Is Hardy Garrett's kind of guy?

IRVING, Texas -- On the Dallas Cowboys' website, there's a photo of Jason Garrett sitting at his desk beaming at Greg Hardy, the star defensive end, shortly after Hardy signed his contract.

Garrett certainly seemed pleased Hardy is now wearing a blue star on the side of his helmet. But does he have any reservations about adding a player expected to serve a four- to six-game suspension this season for violating the NFL conduct policy for allegedly beating his girlfriend the past summer?

Those allegations are the reason Hardy spent the final 16 weeks of the past season on the commissioner's exempt list and why he was available in the first place.

We know Hardy is the right kind of pass-rusher, considering he has a total of 26 sacks in his past two full seasons, but is he the right kind of guy?

Garrett has yet to speak publicly about the Hardy signing, though he will be asked about it this week at the NFL meetings in Arizona. The Cowboys' coach is constantly talking about having the right kind of guys on his team. It's been one of his primary tenets since he became the head coach midway through the 2010 season.

Garrett has been around pro football his entire life. His dad, Jim, was a college head coach and spent decades in the NFL as an assistant coach and scout. Garrett understands the NFL is about winning -- not having a roster full of choir boys.

Hardy, if healthy, will help the Cowboys win football games as one of the game's elite pass-rushers.

Garrett played on the Cowboys' teams that dominated the NFL and became the first team to win three Super Bowls in four years. This is where he started developing a feel for what constitutes the right kind of guy on the field.

"There's personal character, there's football character, there's work ethic, there's passion for the game, all those things," Garrett said in January. "We literally grade the players on that. We grade our own players on that. We grade the players coming into the league on those things. You really have to dig and try to find out what this guy is all about, what makes him tick.

"It's cliché to say that, but that's really what we're trying to do. We all can watch them run, watch them jump, watch them throw, watch them backpedal, watch them run routes. We can see that. There's some physical things that guys need to have, but then you got to figure out what's next. What's behind that? How important is football to them? What kind of person is he? What's his makeup?"

If you read between those lines, it certainly seems that "personal character" is taking a back seat to "football character" and "passion for the game" in the case of Hardy. For the Cowboys, being the right kind of guy is much more about being a consummate professional than it is about staying out of trouble off the field.

At various times over the years, Garrett has referred to former Cowboys such as Michael Irvin, Erik Williams and Nate Newton as the right kind of guys. Each had their share of off-the-field issues, but when they stepped through the doors at the Cowboys' Valley Ranch training facility, they were fully committed to winning.

There's a segment of Cowboys fans who will call Garrett a fraud or a hypocrite for adding Hardy to the roster. The reality is Garrett has been pretty consistent.

He welcomed defensive tackle Josh Brent back to the team after Brent was charged with intoxication manslaughter in a car accident that claimed practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown's life. Brent spent nearly six months in jail.

Garrett didn't dismiss running back Joseph Randle from the team following Randle's theft of underwear and cologne from a local department store, and when safety C.J. Spillman faced sexual assault allegations in October, Garrett made it clear he wasn't taking any action until Spillman was charged with a crime, which has yet to happen.

"I just have a firm belief that the best players I've been around are made up of the right stuff, and they have the right ability," Garrett said at the NFL scouting combine. "I get that, but Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin and all those guys were elite, elite people, too.

"They love the game. They wanted to be great players. Jason Witten, Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, they're the same way. We believe strongly that if you put those guys together, and you do things the right way on a daily basis, that gives you a chance to win ballgames."

Garrett has considerably more authority than other Cowboys' coaches, such as Wade Phillips, Dave Campo and Chan Gailey, but he's not the general manager. His voice carries weight, but he doesn't have the final say on the roster, which doesn't make him a puppet or unusual.

Bill Parcells didn't have final say on the roster when he was the coach. Remember: Parcells didn't want Terrell Owens, but he ended up with him on the team in 2006 because Jerry Jones signed him and told Parcells to coach the player.

Even a coach as powerful as Parcells doesn't always get his way. We know Garrett wanted DeMarco Murray and lauded his litany of positives to all who would listen.

None of it worked. Stephen Jones refused to give Murray more than $12 million in guaranteed money, and he left for Philadelphia, as he should have, given the offers.

Dallas and Tampa Bay were the only teams bidding for Hardy's services, an indication of his toxic reputation. A player with Hardy's skill set usually doesn't last more than a couple of days on the free-agent market, but he lasted more than a week.

Hardy makes the Cowboys contenders.

Whether Garrett wanted Hardy or not, he was getting him. Jerry is in the fourth quarter of his life, and he's determined to win another Lombardi Trophy before the final whistle blows.