Cowboys’ D Improves On Paper, But At What Cost?


The Dallas Cowboys have a much improved defense, thanks to defensive end Greg Hardy, but at what cost does that come for the franchise?

The Dallas Cowboys learned one thing during a blowout loss to the New England Patriots:

Greg Hardy can sack a quarterback.

Hardy’s unique ability makes him valuable to 32 sports organizations in the United States. A high premium is placed upon defensive linemen who can make a living wreaking havoc in the opposing team’s backfield. This was on display on Sunday, especially in the first half, as the Cowboys’ defense got to Pats quarterback Tom Brady on several occasions.

The Cowboys have never had a problem courting a potential public relations problem and the ensuing controversy. Everyone knows the exploits of the “White House” Cowboys in the 1990’s. Wins were plentiful. Super Bowl victories felt like a birthright. Questionable conduct from the players became the norm.

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But for all the media scrutiny those teams endured, I’m having trouble remembering a case that would parallel what the Cowboys are going through with Hardy. This is a guy who is a known abuser. He was found guilty of assaulting his then-girlfriend, Nicole Holder, in July of 2014. By all accounts, it was a heinous, alcohol-fueled attack.

From a personal standpoint, guys who abuse women are among the lowest of the low. I was raised to respect women. Where I come from, the men are strong, but so are the women. Male rage masquerading as alpha behavior isn’t tolerated in any way, shape, or form. Disrespect you grandmother, mother, wife, or girlfriend at your own peril.

So when the Cowboys signed Hardy during the off season, it gave me great pause. For all of head coach Jason Garrett’s talk of the ‘right kinda guys,’ here they were, extending a deal to Hardy in order to improve a defense that–while opportunistic last season–was apt to get exposed if they were left on the field for too long.

But don’t get the impression that I hold Garrett responsible in any way for the signing. He is likely fully aware that the job came with the built-in, unspoken possibility that he would be publicly castrated at the expense of team improvement. The move to bring Hardy in was made from the highest level of the Cowboys organization.

But here’s the thing: I’m conflicted. And I don’t feel that I’m alone in this. I’m in no way condoning Hardy’s actions, but I still found myself getting excited to watch him put a lick on Tom Brady. I’ve been conditioned to venerate football for well over three decades. The game is part of the fabric of American culture. Its qualities encapsulate some of the best and worst aspects of our society.

"For all the sanctimonious gnashing of teeth and admonishment of Hardy and the organization, what’s anyone going to really do about it?"

We live vicariously through our Cowboys warriors. Our atavistic nature gets a fix for 16 weeks during the fall and winter. And if you’re lucky, for a few more weeks thereafter. Seldom do we really stop and think about the nature of the men who play this brutal game. Some of them are jerks. And they’re jerks that don’t really have to care about the consequences of their actions. Often, as is the case with Hardy, there really aren’t any.

Yeah, he missed virtually the whole season last year. Yeah, he missed the first four games this season. But he didn’t catch a jail sentence. The Carolina Panthers even paid him while he was suspended. As the saying goes, it’s nice work if you can get it.

But this is also why I found the scrutiny surrounding his return this week somewhat empty. For all the sanctimonious gnashing of teeth and admonishment of Hardy and the organization, what’s anyone going to really do about it?

If we really wanted to hit them where it hurts, we’d stop watching and attending games. But nobody is going to take that stand because we’re all obsessed with this game. We’re obsessed to the degree that we’ll cheer for a known jackass like Hardy because he can sack Brady. And while it had little effect on Sunday’s effort, we do know that Hardy will be able to contribute with some sorely needed pass rushing capability.

In a football capacity, Greg Hardy is useful. He can sack a quarterback. It’s a precious commodity for 32 teams. As a human being, however, his past is checkered, to put it kindly.

So what’s the answer? I honestly don’t know. A season that started with so much promise is hanging precariously by its fingernails because of injuries. If the Cowboys tank this year, then the addition of Hardy is a move that rings hollow. He’s a free agent after this season, and it remains to be seen if the team would be willing to extend him in an attempt to find that 2014 magic.

If not, then he’ll almost certainly get snatched up by another team and given another chance. Guys like him are useful if they possess a particular skill set, personal problems be damned.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more conflicted about this game I love. We yell, we cheer, we say “we” when we talk about our team. But so many of us are willing and able to look the other way when it comes to a player’s behavior off the field.

It’s a bit of a helpless feeling, but all we can hope for is that he doesn’t beat any other girl senseless while he’s here or with another team. We can hope he’s learned his lesson, but I doubt it. He’s got no incentive to be an upstanding citizen off the field.

So we’ll cheer for him if he causes a sack fumble to squirrel away a late December game to get the Cowboys in the playoffs. But respecting him as a man is next to impossible. As the game wore on, I felt a little disgusted with myself, and I wasn’t expecting that.

Such is life in today’s NFL.

Next: Cowboys: No Offensive Game Plan Against Patriots

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