Hardy Represents Uncharted Territory for Dallas, Both On and off the Field
The most contentious free agent acquisition of that season emerged from a franchise known for its penchant for capturing headlines.
The Dallas Cowboys, just a week ago, entered into a contract with defensive end Greg Hardy, who, during the previous season, faced suspension for all but one game.
The deal, which had the potential to be valued at $13.1 million with added incentives, garnered significant attention.
According to reports on sportac.com, Hardy’s earnings comprised a base salary of $745,000, $9,255,000 in per-game bonuses (with 2 LTBE), along with a workout bonus amounting to $1,311,600.
His presence on the team’s roster imposed a cap hit of $2,635,037, and it was revealed that he stood to collect over $1.8 million in bonuses contingent on his sack performance for that year.
The primary source of controversy undoubtedly stemmed from the fact that the former Carolina Panther had been found guilty in July of the preceding year on charges of misdemeanor domestic violence pertaining to an alleged incident with an ex-girlfriend.
Hardy had pursued an appeal against his conviction, and his trial was scheduled for the month prior to last, though it ultimately saw charges being dropped, as the prosecutors were unable to locate the accuser.
The belief in second chances is a sentiment shared by others, including Mark Cuban, who conveyed his opinion to the Dallas Morning News, expressing, “I think they mishandled it publicly… (but) you can’t simply cast individuals aside. What do you say about Greg Hardy? Should he never be employable again?”
Charlotte Johnson Anderson, the daughter of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and the team’s executive vice president/brand manager, similarly shared her perspective with the Dallas Morning News, stating, “Many might decry this as distressing, but they grapple with the dilemma of not knowing what to do.
That’s what makes this an extraordinary opportunity. It’s the reason I have no apprehension about this decision.”
“As a mother with a daughter and two sons, this is a deeply personal issue for me. I want my children to understand that domestic violence is utterly unacceptable.
Yet, I also want them to realize that if they make a mistake, regardless of the nature of the transgression, I won’t simply discard them. I need to guide them toward making better choices.”
Nonetheless, the associated risks are twofold:
The absence of any acknowledgment of wrongdoing… did Greg Hardy truly glean any lessons?
The defensive advantages Hardy previously enjoyed with the Carolina Panthers no longer hold in the context of the Dallas Cowboys.
To merit a second chance, the individual in question must take steps to mend what has been fractured. Without this, can the notion of redemption be deemed genuine?
There has been a notable absence of a public apology or any admission of wrongdoing from Greg Hardy’s side, directed either toward the domestic violence victim or his former team, the Carolina Panthers, who faced his prolonged absence from the field and the resulting disruption to teammates, coaches, and the organization.
During the course of these events, Hardy did make a limited statement to reporters last July, acknowledging, “I hate that I have distracted my team,” but that was the extent of it.
When compared to the more comprehensive and candid statements made by individuals like Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, this statement from Hardy appears somewhat lacking, if not incomplete.
It’s worth considering that during the time of the pending appeal, such comments might not have been deemed suitable, particularly if he had received advice from his legal counsel to remain silent.
However, now that the case has concluded, some form of acknowledgment of lessons learned or remorse — even without specific admissions of guilt if he still believes in his innocence — would be crucial to assuage concerns of Dallas fans and officials about whether any genuine personal growth has occurred.
While Hardy might have offered apologies in private, given the public nature of the matter, a public apology becomes imperative.
When considering the public, which serves as the very lifeblood of the profession that has granted Greg Hardy the opportunity to amass millions, the absence of a sincere or at least an attempted apology raises questions about his true intentions.
Can he genuinely claim to be sorry for his actions? A second chance is something that should be earned, not taken for granted, and thus far, Hardy has not garnered that second chance from the most influential group – the public.
In the words of Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings, “However, at some point, one’s identity as a sports fan must yield to one’s role as a father and husband, driven by the desire to act in the best interest of women.
This situation doesn’t sit well with me.” Rawlings went on to express, “As a Cowboys fan, this feels like a heavy blow.”
From a business perspective, the rationale behind Hardy’s signing remains a challenge to justify.
When a player with a questionable past and the potential for further suspensions is brought into the fold, a franchise must carefully weigh the risks against the rewards. Are the potential gains greater than the risks?
Evidently, the Dallas Cowboys believe so, and they’ve structured the contract to favor their financial interests. However, this is just one facet of the equation.
From a football standpoint, elite pass rushers are a rare find and can transform a good defense into a great one.
Acquiring a top-tier pass rusher may be worth the elevated risk. Yet, when scrutinizing Hardy’s performance on film, his exceptional success in 2013 elevated him to the top tier of pass rushers.
And was significantly influenced by working alongside two players who not only commanded the majority of the offensive line’s attention but also created pressure that prevented the quarterback from stepping up and throwing.
These two players are Charles Johnson and Star Lotulelei. Due to their presence, Hardy frequently found himself in one-on-one situations, which is the ideal scenario for any pass rusher. To illustrate this point:
In the film analysis, we observe Greg Hardy facing off one-on-one with a tight end. Typically, a defensive end would be expected to win this matchup against a tight end. This advantage was possible because Lotulelei was positioned next to him, drawing the double team.
In the subsequent video segment, the offensive line shifts away from Hardy, primarily preoccupied with Lotulelei and the other defensive lineman, thereby creating an opening for Hardy.
This situation not only grants him a one-on-one battle but also provides him with dual options for maneuvering past the tackle, whether it be to the inside or the outside. Such a scenario is a pass rusher’s ideal circumstance (as depicted below).
In 2013, Hardy undeniably delivered outstanding productivity, but a part of his success was attributable to the favorable opportunities that arose from his participation in Carolina’s defensive scheme.
Whether Hardy can maintain his elite on-field performance or whether there will be an anticipated decline that questions the justification for his price and the associated off-field risks remains uncertain.
Regrettably, the Dallas Cowboys lack the equivalent of two players like Lotulelei and Johnson who can consistently create these advantageous situations – an advantage that is a rarity for most teams.
If Hardy is persistently double-teamed, and his performance on the stat sheet doesn’t mirror his past achievements, will the risks have truly been justified?
This football-related ambiguity, coupled with Hardy’s failure to publicly express any remorse for the actions that led him to seek a second chance, renders this signing one of the riskiest moves of the offseason.
Football is a team sport that heavily emphasizes accountability. With Greg Hardy now part of the Cowboys, numerous questions remain unanswered.