[Site note: As I was writing my post from earlier, Tom Ryle already had another one on Greg Hardy written. It's a good look at the Cowboys dealing with this scenario before. It is worth reading. But, after this, we'll be doing our best to move on from Hardy's off-the-field issues, and on to his on-the-field activities. Of course we'll report on his suspension, but mostly it will be how he fits into the Cowboys 2015 defense. - Dave Halprin]
The controversy over the Dallas Cowboys signing of Greg Hardy is ongoing. It is probably fortunate that the years of scrutiny, media attention, and numerous other controversies have made the team and Jerry Jones grow some very thick skins. There is actually quite a history of Dallas having players of questionable character and behavior but undeniable talent on the team, including such players as Thomas Henderson, Charles Haley, Terrell Owens, and Michael Irvin. Hardy is just the latest, and it is really a familiar story.
For a moment, take a look at the situation from the team's perspective. You know that the team has those past examples of getting valuable production from players who are often just one more mistake from becoming a train wreck. You have a glaring issue on defense where you need an immediate and significant upgrade from free agency, since you can't be sure you can find the answer for the coming season in the draft or already on the roster. You find a player that, because of past issues and being off the field of late, is now going to be available at a much more manageable cost in terms of the contract he will take. Although his off the field issues bring a threat losing him on the field at some point in the future, a low-risk deal can make signing him pay off. As a team you do your research, especially by talking to people you trust who really know the player, and receive feedback that makes you confident he will likely be someone who will work out without disrupting the team. You construct a one-year, prove it kind of deal and get the player signed. And you can be confident that, if things suddenly go south, you can cut the player and walk away without any real downside.
Sounds like a reasonable approach. However, I was not describing what the team did with Hardy, although every word applies accurately to him. I just recapped what the team did in 2014 when it signed Rolando McClain.
While there are no obvious flags about Hardy's health (as has become an issue with McClain), the domestic violence issue certainly has a potential to have a serious impact on him. Even if the actual facts of the case leave some valid and significant questions about what exactly happened, he still is going to have to deal with the stigma attached to his name.
For those who have judged Hardy guilty, this article from Mickey Spagnola makes for an interesting read. Basically, even the people prosecuting the case had serious issues with the victim's testimony and decided to drop the case even though they could have pursued it without her presence. In no way are we attempting to condone domestic violence, but Hardy's case definitely leaves enough room for doubt about what actually happened. Spagnola quoted some things that cast real doubt as to what is true.
This, though, is an interesting passage in The Charlotte Observer from Feb. 9, 2015, and then updated on the 15th, sort of a legal lesson for all of us:
Victims and witnesses routinely stop cooperating in domestic-abuse cases and prosecutors still take the cases to court. (DA Andrew) Murray, though, said the Hardy case was different. He also appeared to raise doubts about Holder's credibility in a statement to the judge ... and only recently had (prosecutors) compared what Holder told police the night of the alleged assault with her testimony at Hardy's first trial.
Notice, The Observer used a journalism school term, alleged, one of the first words we were taught in News-Ed 101, for real.
Then there was this passage: Several legal experts around town speculated that prosecutors spotted inconsistencies that prevented them from building their case around Holder's former accounts. To enter an unavailable witness's prior testimony and statements as evidence, prosecutors have "to vouch" for its truthfulness, said Charlotte defense attorney George Laughrun.
There is also the possible suspension looming in his future. One of the reasons that the Cowboys might have been willing to take the chance on Hardy is a belief that they have a strong locker room and coaching staff to give him both direction and support in handling this and how he conducts himself.
Something that has been largely overlooked is that coming to Dallas gives Hardy the chance to get his life sorted out and gain a measure of redemption. If you believe that a person has an ability to change and grow, becoming a better person and making contributions to society, or just the right to continue to earn a living through his chosen field, then you could be willing to give Hardy that chance. Hold him to high and strict standards in the future, and while he can not change his past, you can judge him by his actions going forward.
Dallas is affording him that chance, just as it did McClain (we recognize that the issues surrounding McClain were much different and less controversial than Hardy). And through the terms and structure of Hardy's contract, Dallas has set the table to move on from him after getting a year of service on the field. It is a reasonable bargain they have struck with him. If he performs as the team and he plan for him to, then he will be able to get the kind of long-term deal with big guaranteed money, just not necessarily with the Cowboys. Both sides can win and walk away from the one-year agreement better off than they would have been without it.
There certainly are risks, particularly in the court of public opinion. If Hardy makes another mistake, there will be an inevitable chorus of "I told you so" raining down. But the ease with which Dallas can cut the ties offers them a bit of cover, and Hardy would just be reaping the harsh harvest of his own actions. The recent fine that the league has decreed for McClain's failed drug test is an example, although considerably milder, of what might happen, but the Cowboys have already navigated those waters successfully.
In hindsight, it should not be surprising that the Cowboys fell back on a template that fits the Hardy situation so well. They know how to do it, and the contract is built to provide strong protection for the team in case Hardy does not uphold his end. Hoping he performs at a high level both on and off the field in no way condones or excuses domestic violence against women. It is just a hope that, in this one case, it does not rear its ugly head again.