Commentary

Beef about Dallas Cowboys' dinner

Updated: October 1, 2010, 1:24 PM ET
By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

The mailbag is jammed with talk about Dez Bryant's dinner bill.

Here's some insight: Before the start of the season, the Cowboys' players, split up by positions, have a yearly dinner where the rookies pay the tab.

In 2008, rookies Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick paid $25,000 for dinner with the defensive backs. Roy E. Williams said when he was a rookie in Detroit, he paid a five-figure meal tab.

So when it was time for Bryant to take care of the offensive players, it was time to pay.

During the regular season, every Thursday, the defensive players go out to dinner with Bradie James. You think those dinners total less than $100?

It happens. When players get paychecks between $50,000-$60,000 -- sometimes more -- paying five or six figures for a dinner bill isn't high to them.

How do athletes think? If you have it, you will spend it. Getting worked up over it won't change a thing. There are other lavish things athletes spend their money on -- watches, rims for cars, clothes, jewelry, houses. One player told me he's got a statue in his house. Players have multiple homes -- one here in Dallas and another elsewhere.

It's hard to accept sometimes but that's the way it is.

Now to the mailbag.

Q: Is it just me, or does Tony Romo develop and create more plays whenever [Jason] Garrett lets him run the offense, like the two-minute drill and no huddle and call his own plays? What does that say about Romo? What does that say about Garrett's play-calling? In my opinion that is what makes Romo "elite", and also underrated. It just seems to me that the offense is very predictable at times. I'm thinking they should give Romo more freedom and control of the play calling. How far off am I? -- Brett (Livingston, Texas)

A: Romo is not calling his own plays. He's making audibles at the line of scrimmage. Garrett calls a play from the sidelines and then, when Romo gets to the line of scrimmage and views the defense, he can make a play change based on what the defense shows him. In a two-minute offense, Garrett might give him multiple plays to use because the Cowboys are in hurry-up mode. Romo is good when he improvises, but a lot of the plays he uses come from Garrett's offensive system.

Q: Cowboys fan since 1975. I miss the days of Jimmy Johnson. What are the odds that Jerry [Jones] brings in a younger and tougher head coach next season? -- Greg Herrington (Franklin, Tenn.)

A: Wade Phillips is respected in the locker room. He's not a hard-line coach like the previous guy, Bill Parcells, and won't change. If the Cowboys do make a decision regarding the head coach, expect Jerry Jones to find someone who is between Parcells and Phillips. A guy who will yell and scream at times but will also be calm like Phillips. The perception is Phillips doesn't command the troops enough, and too many times it seems as if the players are running things. The next coach will take more command.

Q: Yo Calvin, I'm a Cowboys fan, but they seem pretty dense to waste 54K on a prank. Couldn't they have found a better cause? Love ya. -- Brooke (Austin)

A: I think the players, at least the ones not paying, wanted to stick it to Dez Bryant for not carrying Roy Williams' shoulder pads. I don't believe the players would have spent that much if not for the shoulder pad deal in training camp. I'll tell you a secret, Brooke. I think Bryant can afford it.

Q: I think it's ridiculous. How can you write an article about selfish players? You do realize this economy is struggling and 55 grand could have gone to a higher purpose then to indulge men's egos? -- Lemarcus (Memlji)

A: Sure I do. I think the most expensive dinner I ever paid for was about $300 and I was shocked when I saw the bill. I had to pay it. I wasn't happy about it, but I had to do it. Could I have spent the money on something more productive? Of course. But I couldn't leave the poor girl sitting there holding the bill. You have to remember these are young men who are just learning how to deal with huge sums of money, so they will make mistakes. Numerous ones. It's not all the players in pro sports, but some.

Q: In reference to your story on Dez Bryant's $55,000 dinner bill, is there any question why NFL players are bankrupt within a couple of years after retirement? -- Rob Reeves (Montoursville, Pa.)

A: I agree when you see a player spending that amount of money, it makes you wonder what else he's spending his money on. One player told me last year some Cowboys players live paycheck-to-paycheck. It surprised me because these guys make big money. Yet, these same players spent gobs of money on numerous things. The NFL does have programs in place to help players manage their money, and Jerry Jones is always helpful with players to find them the best accountants. Sometimes bad business decisions happen, and the hope of increasing their net worth can lead to problems. You lose a few dollars in a business deal and then spend big money on cars, houses, dinners etc. When your playing career is over, you wonder where it all went.

Q: Is it me or is the Cowboys' run defense suspect? If they cannot contain Arian Foster, how will they ever be able to contain Chris Johnson? Thanks. -- James M. (Deer Park, NY)

A: Mr. Foster did have a nice game against the Cowboys -- that 26-yard run was nice -- and finished with 106 yards. Several Cowboys players said Foster was such a physical runner, especially going downhill. I never thought the Cowboys' run defense was in trouble. It hadn't allowed a 100-yard rusher since 2008, the last game at Texas Stadium vs. the Ravens. As far as Johnson goes, few teams have stopped him, even with eight in the box.

Q: Hi Calvin, I don't get it. Felix Jones is the most talented of all three running backs, but [Marion] Barber is still the starting running back. I think Barber should be more of a third-down and fourth-quarter back like he was when [Bill] Parcells coached the team. What do you think? -- John (Miami)

A: I was surprised Jones got only seven touches during the game, and he did average 6.1 yards per carry on those plays. Jason Garrett liked how Marion Barber was running the ball and didn't feel the need to go to somebody else. In the fourth quarter, Barber got it nine times, and that's something the Cowboys want to see more of. But if they're trailing in games, Barber is not going to get his carries in the fourth quarter to close the show. Jones should get more carries early in the game, but Garrett likes to give Barber some chances. And you forgot about Tashard Choice.

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.

Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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