It’s often said that the first rule of writing an article is to never start it with the word “I”. So throw the first sentence away as it means nothing. I would be lying if I said that HBO’s Hard Knocks isn’t mesmerizing. I realize that I have missed out on this feature in the past. Miami Dolphins, NY Jets, whoever, there is something very real at the core of this program that gives fans a glimpse into the harsh reality that is NFL football.
Tonight’s episode started where a chick flick ends. With a teary eye. The pain of Joe Philbin for the loss of his son is front and center at the outset and yes, it’s hard to watch. You come away thinking, “this is the right guy to lead this team”. I couldn’t help but think what a great choice he is over Jeff Fisher. It’s hard not to like Joe Philbin, but by the end of episode two, I wondered why.
The side stories are fun to watch. Chris Hogan, an un-drafted rookie makes his face known to Miami fans. Dubbed 7-11 by Reggie Bush, Hogan is always open. Is he open enough to make the team? He still ran with the last unit in Friday’s game, as did last weeks HBOHK star, TE Les Brown. While Brown and Hogan both remain a long shot to make the roster, tonight’s episode gave hope to Hogan.
HBOKH adds in the rookie hazing element, the shaved heads and Ryan Tannehill‘s inability to sing. The anti-climactic revelation that David Garrard’s injury occurred while swimming with his son at home seemed to fall a little flat. Why? Because the elephant in the room was number 85.
If you watched HBOHK tonight, I have a great friend who works for Showtime, I’ll have to ask her if she did, you saw the side stories, you saw the on-field camaraderie between Chad Johnson and Sean Smith and you felt compelled to wonder if the loss of Chad Johnson was really a big deal. You waited in anticipation and when the moment finally arrived, you almost wished it hadn’t.
I’m not going to try and artfully describe the episode like I just did. It’s a waste of time. What I expected and what transpired were two totally different things. The side I came out on , walked away with, surprised me. I like Joe Philbin. I love his candor, his honesty, and his belief that no one is above the team image. I laughed at rookie sensation Josh Samuda’s head. Shaved into the shape of a penis. I laughed at the reaction of the head coach in a team meeting.
I squirmed when Chad Johnson came into Philbin’s office.
Today, Chad Johnson’s wife filed for divorce. A few short days after his head butt landed him in jail and ultimately left him without a job. I watched HBOHK with the anticipation of seeing a veteran like Johnson get cut. It played out like that accident that has you backed up in traffic, only to finally get there and realize that it wasn’t just a fender bender but someone had actually died.
Chad Johnson died. Or at least a part of him did. The man that so brazenly approached the media looked sullen and sunken. He knew the worst was coming but he tried anyways. He told Joe Philbin he believed in his system. He told him that he had taken to heart the conversation the two of them had last week following his “F” bomb press conference. This was not the over the top Chad Johnson we all know. This was his shell. Sunken, sad, visibly remorseful, and worried.
Perhaps it was the fact that Joe Philbin is new at his job. Maybe the thought of cutting someone like Chad Johnson is so new to him that words simply escaped him to the poin that emotion did as well. Philbin came across somewhat scattered and cold. He told a visibly shaky Johnson that he just didn’t think the two sides were right for each other. He came across like the decision was his because he himself doesn’t approve of the image that CJ projects. For the first time, Philbin came across somewhat pompous. The vulnerable man I saw an hour earlier living through the nightmare death of his son was no longer the same man. I expected understanding and calmness. Instead I got indifference and uncaring.
Chad Johnson nor anyone else has the right to strike a woman. Especially one he is married to. I don’t condone that behavior. In any other job in America, a person is getting fired for doing exactly what CJ did. I guess I just expected more empathy on Philbin’s part instead of the company line. I actually came away, not with the “what’s best for the team” but instead, “what’s best for Philbin’s morality”. I’m not saying that is wrong. Philbin will be the embodiment of the team. The image that is puts out to the world of fans, he needs to look out for that image as much of his own. I was just taken back by how cold it appeared. He made the right decision regardless of it’s warmth.
I’m not upset that Chad Johnson is done in Miami. It was going to happen considering his behavioral style. I just thought the edge would have been on his side. If you haven’t called HBO yet, you are seriously missing out. The dive into the world of professional football is so interesting that any team would be welcome to see.
Joe Philbin is obviously a man of high honor and his integrity goes a long way. Whether or not his attitude and beliefs translates to success remains to be seen. For now, there is no denying that the Miami Dolphins is his team and no one else’s.