Hardy Proves He Wasn’t Worth The Gamble As Rodgers, Packers Roll Over Cowboys 28-7
This past winter vacation was a troubling one for Jerry Jones, as indelible memories of a one-legged Green Bay quarterback haunted him at every turn. Against Jones’ best Cowboys team in nearly twenty years, Aaron Rodgers battled through a severe ankle injury to lead the Packers to a 26-21 victory in an NFC Divisional playoff game at Lambeau last January.
While Rodgers and the Packers advanced to play Seattle in the NFC Championship Game, Jones was left behind to wonder what might have been had his team been equipped with a bona-fide pass-rusher. Determined to address the one, true glaring need on the Cowboys roster, Jones went out and shelled $11 million into Greg Hardy’s bank account to bring him to Dallas. The 27-year old defensive end was viewed as the difference-maker that would enable Jones’ team to overcome offensive juggernauts such as New England and Green Bay.
As has been so often the case during the past two decades, Jones appeared to have overreached and overpaid in the case of this high-priced free-agent.
Since his two-sack debut against the aforementioned Patriots, Hardy has been in a deep-rooted funk, making a return to the Cowboys in 2016 very much in doubt. Over the last 7 weeks, Hardy has notched just 2.5 sacks, and has been guilty of checking out on more than one occasion. Sunday afternoon’s showdown in Lambeau was Hardy’s best – and possibly last – opportunity to make his case for a new contract in March. Making life miserable for Rodgers is a valued trade, you see. Loafing through the season is not.
With linebackers Sean Lee and Rolando McClain expected to aid in shutting down an already suspect Packers running attack, Hardy was sure to see plenty of opportunities to rush the passer. That, at least, was the plan going into this late-season showdown.
When the game started on a gray afternoon, Hardy played the part of the invisible along a Dallas defensive front that was getting pushed around at random. Even with a steady rain falling, Rodgers attempted 24 passes during the first-half, completing seventeen. Second-year defensive end Demarcus Lawrence had the Cowboys’ only sack, while Hardy didn’t even come close to touching the Green Bay signal-caller, finishing the first half with a measly one tackle. The Packers controlled the ball for more than 20 minutes in that span, as they built a 14-0 lead heading into intermission.
By this time, the Dallas owner was likely reclining in his sky-box with a blanket over his head. If Jerry was contemplating the possibilities of whether the Cowboys were better off without Hardy on the field, he was given a first-rate demonstration when the teams exited the locker room.
For the first drive of the third quarter, Hardy remained a spectator on the Dallas sideline. The Cowboys defense, after yielding a first down, forced a Green Bay punt. Even in his momentary jubilation, Jerry couldn’t help but cringe.
Maybe we didn’t need Greg after all.
To Hardy’s credit, he returned and played well, notching a third-down sack that resulted in another third quarter punt from the Packers offense, one of four consecutive punts that kept the Cowboys close down the stretch.
But even during a period of rare defensive dominance for Dallas, Hardy couldn’t help but show some of the mannerisms that have drawn the ire of millions on social media. Following a defensive stop in the early stages of the third quarter, Jason Garrett offered him a congratulatory low-five upon reaching the sideline. Hardy brushed past the Cowboys head coach and made his way to the bench.
Hardy finished the game quietly with four tackles and one sack, as Green Bay pulled away in the end to win 28-7. No, he wasn’t the sole reason the Packers piled up 435 total yards, but Hardy didn’t provide the performance necessary to stop them either.
It is uncertain whether Greg Hardy will return as a Dallas Cowboy in 2016. It is equally uncertain if Hardy even cares.
For Jerry, the nightmare rolls on.