Mac Engel

Dumping losers like Hardy and Ro helped Cowboys’ chemistry

Mac Attack says Cowboys won't repeat '07 gag

Star Telegram sports columnist Mac Engel recaps the Cowboys' 13th win of the season (video by Mac Engel/Star-Telegram).
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Star Telegram sports columnist Mac Engel recaps the Cowboys' 13th win of the season (video by Mac Engel/Star-Telegram).

Jason Garrett believes his team’s chemistry is superior to that of last year, to which your deaf chocolate lab would know, but it’s the why that no one agrees upon.

Or wants to admit publicly.

While winning will forever remain the greatest “team bonding exercise,” dumping a loser never hurts — looking at you Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain.

The decision not to bring back the talented, and self-destructive, Hardy for a second season might have hurt this team’s statistical sack numbers but helped in other areas that cannot be quantified on a stat sheet (this is why you should never completely trust analytics).

It never hurts team morale to jettison a starting player who blows off practices, like Hardy. And meetings. And doesn’t return phone calls from coaches. And is a terrible influence on already troubled defensive end Randy Gregory.

Dallas Cowboys fans line up to purchase playoff tickets at AT&T Stadium in Arlington on Wednesday, December 28, 2016. The tickets sold out in 30 minutes. (Star-Telegram/Khampha Bouaphanh)

It never hurts team morale to dump a player who doesn’t want to practice, and can’t successfully negotiate the rigors of a league-mandated drug list, such as McClain.

While no one can question their respective talents, the success of the 2016 Cowboys should force owner/GM Jerry Jones to admit that taking on these talented losers is never worth the hassle.

That Charles Haley will forever remain Jerry’s lone unicorn because, while the Hall of Fame defensive end might have been a hassle, he wasn’t a loser.

Of course, Jerry admitting such a reality is about as likely as the sun rising in the north.

Jerry does not believe the subtraction of Hardy has had any effect on this team this season, and will forever remain adamant that winning builds camaraderie; the rest does not matter.

It is different. Guys are on the same page and everybody has bought into the message.

Cowboys guard Zack Martin on the Cowboys’ chemistry

It’s the chicken/egg question in roster building — does winning build chemistry or does chemistry build winning?

No one knows for sure, but what 2016 should tell Jerry is that it’s always better to dump the loser.

“Chemistry builds players and it’s a huge part of your success,” guard Zack Martin said Wednesday.

Inside the Cowboys’ locker room is a four-point “Player’s Creed” that the team has talked about throughout this season.

Beat writers Clarence Hill and Charean Williams discuss the Cowboys regular season finale at Philadelphia. (Video by Drew Davison)

“It’s everything. It’s about how we live our life every day in this building,” running back Zeke Elliott said of this creed. “I guess you could call it the backbone of this team.”

Coach Process has asked the media not to take pictures, or report the exact verbiage, of this creed; to do so would be like revealing the secret ingredient to Kentucky Fried Chicken.

But unlike the secret ingredient to the bucket of extra crispy, there is nothing too out of the ordinary from the Cowboys player’s creed. It’s a collection of sports cliches about being a selfless teammate in an effort to win a game.

Who cares if the creed is corny or something straight out of a junior high locker room? Despite the money, this is still sports and this creed is obviously working.

The players have done the thing a coach covets more than anything else: They tossed all individual desires into the toilet in an effort to win.

“It’s the guys we have — one,” Elliott said. “And two, we make an effort to spend time outside the building (together). The more time you spend the closer you get.”

Much like the Cowboys of 2014, this group behaves and plays professionally. They do seem to actually like each other, something that’s never a given in any locker room.

The 2016 Cowboys have a chance at winning 14 games in the regular season, which would be a franchise record.

And while the question of Tony Romo’s status was a distraction, the Cowboys never did have to deal with the negative energy of Hardy, or the random, unpredictable behavior of a Ro McClain.

I asked Cowboys defensive end Tyrone Crawford if having these players gone made a difference on this team’s chemistry, to which he said no.

“We have young guys with a lot of energy,” Crawford said. “It’s a different feel in the locker room. It’s good for us old guys. They brought a lot of chemistry out of us.”

I believe that, but not the part where he says not having Hardy or McClain around makes a difference.

You will notice that no other team signed Hardy after his contract expired last season, despite the fact he’s only 28. He was arrested on cocaine possession this fall.

Neither the players nor the coaches wanted McClain back; he’s a talented player, but he didn’t want to practice. He wanted his own rules in order to be enticed to play. He took care of his presence on this team by repeatedly failing drug tests.

Guys like this are only worth it if they are very good. You will notice the moment Terrell Owens was no longer able to get open consistently in 2008 the Cowboys dumped him because he was no longer worth the drama.

Jason Garrett is now 58-45 as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys made no attempt to sign any such personality, or player, this off-season. They were not replaced by angels. Still, the players they do have might not possess the talent of a Hardy or a McClain, but they do take their jobs seriously and the results speak for themselves.

Granted, it helps when players like Sean Lee (knock on wood), the entire offensive line and Zeke have been mostly healthy, and God decided to give the Cowboys Dak Prescott, too.

History shows that teams function better when the players get along and like coming to work.

History shows that guys like Hardy and McClain may work out for a short while, and accumulate some seductive statistics, but in the end are not worth the hassle because they are losers who bring down a locker room.

The rookie running back is in a giving mood this Holiday season. After donating $21,000 to the Salvation Army following his kettle hop touchdown celebration against Tampa Bay, Zeke gifted the guys who give his running lanes UTVs. Video by Matthew

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

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