Jerry Jones never could hide his enthusiasm for Greg Hardy. And there doesn't seem to be anything Hardy can do to dampen it. The Cowboys owner's combustible defensive end angrily knocked a clipboard out of an assistant coach's hand at MetLife Stadium during a loss to the Giants, and Jones immediately praised Hardy's leadership.
To apply that term in any way to Hardy is a complete misuse of the English language. Jones sees what he wants to see in Hardy because he wants to win football games. But Friday, the public saw something different.
Deadspin released 48 photos allegedly stemming from a 2014 incident involving Hardy and his then-girlfriend, Nicole Holder. Hardy was arrested and charged with attacking and threatening Holder, but the case was ultimately tossed when she would no longer cooperate.
In the photos procured by Deadspin, Holder appears bruised and beaten. Even the bottom of a foot shows a newly bloomed bruise, and there are marks all along her back, arms and neck. Jones, coach Jason Garrett and everyone in the Cowboys' front office needs to take a good, long look at those photos, if they haven't already.
Do you still think Hardy inspires people? Still think this is the kind of "leadership" you want on your team? Is this still a man you want to defend in front of your fans, to enrich with a new long-term contract?
It's a shame some people need to see the photos -- just as many, including NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, needed to see the video of former Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiancée -- in order to truly understand the horrors of domestic violence.
Before Deadspin published the photos, there were people on social media and in comments sections blaming Holder -- much easier to do when you can't see the patchwork of scratches and contusions on her body. It is reminiscent of the Rice case, where the facts were easy to ignore but the video impossible.
But the domestic violence case those photos are from? It doesn't exist anymore, legally. Hardy's attorney, Chris Fialko, told a Charlotte, North Carolina, reporter Thursday that the record was expunged.
Apparently, a man can allegedly beat someone so badly that it looks as though she's been in a car accident, be found guilty of it in a bench trial, have the case tossed when the alleged victim will no longer cooperate in the appeal and, nine months later, no harm no foul.
The NFL learned from its mistakes in the Rice case. It went to court to make sure it saw some of those photos before it issued Hardy a 10-game suspension earlier this year. It was a strong penalty, and should have been seen as a reflection of the impact of those photos. Instead, many fans viewed the decision as evidence the NFL had gone too far in the job of jury and police.
The NFL Players Association appealed the NFL's suspension, and an arbitrator, Harold Henderson, reduced it to four games, saying: "Ten games is simply too much, in my view, of an increase over prior cases without notice, such as was done last year, when the 'baseline' for discipline in domestic violence or sexual assault cases was announced as a six-game suspension."
Would it have been "simply too much" had Henderson seen the photos, as the NFL's investigators had?
Now, Hardy appears the proudest acquisition of the Cowboys' owner, who lauds the defensive end every chance he has, whether it's chuckling about his use of a gun analogy in his first news conference back from the four-game suspension, or joining Hardy in a creepy discussion about Tom Brady's wife.
All that therapeutic support Jones' club was supposed to give him appears to have made little difference in his actions. But no matter: Hardy has been brought in to play football. It's something he's very good at, regardless of the collateral damage.
This is the void the NFL and union need to jointly walk into, to keep rare players like Hardy and owners like Jones from distracting from a game played by a lot of actual good guys. Hardy is a distraction, because owners like Jones keep cheering him on.