So I'm talking with an NFL coach the other day and I'm speaking vaguely about Greg Hardy and Johnny Manziel, two names tied together not because of the Dallas Cowboys scene but rather because of the Dallas nightclub scene.
And Coach says to me, "When people show you who they are, believe them.''
Greg Hardy's issue isn't his on-field performance; critics are wrong when they say he played poorly for the 2015 Cowboys. His sack numbers (eight) weren't where he or the team wanted, but he was a productive, high-motor guy with a presence that made other players better ... facts all dragged down by 4-12, which ultimately says Hardy didn't make anyone "better enough.''
Johnny Manziel's issue isn't his on-field performance, either. Oh, highlights have been few and far between, but erase everything else that is spinning out of control in his life and what you see is a thrill-a-minute kid QB learning how to play the position for an arguably inept Cleveland Browns franchise.
On the field, both players "showed you who they are.'' (as opposed to Johnny in the above mid-November video, in which he's telling you what you want to hear) ... and they showed enough that, up until recently, anyway, at least a few people inside Valley Ranch would've liked to see more. Hardy is a Cowboys free agent who would like to come back to Dallas. Manziel is about to be freed by a Cleveland club that has tired of the dangerous drama, so he'll likely be a street free agent who, given the Texas A&M hero's attraction to his native state, surely would like to come back to Texas as well.
But off the field, both Hardy and Manziel have shown a different side of themselves, sides that look a little too much alike, frankly, sides peppered with allegations of domestic violence and substance abuse and "I'm going to kill you'' threats.
"Why hasn't anyone been convicted of all these supposed crimes?'' I'm asked, and the question misses the point entirely. The Fort Worth Police sent a helicoper (The Manzielicoper) out after Johnny following an incident with his ex-girlfriend that causes neighbors to phone authorities and caused the woman, by her own admission, to move towards Manziel while armed with a kitchen knife. I do not know why a helicopter is used to search for a drunk guy and I hope an Amber Alert never sounds at the same time we all wanna find Johnny or the police department is gonna have a helluva a decision on its hands. (Unless they have two helicopters.) But I know that police helicopter searches are serious enough, and so is the expressed belief from Paul Manziel, Johnny's dad, that "If they can't get him help, he won't live to see 24."
I'd like to explain to that Manziel cannot see that they "THEY'' is ... "YOU.'' (Who do the Manziels think "they'' is? Johnny's agent, who on Friday oozed onto Twitter to announce he's no longer repping a player without a job?) But that would take a different sort of "conviction'' on the part of Johnny's parents -- ultimately the only people with the DNA to feel any obligation here -- and so far, for the most part, the Manziel family has spend much of this time in the public eye riding right along aboard Johnny's Drunken Plastic Swan.
I'd like to explain to Greg Hardy (and have left him a message hoping to do so) that this isn't about his legal "conviction,'' either. It's about a different sort of "conviction,'' the sort that pulls you out of the nightclub in time to get home so you don't have to call your employer on the morning after to complain about "Uptown Flu.''
I've written that Hardy pulled the "Uptown Flu'' stunt (my words, not his) once. Maybe, though, it was more than that. Or maybe Hardy showed up for work just a little bit late a few times due to the "Uptown Flu.'' Or maybe he showed up on time but was meeting, studying and practicing while still wobbly from said "Flu.''
I've been told by people who would know that the "Hardy Party'' did not create a drunk-and-disorderly scene in Uptown, that he was fun, polite, a good tipper, all of that. But was he a reliable teammate on the morning after? Is there a price you pay for talent (maybe a budget price for Hardy's immense talent) that makes his retention worth the effort? Or should Hardy have been the one to "pay the price''?
And the same thing with Manziel, as Jerry Jones could conceivably say to his lieutenants: What if it costs you nothing to take a look?
Of course, the cost is never "nothing'' but seems so because so many of the costs are hidden. How many eyes roll in the locker room because of the view that Hardy didn't quite make all of the sacrifices that more customary "team leaders'' do? How much does it erode the work ethic of others on the team if Manziel (maybe a "Scorpion,'' as I write here) ends up with even a Valley Ranch tryout? How much does it undercut the authority of the coaching staff and the personnel department if ownership takes the well-within-its-right step of saying, "We pay 'em, you coach 'em up''?
Greg Hardy and Johnny Manziel are separate and unique individuals, "snowflakes,'' as I like to say. But the Cowboys braintrust is watching and listening and working to believe Hardy and Manziel when they "show them who they are.'' And in terms of "conviction'' -- not the legal kind, but the kind that comes from mind, heart and soul -- they are seeing that both these men are plagued, at one level or another, by the same bug: The Uptown Flu.