(Photos courtesy of the Dallas Cowboys)
Talk of Fame Network
Nearly 25 years ago, the Dallas Cowboys gambled and won on a recalcitrant pass rusher. His name was Charles Haley, and he not only went on to win three Super Bowls in Dallas; he became so valuable he’s going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Now they’re at it again – gambling on a pass rusher who, like Haley, is an enormous risk but who, like Haley, could be a difference maker. We’re talking about Greg Hardy, whom the Cowboys signed as a free agent after Carolina gave up on him.
Like Haley, Hardy is a disruptive force. In fact, he set a franchise record in Carolina with 15 sacks in 2013, including a club-best four in one game. But, like Haley, Hardy is a character risk. Arrested on domestic charges in 2014, he sat for all but one game last season, was released by Carolina and suspended for 10 games this season – a sentence cut to four earlier this month.
Now the Cowboys have come to his rescue, just as they did with Haley -- who, as Jones put it, had “chemistry issues” with coaches in San Francisco. So the 49ers dealt him to Dallas where he was so productive that owner Jerry Jones, Stephen's father, said you couldn’t spell Super Bowl with Charles Haley.
“He made a huge difference in terms of the pressure he got on the quarterback,” Stephen Jones told the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast. “That’s obviously why we’re being very aggressive trying to find one. We really think at the end of the day, we feel like that was the biggest reason we didn’t advance in the playoffs and, ultimately, have a chance to win a championship.”
When the Cowboys acquired Haley in 1992 they didn’t have a premier pass rusher. Tony Tolbert’s seven led a team that produced just 23 the previous year, which put Dallas 26th in a 28-member league. One year later, that total nearly doubled as the Cowboys produced 44 sacks and won the first of three Super Bowls in four years.
Now fast forward to 2014. While the Cowboys won the NFC East, their pass rush was a liability. It ranked 28th, with Jeremy Mincey’s six sacks leading the team, and was a contributing factor in a playoff loss to Green Bay when Aaron Rodgers – playing on one leg, no less – shredded the Cowboys in the second half of a come-from-behind victory.
So the Cowboys gambled on Hardy, just as they gambled on Haley 23 years before, and the obvious question: Is Greg Hardy the modern-day equivalent of Charles Haley? Not according to Stephen Jones.
“I think they’re two different type of people at the end of the day,” Jones told the Talk of Fame. “I mean, all people are different. But Charles’ issues, and what we knew we were getting, are different from Greg’s. Obviously, in this day and time … and the challenges that Greg needs to overcome and put in his rear-view mirror and not go in that area again … are different from what Charles had in terms of the challenges he had with the chemistry of the team.
“Everything we did with our homework (says) that Greg is a great teammate; he busts his butt; he works hard and he gets along with the team. We didn’t really see those type of issues with Greg Hardy as much …other than the obvious. And, obviously, he’s paid a price for that. He’s going to have to be accountable, and he certainly knows there’s going to be zero tolerance on that going forward. “