You Can Get Away With Acting Like Dez Bryant If You're Tony Romo

On Sunday, Dez Bryant was accused and immediately convicted on national TV of excessive gesticulation. This was based mainly on long-distance exegesis of Bryant's body language during a couple of sideline exchanges, the first with Tony Romo and the second with Jason Witten. Here's the first one, followed by a video clip from another angle, released by NFL.com last night, in which Bryant comes off more exhortative than accusatory.

Presumably, the NFL Films clip has been carefully edited, and the league hasn't coughed up any similar sideline video from Bryant's late-game meltdown, so drawing any conclusions about the exchange itself is tricky. Maybe he was deliberately showing up his teammates! Who knows. The very indeterminacy of the video does, though, expose the folly of the kind of press-box clairvoyance exhibited by Fox color guy Brian Billick, who, despite not knowing what was being said, unloaded on Bryant both during the game ...

This is the point Dez Bryant has to understand. This serves no purpose. If I’m the coach of the Cowboys you have to get this under control. This temper tantrum, I don’t know what else to call it, Dez Bryant, want to help your team? Grow up.

... and then again afterward:

Well, you know what? You're passionate about a lot of things. Road rage: people are passionate about what happens to them [and say] this justifies any knuckleheaded or stupid thing I do. And that's exactly what it is. It's knuckleheaded, it's stupid, it's a petulant child acting up like a 2 or 3-year-old.

(Theory: "Knucklehead" is now a moderate, acceptable synonym for "thug.")

Billick felt free to say those things about Bryant because they've all been said before. He wasn't building a narrative out of those gestures so much as adducing them as evidence in an ongoing case against the wide receiver.

Consider another video:

That's Tony Romo in 2011, doing what one might call a "spoiled child routine" right there on the 50-yard line. At the time, Romo was getting the hot-and-heavy Favre treatment. He was the gritty, improvising field marshal, and it seemed perfectly in character for him to light up a struggling lineman. A wide receiver's excessive gesticulation is just a quarterback's fiery leadership. That's why the crew in the booth that night spared Romo any admonishment for his behavior, prompting our own Tommy Craggs to wonder at the time what they would have been said if Dez Bryant had been the one doing all the hooting and hollering at poor Phil Costa that night. As David Tate pointed out this morning, now we have our answer.