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Dak Prescott was a big reason the Cowboys released Dez Bryant

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A Dallas executive tells SB Nation’s Thomas George they believed Bryant wasn’t helping their young quarterback.

Dallas Cowboys v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The art of securing a potential franchise quarterback supplies extra zing in next week’s draft. This quest will color the early action. It will influence the draft throughout.

NFC East teams lead the league’s all-in action to get the quarterback quandary solved.

Super Bowl champion Philadelphia features two dynamic quarterbacks in Carson Wentz and Nick Foles. Washington thinks it upgraded in acquiring Alex Smith. And the Giants, picking No. 2 overall, debate how much Eli Manning has left and if they should pluck a promising replacement now.

Dallas is convinced that Dak Prescott is its foundation.

He wowed them in the 2016 draft process. They selected him in the fourth round that year. In stunning style he uprooted Tony Romo. He won 13 games that first season. Nine more last season.

Every move the Cowboys make includes some facet of Dak Prescott. He is the Cowboy with the longest lasso. If it doesn’t work for Dak, it doesn’t work for the Cowboys.

Sure, Dez Bryant is no longer a Cowboy because his salary cost too much. Because his production had dipped. Because he turns 30 this year and age and injuries were factors. Because his “distractions” and emotional outbursts in games, in the locker room and beyond grew tiresome.

This, however, cannot be denied — the Cowboys concluded that Dez doesn’t work for Dak. So, that doesn’t work for the Cowboys.

He’s gone now.

A big “X” among them.

A Cowboys executive told me on Monday morning: “Yeah, it’s fair to say that. Obviously, everything we do around here has to add to the foundation of our franchise guy. We have to give Dak the best opportunity to grow. We will.”

And the Cowboys bottom line is that he will grow best without Dez Bryant’s influence.

Think about that.

For eight seasons Dez Bryant became a fixture among the Cowboys and caught a franchise-record 73 touchdown passes. But nearly every step of the way there was a need for curfews and counseling, for rope and understanding, for patience with his immaturity. He grew, but not nearly enough in the Cowboys’ view.

His signature crossing of his arms, his “X” formed after scores, was for defenses that tried to deny him and for anyone who tried to toss “negativity” his way. But as recently as late February this year Bryant was offering public comments including anyone that wasn’t with him “can kiss my ass.” The night before he met about his Cowboys future with Dallas owner Jerry Jones, Bryant sent text messages that he was “unbothered.” After he was released without the option of a reduced contract, he indirectly torched a few Cowboys teammates and staff on his way out of the door.

He said if he didn’t have his edge, he has it now.

Just the fact that he raised the question about his edge for the 2018 season validates the Dallas decision to cut him.

But there is more.

Prescott has this prominent, nifty, humble manner, but below that is a quieter, gritty, mucky edge to him. Many successful NFL quarterbacks possess that. Prescott has excelled in handling himself publicly and in passing along credit to his teammates. But just beneath that grace is a growl, a fighter’s scowl, a temperament and attitude that must be nurtured and developed in productive ways.

The Cowboys concluded that continued Dez influence would have been a detriment to Dak.

It was a top-down decision, not a captains and coaches influenced decision, like Bryant purports.

It’s absurd to think that Jerry Jones would make such a decision if he did not agree. Jones listens to those around him, but he makes the decisions. He rules the roost. Bryant turned his anger toward everyone but Jones.

But Jones drove it. And Bryant earned it.

Dez Bryant in the end is little different from Jordy Nelson and Mike Pouncey and Michael Crabtree and Richard Sherman and Muhammad Wilkerson. All veteran, signature players for their teams who were booted this offseason. Time for a new course. A new day.

The singular, noticeable distinction is that in Bryant’s equation the influence on the young franchise quarterback undeniably helped forge a split.

And this Dallas retort — “X”.