Mike Ditka on Dez Bryant: He Doesn’t Run Good Routes, He Drops the Ball

ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown Notes and Quotes: Week 8 – ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown host Chris Berman and analysts Cris Carter, Mike Ditka, Tom Jackson and Keyshawn Johnson previewed NFL Week 8 with Suzy Kolber, analysts Merril Hoge and Ron Jaworski and NFL Insiders Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter. Some excerpts:

In a press briefing during the week, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said he’ll bring in a suggestion box on ways to correct what ails his sputtering team.  The Countdown crew obliged, offering suggestions for the “Cam Newton Suggestion Box.”

Jackson:  Take a look at yourself – When you look at last year, when this team was losing and how you responded to that, just look at how positive you were.  Even in the midst of this, you were playing well, the team was losing and you wanted to win.  This year, downtrodden, morose, not optimistic, more pessimistic; that will literally bleed the life right out of your football team.”

Carter:  Role model – Realize that when you’re speaking, you are not only speaking for the Carolina Panthers, you’re not only speaking for the National Football League, but you’re also speaking for a lot of young quarterbacks out there, and you happen to be a role model for them.  So, think about what you’re going to say before you say it.”

Johnson:  Get rid of the problems – No matter what they are.  You are the quarterback of the football team.  You have to take control no matter what anybody says.  When you step on that football field, be yourself.  Have fun.  Sometimes, you’re going to have ups.  Sometimes you’re going to have downs. But don’t let it get you too down.”

Ditka:  Get over it – You live in the past, you die in the past.  Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, that’s why it is called, the present.”

Berman:  You and your team are young, it’s okay – A little football knowledge, put it on (WR) Steve Smith’s shoulders a little bit.  Give him the ball.  He can help you, man.  He can do some of it on his own, but he needs the ball.  Let him help you son.”

The Cowboy that needs to step up tonight at home vs. their NFC East rival the New York Giants:

Jackson:  “Defensive tackle Jay Ratliff – Your job is to tie up guys so the linebackers can make plays.”

Carter:  “Head coach Jason Garrett – 16 and 14 as a head coach in Dallas; very, very average.  Aggressive game-plan from the beginning, that’s why they won in New York in week 1.”

Johnson:  “Quarterback Tony Romo – He has to continue to play at the level that helps this team win football games.  No matter what anyone says, it is all on his shoulder.  He wants the big money, he wants to be the top guy at the quarterback position, but yet he still can’t win big football games.  He has an opportunity to stop that slide against the Giants in his own stadium.”

Ditka:  “Wide receiver Dez Bryant – Here’s the guy that caught two passes last week for 14 yards.  He doesn’t run good routes.  He doesn’t stay on the route.  He drops the ball … Step up Dez Bryant, if you’re a big-time guy.”

Berman:  “Linebacker DeMarcus Ware – He can wreck a game.  This is a game they need him to wreck … Beware of Ware.  As he goes, so goes the Cowboys.”

Following a report on the off-field verbal jousting between some Jets and Dolphins players, the Countdown crew discussed whether trash talk about injured players is crossing the line?

Jackson:  “This is one of the few professions where you actually get to hit somebody after they say something to you.  I’m going to share something with our audience: ‘I had one guy, in my 14-year career, say the “N” word to me on the field.  He said it about 10 minutes into the game, and I took it out on him for about 50 minutes.  I’m sure he knows who he is.  He will always remember what I did for the rest of that football game.’”

Carter:  “There are some unwritten rules in this business.  When you take away the ability of a player to take care of his family or to feed his kids … we know as former players that it is totally out of bounds.  I have one instance – I broke my collarbone in week 17 with the Vikings, out the rest of the season.  We played the Washington Redskins the next year in the playoff.  We threw an interception early in the game.  I’m going to make the tackle.  Right before I make the tackle, Wilber Marshall yells out ‘Chris!’ and I stop for a second.  Didn’t make the tackle, but he could have ended my career.  There are some gentlemen behind these gladiators that play the game …”

Reaction to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s comments regarding (new offensive coordinator) Todd Haley’s offense – “Haley’s offense is not a big play offense, it’s kind of a dink-and-dunk offense”:

Jackson:  “Ben (Roethlisberger) labeled it, not necessarily as a negative.  He called it dink-and-dunk as opposed to what he’s been doing … He’s the best improviser the game has seen in our generation.  A big man, moving his feet the way Ben does.  When you come in and you change that, I think you take a real chance on reducing the level of success that you’ve had with Ben Roethlisberger.”

Johnson:  “It’s not so much about dink-and-dunk, vertical stretch, or any of that.  I think what Todd is trying to do for Ben is to help Ben protect Ben. Ben has missed too many games in the past because of injuries, because of dropping back and trying to heave the football, taking unnecessary hits.  If you get the football out of Ben’s hands, quick, fast and in a hurry, it protects him … But when he drops back and he’s holding on to the football, it hurts the football team and it eventually hurts Ben.”

Ditka:  “I don’t think you take any negative shots – dink-and-dunk.  You’ve got to be on the same page.  That’s the offensive coordinator and the quarterback.  That’s a head coach’s responsibility.  You get what you tolerate.  You can’t allow this to happen.”

Carter:  “I’m going to tell you what Todd Haley is doing.  He is doing the right thing and it is working.  Why?  Because the sacks.  Why?  Because Ben is not hurt … Also, Drew Brees is doing this.  Peyton Manning is doing this.  Tom Brady is doing this.  Everybody is trying to get the ball out of their hands, quicker to the wide receiver.  That’s what the National Football League is doing.”

On whether the Philadelphia Eagles will rebound from recent less-than-spectacular performances vs. the Falcons at home …

Carter: “Philly will be well-rested today.  But, it is about the players.  They can change the scheme, change the coaches – you know it’s not the Xs and Os, it is the Willies and the Joes.  They need to get a rush.  (QB) Michael Vick needs to stop turning the ball over … This is personal to me, if you can’t play for (head coach) Andy Reid, you really have problems as a professional trying to play in the National Football League.”

Johnson:  “As much as I like Andy Reid … he’s probably better off being a great coach with somebody else, another team.  That’s not to say they should fire him.  He has kind of worn out his welcome.  It’s time to kind of move on … It’s a lot like Jeff Fisher and Tennessee.  Great coach, can get a job somewhere else and do fine because the players weren’t responding to him.  The players that they have, overpromised and under-delivered.”

Jackson:  “At midseason point, how do you straighten out what is going on with them right now?  Yes, Michael Vick has to be more careful with the football.  But I think that when you look at the (RB) LeSean McCoy numbers, when you look at the offensive line and what they’d like to do, let’s figure out a way that we can get him those 20 carries that won us over 90 percent of our football games when he gets them.  Let’s figure out how to do that offensively.”

How does Pittsburgh Steelers defense play against quarterback Robert Griffin, III?

Ditka:  “This is probably the most athletic quarterback I’ve ever seen come into the National Football League.  If you’re going to blitz him, you better get him.  If you don’t, he’s going to beat you with his leg. He is a very accurate thrower and he makes great decision with the football.”

Johnson:  “You usually don’t start as a rookie quarterback in the NFL on good teams.  So, they’re a bad team to start with.  This is a different type of football team … With the (Redskins head coach Mike and son Kyle, offensive coordinator) Shanahans running the offense, I see them putting him in a great position to succeed.  He is not only playing against (Steelers defensive coordinator) Dick Lebeau, they are playing against the Mike Shanahan and his son Kyle.”

Carter:  “We have to be real, this is not your daddy’s ‘steel curtain’ … The thing they have to do, they have to tackle in space.  He’s going to be alone with one defender, and one guy has to bring him down.”