Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett slipped back into serious mode Monday afternoon. On Sunday, the Cowboys head coach defended defensive end Greg Hardy after cameras caught him arguing with his teammates and the special teams coach. It was just his passion for the game, Garrett said after Dallas' 20-27 loss to the Giants. But Monday, Garrett told the media that the Cowboys were ready to move on after he talked with Hardy about finding the appropriate time and place to express his emotions.
It's become a familiar process for the Cowboys, despite its lack of results.
When a police booking video caught Cowboys running back Joseph Randle questioning the legal problems of his teammates Dez Bryant and Josh Brent last year, it led to a practice field dustup between Randle and Bryant. Garrett furrowed his brow and had a "tense" closed door meeting with his players to settle the matter.
He hates distractions, or so the narrative went in the wake of that meeting. It must have had some impact, though. Nobody said much of anything about discord in the locker room, and the whole affair is mostly remembered because Randle was actually being booked for stealing underwear and cologne.
But what Randle said on tape while the officers were taking his fingerprints is relevant again in the wake of Greg Hardy's latest round of idiotic behavior and the Cowboys' efforts to circle the wagons around a mostly indefensible human being.
"Dez didn't miss no games for slapping his mama," Randle said about the wide receiver's 2012 domestic incident with his mother.
"Josh Brent, he's still up in the locker room. He was driving drunk. That's stupid," is what he said about Brent, who pled guilty to manslaughter after a car wreck that killed his teammate Jerry Brown.
The message Randle sent was that the Cowboys had a high tolerance for putting up with distractions depending on how talented the player is.
Greg Hardy's latest outburst came on the field Sunday afternoon against the Giants. Cameras caught him in a tantrum, shoving his teammates and knocking the clipboard out of special teams coach Rich Bisaccia's hands. That was followed by an uneasy exchange with Bryant on the sidelines.
But it was no big deal, at least according to the Cowboys.
Owner Jerry Jones took the "boys will be boys" approach, chalking it up to Hardy "motivating" his teammates, a line not everyone in the scrum was buying. Linebacker Sean Lee went so far as to call it "extremely positive." Garrett gave it the "these things happen" treatment after the game, so did Bryant.
As for Hardy himself, he handled it by offering reporters a "no comment. Next question." And then answering the next question with that same response.
Jones was defending Hardy earlier this month after the defensive end made comments about coming out with his "guns blazing" and pointing to Tom Brady's wife as inspiration ahead of their game with the Patriots. Dumb remarks for a man just off a suspension over a domestic violence incident that included throwing his accuser onto a sofa covered in automatic weapons.
"We all know that's just a way of expressing yourself. I hope his guns are ablazin," Jones told Melissa Jacobs of Sports Illustrated when asked for a reaction to Hardy's comments. Jones doubled down on his Hardy comments later that week on his radio show.
The incident disappeared from the conversation when Garrett assured the media that he spoke with Hardy about his comments. Here's what he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Oct. 8:
"That's not how we want to operate as an organization, players and coaches in our organization understand that. We want to distinguish ourselves with our play, not with what we say. We define ourselves by what we do, not by what we say. Greg understands that now and that's how we're going forward."
Clearly, the message didn't sink in with Hardy. But why would you expect it to? He used his league-mandated time away from the game to reflect on his actions to make a bad rap video filled with strippers and guns.
Garrett changed his tune on Hardy by Monday afternoon, telling the Dallas Morning News that Hardy's antics on Sunday were simply misplaced.
"It wasn't exactly the right time and place as we're getting ready to go out on the field. We got that conveyed and communicated and we all moved on."
You see the pattern here: Hardy does something stupid, Jerry Jones et al defend him, Jason Garrett tries to soften the blow with the media and has a talk with Hardy assuring that such behavior will never happen again. You'd think they'd learn.
There were already a thousand takes on the Hardy situation by 8 a.m., most of them calling for some kind of punishment, a suspension or even outright release. I hesitated to throw yet another Hardy thing into Google's crowded index of Hardy news, but I might as well be the one to offer a dour reminder that nothing will happen.
Hardy is obviously incapable of learning from his past mistakes. So whatever Garrett says about tending to him is only going to hold water until the next time Hardy does something, and he will do something again before the season's over.
Just don't act surprised when the Cowboys don't do anything about it. Look how long it took before the Cowboys -- whose head coach does not like distractions, remember -- cut ties with Terrell Owens. They signed Owens to a $34 million extension in 2007. Jones spent the next year and a half waving off the importance of team chemistry and defending the distraction of having a receiver complaining about being slighted by the quarterback. The Cowboys finally cut ties when Garrett, then the offensive coordinator, couldn't prevent the situation from exacting a mental toll on Tony Romo.
For a team with a stated preference of avoiding distractions, the Cowboys have a higher tolerance than most teams would for these kinds of antics from their best players. You don't need Joseph Randle to tell you that.
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