Sullivan: Talks With Hall of Famer Charles Haley Might Help Hardy

The author of *America's Team: The Official History of the Dallas Cowboys, Sullivan also writes a new column in each issue of Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine. For subscription information, please click here.*

Some of the thoughts that run through an oversized, bald head:

  • First off, and we kind of knew this, but watching him these last three games it stands out all the more – Greg Hardy is a heck of a football player. His numbers in three games would quantify as a solid season for most: 10 quarterback hits, 3.0 sacks, an interception and a forced fumble. And although it's not an official statistic, I have him with 12 QB hurries, too. His interception against Seattle should have won the game for the Cowboys; the ensuing play-calling was a little conservative to say the least. Heck, if not for a heads-up tackle by Russell Wilson, Hardy would have scored himself.
  • Of course, the issue with Hardy has never been on the field. It's worth nothing that after some rough moments with the media earlier in the season, he couldn't have been better after the Seattle loss, first asking the assembled group around his locker if they could wait a minute so he could dry his hair and then answering questions in a calm, relaxed voice. He said all the right things, too, among them, "This is a resilient team, a resilient bunch. We're going to come back, go to work and keep fighting. We've got a bunch of good guys."
  • He went on to speak of the confidence he has in his teammates, his coaches, the organization as a whole, more or less anyone within the general vicinity of Valley Ranch, adding, "A collective effort always wins in the end." There was no sarcasm, not a single "no comment," and at the conclusion he said, "Hope you guys have a great day."
  • Now, this was one week, one media session, but interestingly enough, it was the first since Hardy met with Pro Football Hall of Fame pass-rusher Charles Haley. The two had spoken previously, but Hardy headed to Valley Ranch (he lives in Dallas) to speak specifically with Hardy following the latter's sideline outburst in the loss to the Giants in Week 7. The two spoke for 20 minutes, with Haley preaching for Hardy to focus on his job and his job only. Don't worry about the kickoff team, the offense, the media, anyone not related to Hardy's job as a defensive end for the Dallas Cowboys.
  • Haley also shared some personal accounts of his career, which was often filled with bursts of anger directed at teammates, coaches and media. It was a productive talk and, of course, carries the weight of a guy who has been there, playing the same position for the same team, who has gone on to conquer his own demons. The part about residing in Canton doesn't hurt, either.
  • Hopefully, Haley's talk helped, and maybe the Hardy we saw after the Seattle game will be the same guy the remainder of the season. There have been discussions about Hardy returning next season, and that's certainly possible, but I don't think anyone's in a rush. Let's see how the next two months play out.
  • Changing gears, with the release of Joseph Randle earlier in the week, I went back and looked at the team's 2013 draft. It's amazing to me why so many in the media grade the draft immediately after, then again at the conclusion of that first season and then really never again. It's just washed from memory. Even now it's unfair to grade the draft. Still, I do think it's not looking quite as solid as we thought, say, a year ago.
  • Travis Frederick, the first-round pick that was crucified at the time, is a top-3 center and is 24 years old. Should be a Pro Bowl selection for the next decade or so, and at some point, surpass Mark Stepnoski as the greatest/most accomplished center in franchise history. So yeah, that one worked out. Thereafter, though, not so much.
  • The second-round pick was tight end Gavin Escobar, who I was convinced was going to be a touchdown-catching machine. Well, we're almost three years in, and not really sure what's left to say other than I was wrong. He caught two balls in each of the first two games and hasn't seen the pigskin since. Escobar is on the field. He has played every game. They just aren't throwing him the ball. He's not a blocking tight end, either, so I'm really mystified. Three tight ends taken after him already have 100-plus catches in the league, including Kansas City's Travis Kelce and Washington's Jordan Reed, both of whom could be headed to Hawaii this year.
  • Wideout Terrance Williams was the third-round selection and he really hasn't shown any signs if improving since his rookie campaign. He also seems to be much better off as the No. 2 receiver. I'm sure he would counter that he would have liked having Tony Romo behind center in Dez Bryant's absence, but truth is, he just hasn't been creating separation. Williams should have a solid NFL career, he doesn't drop many balls, but not sure we haven't already seen his upside at this point.
  • Safety J.J. Wilcox, also taken in the third, recently lost his starting job to rookie Byron Jones and having watched the game from the press box this past Sunday, and then viewing the coaches film, the difference between the two is significant. Outside of Hardy, Jones was the team's best defensive player against Seattle. Wilcox will continue to see time on special teams, and maybe spell Barry Church here and there, but Jones has a tight grip on the starting nod. Wilcox has started 27 games and been a solid player, so by no means are we saying he or Williams wasn't a decent pick.
  • The fourth-rounder was B.W. Webb, who I guess is now chilling on the Tennessee practice squad. He was never more than a special teams contributor with Dallas or Pittsburgh last year. And fourth-round picks should last more than a season with the team who drafts them. This was a big miss.
  • Randle was taken in the fifth round, and honestly, for that stage of the draft, nearly 1,000 yards from scrimmage and nine touchdowns isn't terrible. The last selection, in the sixth, was linebacker DeVonte Holloman, who after a promising rookie season was forced to retire after a neck injury suffered during the 2014 preseason.
  • Again, certainly not a terrible draft like in 2009, but not quite the home run many were thinking previously. It's entirely conceivable that Frederick will be the only one starting the 2016 opener.
  • Tony Romo wouldn't have been ready to play this Sunday, at least from what I've heard, but there's a chance he could have played next week at Tampa Bay. I know no one imagined sitting here right now on a five-game losing streak, so why not put him on the injured reserve and let him fully heal. In retrospect, that was a mistake if he could have played next week. Even that one game would have made it worthwhile to carry him the previous six games.
  • As for Sunday, expect another low-scoring ugly game. Cowboys can win, but they will have to win by forcing a few turnovers, maybe even scoring a defensive touchdown. And that's hard to envision right now.

Follow Jeff Sullivan on Twitter, @SullyBaldHead, or email him at jsullivan@dallascowboys.net.

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