryant says while in a position meeting with Dooley and the other receivers. "But you not angry, you just calling out that fact."
Dooley, who left his role as Bryant's sounding board after the season to become the University of Missouri's offensive coordinator, responded like so:
"The key on that 'D.B.' is as long as we're together, and we're trying to find solutions to winning, it works. People have always sometimes misconstrued your feelings, because they don't know you. And you do have an aggressive tone when you're passionate. ... And it scares people if they don't know you."
Bryant's frustration at not getting more opportunities came out during a game at Washington in October.
"Come on, coach," Bryant says to Garrett during the game. "I'm wearing these mother (expletive) out."
He tells quarterback Dak Prescott that he didn't get the ball when he was in single coverage. Then he does it again.
"They went Cover One twice," he goes on, holding up two fingers. "Twice, twice, twice." The TV analysts assume he's complaining about being targeted only twice.
After a fade to the end zone that does come his way is too high, Bryant comes to the sidelines saying, "I just need a chance."
When he does get a chance later, Bryant drops a ball in the end zone.
Later on the sideline, Dooley tells Bryant: "People are always going to judge wideouts on numbers. But there's so many variables that go into it. There's times when you're playing better than you ever have. I believe that. ... Just keep focusing on that."
"You right," Bryant agrees.
Lack of connection with Dak
The inability for Bryant and Prescott to connect on a consistent basis is clear.
During one practice, Bryant points out to Dooley that the second-year QB isn't placing the fade pass where he wants it.
"The fade is you and him, it aint us," Dooley tells Bryant. "Y'all got to get together."
Dak and Dez are shown discussing at length the throw _ one they were never really able to connect on as the season went on.
When former longtime Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo returns to call an upcoming game against Kansas City for CBS, Romo and Bryant talk about how much they worked on the fade during their years together. During the broadcast, Romo stresses that Prescott isn't placing the ball where Bryant prefers.
Connecting is still an issue when the Cowboys play in December at the New York Giants. Bryant is shown dropping two passes he should've caught.
Finally, he scores a 50-yard touchdown after breaking a tackle on a slant pass.
In the locker room, Garrett hugs Bryant, who apologizes for a drop.
"You did a great job of putting it behind you," Garrett says.
Bryant also approached Prescott for a hug and noted the miscues.
"I miss you — it happens," Prescott says. "You see we're where we need to be though. On the same page."
Bryant and the coaching staff
Bryant has said his directness with the coaching staff may have contributed to his departure.
He doesn't bite his tongue in "All or Nothing."
In Week 2, before a game at Denver, Dooley is preparing the receivers to face a tough Broncos secondary. Bryant erupts in the receivers meeting room.
"You always praise these mother (expletive)," he says. "Why not we just can't go out there and beat the (expletive) out of them? Why can't we get words of (expletive) encouragement? I'm not trying to come at you wrong, but that's all I've been hearing."
In a coaches-only meeting after the blowout loss at Denver, the coaches are critical of Bryant's play, noting a drop that turns into an interception and saying it got worse from there.
At Oakland late in the season, Garrett muses with former receiver Miles Austin on the field during warm-ups.
"88 had a nice transformation during the day today," Garrett says. "He had a little bit of a dark look to him the last 24 hours, but this morning he came down and he interacted with some fans, and he had that bright smile again. Got to keep him there, you know."
In a must-win game vs. Seattle in December, Bryant fumbles after a catch. Garrett tells Bryant on the sideline: "Hey, (expletive) it. (Expletive) it and go play. ... Pro Football. Bad things happen."
Garrett talks a lot about how he wants to see an edge in all of his players. Bryant displays it in a practice late in the season leading up to the Oakland game.
Bryant and rookie cornerback Jourdan Lewis go one-on-one in practice. Smack talk escalates, as the jawing continues while the team is stretching at the end of practice.
Garrett calls Bryant and Lewis up for a one-on-one drill to settle the score.
Bryant gets by Lewis and goes up and catches the ball. He then spins it at Lewis and gets right in the rookie's face. Teammates end up holding the two apart.
Garrett brings the team back together and praises the passion and edge.
"A couple of observations though," Garrett says. "Focus is important. You got to be careful of fighting the wrong battles all day long. It ultimately comes down to what you do, not what you say."
After the practice flare-up with Lewis, Bryant goes deep while talking with an assistant coach, an insightful glimpse into his mindset late in the pivotal season.
"I'm who I am, and that's never going to change," Bryant said. "Jourdan just got caught in the crossfire, that's all that was. I even apologized to him. ...
"Those are just frustrations built up inside. I just want to win. ... I want that Super Bowl, and I know we can get that mother (expletive). I know that for a fact. ... .
"When I scored that 50-yard touchdown, that was out of frustration. I dropped that pass just out of frustration.
"It aint got nothing to do with ability ... technique ... none of that. ...
"It's here (he points at his head). I love this game. ...
"That field is my playground. When I wake up in the morning, I feel like I'm going in my backyard.
"I come into this locker room having a good time, chilling with my friends. I really look at them more than just a teammate. I love it, I embrace that (expletive). I can't be nobody else but myself. Sometimes just never mind me, please don't. I'm dealing with me. Just like how you deal with you. I get it.
"That's the only thing that I want to get across. I get it. I really do."
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