“I think I can be one of the all-time greats. It’s part of the system. I think the Cowboys are a great fit for me. The system has to change for me to produce. There’s some things they have to do on the coaching side of the ball to make me...fit into the system. It’s not just all on the player. There’s different things that have to be done to put me in a position to make those plays.”
Which Cowboys player—current or former—would you initially guess uttered these words?
These are the thoughts of none other than the Cowboys second-string—perhaps soon, third-string—tight end, Martellus Bennett.
Quite the statement for a player fresh off of a 15-catch season. But are Bennett’s struggles really due to the Cowboys’ coaches? Are his limited opportunities the result of their ignorance, or perhaps Bennett’s own incompetence?
In an attempt to possibly light a fire under the now third-year tight end’s, well, end, owner Jerry Jones said this after the 2009 season:
“There’s a big difference in the ‘down to business’ of those two guys (referring to Bennett and Anthony Spencer). Spencer has been down to business since he walked in the door. Bennett can get down to business. I know that he can. We all see what a tremendous weapon he is and can be. His blocking is really as impressive as his ability to be a big target for Romo.
"I’m confident he sees that. He is extremely smart. He can get it. I think ‘focus’ would be the word. He will get a lot more tweets if he is a big-time ballplayer than he will just off of his creative ability.”
Jerry hit the nail right on the head. As of now, Bennett seems more focused on making music and getting on Twitter than learning the playbook.
But to Bennett’s credit, Mr. Jones was also correct about his blocking ability. It is difficult to quantify run-blocking stats for a tight end, but the Cowboys appeared to flourish when running outside to Bennett’s side. Our numbers indicate the Cowboys' backs galloped for a gaudy 6.5 yards per carry when running behind the former Texas A&M standout.
Our film study also shows Bennett allowed just one sack and four quarterback pressures on the season, despite staying in to block on pass plays quite often.
Still, Bennett’s on-field production has not coincided with his off-field attitude. Of course confidence is a necessity in any successful football player, but questioning the offensive scheme is a pretty big “no-no” for someone with 35 career receptions.
The Cowboys rid themselves of someone who questioned authority before last season in Terrell Owens, but with all that has been made of T.O.’s locker room destruction, we would actually argue that he is a better teammate than Bennett.
First, he produced. Even in his last year in Dallas—a “down year”—Owens hauled in 10 touchdown passes. Bennett had zero last season.
Second, and more importantly, Owens practiced as hard as anyone on the team. As much as T.O. was ridiculed, he never let his off-field attitude pollute his tremendous on-field effort. That does not appear to be the case for Bennett, at least not currently.
So what should the Cowboys do with Martellus?
Cut him? Not going to happen, nor should it.
Trade him? That boat may have sailed already. Cincinnati reportedly offered a first round selection last year for Bennett. The team might be happy to get a third for him now.
Of course, the future of Bennett is linked to the organization’s feelings on John Phillips. As we detailed in our Phillips v. Deon Anderson study, the second-year tight end was a bit overmatched in the run game. Further, having three solid tight ends is a must for a team that runs Double Tight formations more than anyone in the league.
Thus, the Cowboys are likely to stick with Bennett for at least another year and pray they can obtain his undivided focus. If Bennett can get "down to business" and cash in his ticket, the sky is the limit.
He certainly has the potential to be one of the all-time greats.
Just ask him.