Oakland Raiders: Aldon Smith And Greg Hardy Are Apples And Oranges

Nov 8, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy (76) prior to a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at AT&T Stadium. Eagles won 33-27 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 8, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy (76) prior to a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at AT&T Stadium. Eagles won 33-27 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports /

The Oakland Raiders chose to re-sign pass rusher Aldon Smith this offseason, prompting some criticism and comparisons to Greg Hardy‘s situation.

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Oakland Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie is a very cautious, very deliberate man. He doesn’t make a move without seeing it from all the different angles and thinking about the possible ramifications not just in the short term, but in the long game as well. So when he opted to re-sign LB Aldon Smith – despite the fact that Smith is still suspended and not eligible to set foot on the field until November at the earliest – it was a decision he made with his eyes wide open.

And after Smith’s nine game audition in Silver and Black last season – as well as all of the work he’s put in since his suspension was handed down last year – McKenzie believes that he is a changed man and one worth rolling the dice on.

If he didn’t believe that, Smith wouldn’t be coming back to Oakland. If there is one thing that matters to McKenzie, it’s building the team the right way, with the right character guys. When it comes to questions of character, McKenzie is as risk averse as they come.

Of course, the decision to re-sign Smith hasn’t set well with some. Most notably currently unemployed pass rusher Greg Hardy.

Hardy is reportedly upset that Smith managed to land a deal before he did – an issue that in Hardy’s mind, is compounded by the fact that his phone isn’t ringing and no deal appears imminent for the man formerly known as the Kraken.

And on that issue, Hardy has nobody to blame but himself. Not that he’s actually, you know, doing that. Apparently, Hardy is still looking in the mirror and seeing a man who is being persecuted, not one who can admit he’s made mistakes and then grow from them.

Aside from Hardy though, there are some who believe Hardy is getting a raw deal and those who believe the Raiders are “getting a free pass” when it comes to re-signing the still suspended Smith. Vincent Frank, writing for Sportsnaut.com, had this to say:

"“While completely different in the scope of offenses, it is akin to the Cowboys signing Greg Hardy last summer. This is to say, Oakland took on a malcontent that was facing a lengthy suspension for off-field transgressions. The end result here being a one-year suspension.Anyone with common decency wishes Smith and the Raiders success here.It’s simply unnerving that this situation has come to a head without the team receiving any sort of push back from what has been a largely skeptical local media presence in the Bay Area.”"

Actually, anybody with common decency would acknowledge the fact that the situations Hardy and Smith find themselves in are completely apples and oranges. Hardy’s situation most certainly is not “akin” to Smith’s. The only commonality between them is that their transgressions cost them time on the field.

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Yes, Smith made some stupid decisions. Quite a lot of them, actually. Where do you start, really? Five arrests over a three month span? Multiple DUI convictions? A stint in rehab and a nine game suspension in 2014 because of those stupid decisions? Some writers also continue to trot out the fake bomb threat at LAX – but also fail to mention that those charges were dropped after the LA City Attorney found that he did not actually say that.

Not that his legal victory on the bomb threat charge is anything to celebrate, nor does it mitigate any of the stupid decisions that he’s made over the course of his still young career. But after the San Francisco 49ers chose to cut ties with him, McKenzie spoke with Smith and made the calculated decision to scoop him up and give him a chance to see if he could walk the straight and narrow.

And he did. Smith has apparently learned from his mistakes and is thriving within the structured and supportive environment McKenzie and the Raiders are providing for him – something he noted very enthusiastically while contrasting it with his time in San Francisco. And despite Frank’s claim in his article, the Raiders did receive some heat for rolling the dice on Smith last year. They most certainly did not, as Frank wrote, “get a free pass” on the signing.

Even still though, detractors might ask – “how do you know he’s a changed man?” Obviously, we cannot know for sure. But the fact that he chose to not appeal his year long suspension, the fact that he’s done everything he’s been required to do to get himself back on track to resume his career, and the fact that he was willing to sign a contract with no guaranteed money that is heavily incentive and performance based would tend to suggest that he’s accepted responsibility for his actions and is doing what’s needed to change.

Now, let’s contrast that with Hardy. Let’s not forget the fact that Hardy was in fact, found guilty of assaulting his then-girlfriend Nicole Holder and threatening to kill her. But a feature of North Carolina law allows Hardy to appeal that verdict and request a jury trial. Holder failed to appear before the jury and the case was dismissed – most positing that Hardy paid her a very substantial settlement to make the whole problem go away.

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  • But the fact remains that Hardy was initially convicted by a judge based largely on some damning and graphic photographs of the victim’s injuries. But because he paid her off – reached a civil settlement – Hardy walked away, eventually reducing his 10 game suspension imposed by Roger Goodell to four games on appeal.

    And the Dallas Cowboys, in desperate need of a pass rush, scooped him up and slapped a big star on his helmet. Unfortunately for Jerry Jones and the Cowboys, Hardy proved to be more of a distraction than he was worth, given his paltry production – just six sacks in 12 games with Dallas. He proved to be such a cancer in the locker room, that the Cowboys let him walk away and chose not to re-sign him.

    And since he became a free agent, Hardy has done nothing to help himself, nor has he done anything to show that he’s a changed man. In fact, he continues to assert his innocence, stating multiple times in a really ill-advised puff piece interview conducted by Adam Schefter and ESPN, that he was “proven not guilty” – which is not at all accurate.

    Oakland Raiders
    September 20, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders defensive end Aldon Smith (99) during the first quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at O.co Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Ravens 37-33. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

    Despite some gruesome photographs, Hardy continues to insist that he’s “never put his hand on any woman.” He went so far sto try and cleverly suggest that the pictures had been doctored, “Pictures are pictures, and they can be made to look like whatever they want to.”

    It’s beyond clear that Hardy not only still does not accept responsibility for his actions, but that he’s done nothing to learn from them, grow as a person, or better himself as a human being. Nothing. At all.

    The terrible and stupid decisions made by Aldon Smith pale in comparison to the things Greg Hardy has done. They are incomparable. But Smith has accepted responsibility for his own transgressions, has learned from them, and is doing everything he can to better himself and get his life back on track. He’s doing his time and he’s doing his penance. He’s doing everything you could ask of him.

    And what is Greg Hardy doing? Bemoaning his fate, playing the victim card, running around like he’s the one being persecuted, and throwing shade at Smith – the guy actually is atoning for his mistakes.

    The fact that Hardy’s phone isn’t ringing is a good thing. Perhaps at some point, he’ll be forced to look at himself in the mirror and see that maybe, the problem is actually him. Then again, what’s more than likely to happen, is that some pass rush needy team is going to throw him a bone and enable the sort of attitude and victim complex that Hardy has been putting on full display.

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    Despite what writers like Frank would suggest, there is no common ground between Hardy and Smith. Not only is the nature of their transgressions wildly different, so is their reaction to them. One is standing up and owning his mistakes. The other continues to whine about the raw deal he’s getting, while floating conspiracy theories that feed into his persecution complex. One is making the changes he needs to make in his life to be a better human being. The other continues to be a self-pitying wretch who blames others and is making no changes in his life to be a better human being.

    No, there is no comparison between Aldon Smith and Greg Hardy. And conflating the issues the two of them have is not just foolish, it’s ignorant as well.