Brandon Wade/AP; Al Bello/Getty Images; Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
By Gary Gramling
November 08, 2015

1a. I think, if you don’t have the stomach for more Greg Hardy reaction, skip the next 800 or so words.

I was in the process of writing something very lengthy on the Greg Hardy photos, and then I saw Mike Rosenberg had filed a piece that captured about 85% of my thoughts.

Kudos to Deadspin for publishing the photos; Diana Moskovitz, who consistently churns out excellent work, pulled together a great story. I would wholeheartedly recommend making her a regular read if you haven’t already.

However, little information in the Deadspin story is new. SI’s Jon Wertheim and our Emily Kaplan wrote that piece 14 months ago. Pictures are indeed powerful, but anyone with even the most basic reading comprehension skills already knew exactly what were in those photos. Either that, or they didn’t care enough to find out:

First he flung Holder onto a bed, then he threw her into a bathtub. Then he tossed her onto a futon covered with a cache of firearms. An inventory of the guns later filed with the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office revealed 10 semi-automatic rifles and shotguns.

Next, Hardy ripped from Holder’s body a necklace that he had gifted her. He threw the jewelry into a toilet, and when Holder attempted to fish it out, Hardy slammed the lid on her arm. He then dragged her by the hair from room to room, she said, before putting his hands around her throat. “He looked me in my eyes and he told me he was going to kill me,” Holder later testified. “I was so scared, I wanted to die. When he loosened his grip slightly, I said, ‘Just do it. Kill me.’”

…according to the police report, “the witness [Christina Lawrence] stated several times, ‘Greg just beat the s--- out of her; he almost broke her arm. . .’ The victim [Holder] was crying and very upset. The victim had visual signs and swelling to both arms. Both elbows had scratches and welts. Minor cuts and scrapes and large areas of bruising and swelling were visible on her back.”

Emergency room photos reveal bruises on Holder’s foot, wrist, neck, chin, face, forearm, elbow and back.

That was what ran on Sept. 12, 2014. If you were calling for Greg Hardy to be banned forever for the first time on November 6, 2015, you’re more than a year too late. (And, more than likely, you’re just trying to win the rage race on Twitter.)

No one gets to treat this as new information. The only thing Jerry Jones and the Cowboys have done right in regards to Hardy has been to admit: We didn’t see the pictures before, but we didn’t need to; we already knew everything. Because they did. And you should have too.

1b. The How could Goodell let him in the league? sentiment has been strong on this one. Goodell has made approximately 53,088 missteps in regards to the personal-conduct policy. This one is not one of them.

Goodell suspended Hardy for 15 games last season (17 if you include the playoffs). He tried to suspend him for another 10 this year, but it was overturned by an arbiter. There’s nothing more the league could do.

The Personal Conduct Policy is in place for public relations purposes. The league is unfit (as we’ve seen again and again and again) to dish out extra-judicial punishment. (Which isn’t really a knock; the court system isn’t too great at it either and that’s the only thing they do. To read a much smarter take than I can give you, check out the column Steph Stradley wrote for us last year.)

If you have a problem with Hardy being in the NFL, take it up with:

1) The team and the owner who gave him a job. Hardy isn’t incarcerated. He will only be out of the league only if the Cowboys cut him (which they won’t) and 31 other teams decide to not sign him. And, again, that decision wouldn’t be based on ethics, it would be a reaction to public outcry (and, in this case, belated public outcry).

2) The quirky North Carolina court system that Hardy was so easily able to game. As far as the state is concerned, not only is Hardy not guilty despite being convicted by a county judge, the charges were expunged from his record. That is a far bigger outrage than anything the NFL had done, will do or can do.

Moving forward, the questions we should be asking aren’t along the lines of Who hates Greg Hardy the most? From what I’m hearing, we want to permanently ban from the NFL anyone who commits domestic violence. But…

What if there is no conviction? What if there are no photos or video? Knowing what’s at stake, would that discourage victims from coming forward? Does it matter if the player shows contrition? What if the player is (unlike Greg Hardy) otherwise considered a good person? Is there an alternate approach, as far as getting help for victims and offenders? Or, better yet, are there preventative measures the league can take to keep this from happening at all, or, at least much less frequently?

And much more importantly: In society at large, can we more effectively prosecute domestic violence? (Remember, the prosecution’s case fell apart when the victim, Nicole Holder, didn’t testify at Hardy’s appeal, presumably because of a civil settlement.) And what is the appropriate punishment? What preventative measures can ben taken? If Greg Hardy were a certified public accountant making $75,000 annually as the sole breadwinner for a family of four, what would we want to happen? What happens if he has to serve a lengthy prison sentence and can never find work again? How does the financial well-being of his family factor into it? There has to be a strong deterrent against committing these crimes, but would his wife be destroying her own life by reporting it?

Running the rage race on Twitter is easy. Finding answers to these questions is not.

• THE ORIGINAL GREG HARDY REPORT: In September 2014, SI’s Jon Wertheim and Emily Kaplan reported on the horrifying details of the Greg Hardy domestic violence case.

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INTERMISSION: Take a deep breath. The rest of the column is Greg Hardy-free. Below is a series of football-related observations sprinkled with half-attempts at humor. Please enjoy.

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2. I think the definition of insanity is the Giants’ late-game play-calling.

I hinted at this last week, and in dropping that Arena League game in the Superdome the Giants did it again. With the game tied at 49 and the ball at their own 20 with 36 seconds left, the Giants ran three plays in an attempt to move into field goal range. The first was an incomplete pass for Rueben Randle. The second was a five-yard dump-off to Shane Vereen. The third was a throw to the left sideline for Dwayne Harris who, showing why he is a return specialist first and foremost, nearly shoveled it into the arms of a defensive back. Punt, long return, facemask, field goal, another last-minute loss.

It was the third time this year that the Giants lost a game in the final 90 seconds. There was opening night collapse against the Cowboys, of course, and then Week 2 at home against Atlanta. All three games had one thing in common: a baffling refusal to get the ball into the hands of their best player late in the game.

In those three losses, Eli Manning dropped back 36 times during the fourth quarter. He targeted Odell Beckham Jr. only five times, one fewer than Randle, and the same as Shane Vereen and Preston Parker. Here’s what happened:

  Targets Catches Rec. Yards Pen. Yards Yds/Target
Odell Beckham Jr. 5 3 59 30 17.8
People who aren’t Odell Beckham Jr. 31 15 121 18 4.5

***

Obviously, it’s more complicated than just “throw him the ball.” Opponents know Beckham is good. But the gap between Beckham and whomever you think is the second-best player in the Giants’ passing attack while they’ve been without Victor Cruz (Vereen? Randle?) is enormous. The Falcons find ways to get the ball to Julio Jones in crucial situations. Ditto the Cowboys and Dez Bryant, the Steelers and Antonio Brown, the Patriots and Gronk, etc. I’m not sure if it’s Ben McAdoo’s play-calling or Eli Manning’s decision-making, but they have to find a way to get Beckham the ball when it matters most.

* * *

3. I think Matthew Stafford isn’t for everyone, but if he’s indeed available after the season his services should absolutely be in demand. Stafford’s biggest strength is the ability to sling it downfield, something that requires, y’know, pass protection, so receivers have time to actually run downfield. The flawed roster built by now-dismissed GM Martin Mayhew is desperately lacking in that area.

Based on absolutely nothing I’ve heard, I’ll just throw this out: Buffalo? We’ll see how Tyrod Taylor progresses as a pocket passer, but Richie Incognito solidified the interior of that line, they have a running game to set up some play-action deep shots, and while I still like Sammy Watkins more as a catch-and-run guy, he and (if healthy) Percy Harvin can get behind defenses.

But most of all, the Bills have a roster that’s ready to win, with the exception of the quarterback. I’m not sure they have the patience to wait for a rookie to develop, even if they could get their hands on one of the draft’s top passers.

* * *

4. I think, when the NFL instituted the new rookie salary structure, I wondered if we’d see a tanking epidemic. After all, it’s not terribly tempting to have the No. 1 overall pick if you’re going to have to invest a huge chunk of your cap room in him (JaMarcus Russell’s cap hit in his third season was $13.1 million, Andrew Luck’s was $6.0 million). But with rookies locked in to reasonable deals, in a vacuum there’s no real downside to losing out and grabbing a top pick. The challenge is figuring out a way to lose all those games without losing your locker room in the process.

One misconception about tanking: Management tanks, not the players. It happens in the NBA all the time (the 76ers have been the equivalent of your local rec league team the past few seasons). No one is asking the players to lose games, it’s just the inevitable result when management puts together a non-competitive roster.

However, in the NBA it’s much easier to turn over your roster due to more flexible contracts and the much smaller roster size. It’s tough to imagine a scenario in which an NFL team trots out a bunch of practice squad types and scraps any player development in the hopes of landing a single player. They’d have every player on the roster wanting out by the end of the year.

* * *

5a. I think no one was questioning Blaine Gabbert’s credentials coming out of Missouri. He was thrown into the fire for a bad Jacksonville team and looked shell-shocked by his third season.

I’ve run this list before, but here it is again: Aaron Rodgers sat for three years. Tom Brady sat for a year and change. Philip Rivers sat for two years. Tony Romo sat for three-plus years. Drew Brees sat for a year. Carson Palmer sat for a year. Eli Manning sat for half a year.

Gabbert hasn’t started a game in more than two years, and he’s had some 20 months to sit back and digest the 49ers’ offense. He’s not going to be a star, and I’d be surprised if he looked like anything better than a mid-tier back-up. But maybe he can become a placeholder for the Niners’ next quarterback. Because, at this point, this is the goal, right?

5b. When I made that jersey it was originally a No. 16. Then I thought: Oh right, they probably don’t let folks wear No. 16 anymore on account of that other guy being so good.

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6. I think, with the NFC East “race” “heating up” it’s as good a time as any to check in with the Chip-O-Meter, the only reliable way to scientifically measure the job performance of Chip Kelly.

Preceding the bye week was a Sunday night dud in Carolina, when, for once, the Eagles couldn’t wear down an opponent in the second half.

Not only does Sam Bradford look as shaky as ever, but he’s getting no help from the receivers Kelly brought in with high draft picks. 2015 first-rounder Nelson Agholor, who missed the Carolina game, has eight catches in five games. 2014 second-rounder Jordan Matthews, the presumptive No. 1 receiver, seems to be taking the advice given to Little League shortstops everywhere to heart: You don’t have to catch it, just knock it down and keep it in front of you. With Byron Maxwell topping Pro Football Focus’s list of free-agent busts, Chip the coach has to bail out Chip the GM.

• FOUR FREE AGENT FAILS: Philly’s Byron Maxwell heads up Pro Football Focus’s list of the worst big-money free agents of 2015.

* * *

7. I think I think some things about college football…

a. Leonard Fournette is gonna be fine. My main takeaway from Saturday’s main event is that the Alabama defense is really frickin’ good. Like, even for an Alabama defense, really frickin’ good. If Kirby Smart didn’t bat 1.000 with his calls in the second half, he was pretty close. And that deafening noise you heard was A'Shawn Robinson's draft stock skyrocketing.

b. I’m not a professional scout (yet), but when I watch Baylor’s Corey Coleman (he of the 20 TD catches through eight games), the way he runs through tackles after the catch, the way he attacks the ball in the air, I think Steve Smith Sr.

c. This prayer of a lateral by Arkansas tight end Hunter Henry (who will play on Sundays) is absolutely wonderful. In a potential last-play-of-the-game situation, it’s always unforgivable to get tackled with the ball in your hands. (Also, great block downfield by Jeremy Sprinkle.)

But two stunningly bone-headed moves on this play. First: Ole Miss players and coaches for spilling onto the field mid-play. They should have been flagged (they weren’t, because most collegiate officiating crews are quite bad), and a penalty would have extended the game if Arkansas had come up short. Also, it looks like Alex Collins tries to lateral again at the end of the play, when he’s five yards beyond the first-down marker (college overtime is untimed, so at the time they just needed a first down). I know it’s a wacky play and there is all sorts of confusion, but you have to know where you had to get to. He’s awfully lucky a teammate came up with the ball there.

d. Revealing the college football playoff rankings before the season is over remains one of the dumbest traditions in organized sports. They’re obviously 100% meaningless, as evidenced by last year. Actual regular-season performance is a suggestion; it comes down to who was supposed to be good when it was discussed in August. Come December, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is going to walk into the committee room, rip off his suit and tie to reveal his “NY [HEARTS] Rutgers” t-shirt, call everyone in the room a nerd and start dishing out wedgies to anyone who won’t put Big Ten teams in the spots he has designated for them. Plug in the SEC, the Pac-12 and maybe throw a bone to an ACC or Big 12 team that ran the table.

e. One more note, as we have now entered the “actually, Rutgers was a good idea because money” hot-take zone. College football, and therefore the Big Ten Network, sells itself during in the long-overdue playoff era. The New York area is loaded with Midwest transplants who desperately wanted BTN. All the Big Ten needed in expansion was a school with: (1) a tangential connection to New York; (2) a competitive program; (3) a tendency to not embarrass itself on a near-weekly basis; and, lastly (4) a men’s basketball program serviceable enough that it doesn’t submarine everyone’s RPI come Selection Sunday. Rutgers whiffs on Nos. 2 through 4. They barely fill the first requirement (I’ve worked in NYC for 11 years and lived there for six; aside from Greg Bedard stopping by the office I’ve literally never heard anyone mention anything about Rutgers athletics). Delany had countless superior options: Syracuse, Connecticut… Army… Monmouth… NYU… Yeshiva. It was tough to get this wrong. But the Big Ten got it obviously, painfully wrong.

* * *

8. I think, while you’re counting down the hours to kickoff, you should spend some time with The MMQB Reads of the Week.

I have one for NFL fans, and one for… oh, let’s say fans of things that are good.

First, there’s Jenny Vrentas’ profile of Cam Newton, where he is as a quarterback, and where he could take the Panthers. It’s as good a piece as anyone has written on a guy who has won 10 straight regular-season games and has Carolina on the verge of a third straight division title.

Then, we have Robert Klemko’s piece on Elliot Uzelac and the program at Benton Harbor High in Michigan. It’s amazing what Uzelac, who came out of retirement after spending four decades coaching big-time college and pro football, and his program are doing for that school and that town.

As an honorable mention, I also thoroughly enjoyed Emily Kaplan’s profile of Gary Barnidge, a man of many interests and the league’s most unlikely breakout star. (And on a personal note, that bastard stole my vanity plates.)

* * *

It's heady times for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense.
Steve Nehf/Getty Images

9. Eleven-plus things I think about Sunday’s 11 games:

a. Could you imagine the overreaction if the Packers had played in Denver, and had played that game, in Week 1? I do think Green Bay is going to lose in Carolina on Sunday. As Andy Benoit pointed out Monday morning, the offense has some work to do. I also expect them to use the remaining schedule to fine tune going into the playoffs. And, even if they have to go on the road once or twice, I still like them to make a run in January.

b. Considering how vanilla Washington’s coverages tend to be, I wonder if the Patriots kept an eye on next week’s trip to East Rutherford, to face the Giants, during their preparation this week.

c. Like many, I think the Ken Whisenhunt firing was silly. But I always thought Mike Mularkey was a decent head coach who just never had the right quarterback to work with. I’d be curious to see what he can do with Marcus Mariota (though I’d be surprised if he got the chance long-term). Also on Sunday, let’s see what Drew Brees does as an encore. This Titans defense is an underrated unit.

d. The Wild-Card race in the AFC remains wide-open. If the season ended today, it would be the 4-3 Raiders and the 4-3 Jets. That’s good news for Buffalo and Miami, who are each only one game out of the playoffs entering their rematch in Orchard Park on Sunday. The Bills are thrilled to get Tyrod Taylor and (maybe) Sammy Watkins back in the lineup after EJ Manuel spent the first half of the London game auditioning for Marv Albert’s next blooper reel. The Dolphins are licking their wounds after a predictable crash in New England (having to travel for a Thursday night while the Patriots played back-to-back at home seems a bit unfair). More importantly, they’ll have to go back to the drawing board on the defensive line after losing a rejuvenated Cameron Wake.

e. In Minnesota, it’s Adrian Peterson vs. Todd Gurley. For the price of a single ticket you get to see two guys who could go down as the best runners in football since the turn of the century.

f. This is a gut-check game for the Jets. They were a mess in Oakland last week, and the quarterback injuries overshadowed an embarrassing afternoon for a supposedly dominant defense, which looked like it was grasping for flags instead of trying to make tackles. This unit has to take it out on the Jaguars.

g. Yes, the Wild-Card race is on, and the Steelers are sitting a half-game behind the Jets and the team they host on Sunday: the Raiders. With Le’Veon Bell out for the year, the Steelers have to be just a little wary about putting the game in Ben Roethlisberger’s hands. He gacked last week’s game against the Bengals. “Rusty,” is the most polite way to describe it. He and Andy Dalton spent the entire second half alternately saying, “no, please, you take this game.”

h. I can’t imagine Jason Pierre-Paul plays more than on obvious passing downs in Tampa, and this Giants defense desperately needs him. They had no semblance of a pass rush in allowing some 1,446 passing yards (or, at least that’s what it felt like) to Drew Brees last week, and that’s been the case just about every week this year.

i. Of all the bad starting quarterbacks to have faced the Falcons this year, Blaine Gabbert ranks… somewhere in the middle. I mean, look at this list:

Sam Bradford
Eli Manning
Brandon Weeden
Ryan Mallett
Kirk Cousins
Drew Brees
Zach Mettenberger
Jameis Winston

j. I don’t think Pep Hamilton is a bad coach, but I don’t think he was the right fit for what is very much a finesse offense (due to the offensive line) in Indianapolis. I think Rob Chudzinski is a very good coach. But I’m also pretty sure that he’s going to have his butt handed to him Sunday afternoon by a Broncos defense that is, quite simply, phenomenal.

k. If the Cowboys find a way to win at home tonight, it would go a long way toward their climb into the NFC East pennant race. Most importantly, it would give them the tiebreaker over the Eagles, and also move them to 3-1 in the division, giving them a good shot at claiming the tiebreaker over the Giants (2-2 in the division), with whom they split.

* * *

10. I think, at 12:58 p.m. ET, you should turn your volume all the way up and press play…

 

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