No Matter How Good A Player Is, Off-Field Actions Always Affect The Team
Ah, the end of the football season, when a training camp full of unwarranted optimism comes crashing to earth. When hard-gritted admissions that some things could have been done better are soon replaced by the determination to "move forward."
But in this brief pause before the spin starts anew, let's take a moment to examine the wreckage of the 2015 Dallas Cowboys' season, when we can finally declare the Greg Hardy experiment a failure.
More about the defensive end in a moment, but consider that Dallas could be one of the few teams reportedly interested in (What time is it? Is he still rostered?) Johnny Manziel, given Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' very public fascination with the embattled Browns backup.
Jones has always been drawn to risky but talented players (see Dez Bryant). Sometimes it works out, but not always. Bringing in Manziel, a native Texan, would certainly draw interest, but there are real challenges for a franchise taking on a player with a history of off-field issues, the latest being a question of whether he was in Las Vegas the night before the Browns' last game of the season.
Hardy might have been considered toxic to many in the league, but Jones scooped the talented player up with an incentive-loaded contract, and had daughter Charlotte Jones Anderson, Cowboys executive vice president and chief brand officer, explain the acquisition to reporters. Hardy came to Dallas fresh off domestic violence charges that had been dropped because, prosecutors said in court, he reached a civil settlement with his accuser, who was no longer helping them with the case. An earlier trial had found him guilty of a brutal beating.
There's this old saw in football that a good player is always worth his off-field baggage. And yet, Hardy wasn't. He talked about Tom Brady's wife. He was reportedly late to meetings. He slapped a clipboard out of an assistant coach's hands and had to be restrained. Photos of the alleged victim's bruises were published by Deadspin.
And sadly, the most damning thing teams probably will hold against Hardy is that he didn't perform. The Cowboys paid him $8.8 million, and he got six sacks in a 4-12 season.
Obviously the Cowboys had bigger issues, particularly at quarterback where Tony Romo missed seven games before a season-ending collarbone injury. But let's take a moment to bury that old saw, that somehow players leave all their risky behavior off the field without damaging a team during the work day.
And here's where Manziel comes in. Jones talked a good game about getting Hardy the help he needed. That was never obvious from Hardy's interviews and behavior. Manziel might also be in need of serious intervention, and in that scenario, football should not come first.
Other things on my mind this week:
The NFL will review the proposals from three teams -- the Rams, Chargers and Raiders -- all hoping to move to Los Angeles. I say L.A. should take all three teams on an awkward group date, decide who is there for the right reasons and then offer one the final rose. Or two. Two roses. So it's not an exact comparison. How about, whichever team gets excessively drunk on the group date and tries to make out with L.A. in front of the other teams does not get a rose.
Donald Trump trolled New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, who is backing Jeb (!) Bush's campaign. Trump claimed that if the heavy-pocketed Johnson had picked him, that the Jets would be in the playoffs. Because ... Trump can control the outcome of games with his eyebrows?
Most rapes in the United States go unprosecuted. The New York Times looks at why in this magazine piece. Here's a line that stands out: "Many police officers continue to read vulnerability as complicity. It's as if a victim of robbery were disbelieved because she lived in a poor, crime-ridden neighborhood."
Did you watch / are you watching "Making A Murderer"? Then you will want to read rape survivor Penny Beernsten's first-hand account for the Marshall Project.
Listen to us on the radio! Saturday at noon ET, espnW formally debuts "The Trifecta" on ESPN Radio with me and sidekicks Kate Fagan and Sarah Spain. (But don't tell Sarah and Kate that they're my sidekicks, since they have this weird idea that we are all equally billed on the show.)