HBO Hard Knocks A Lesson On The Business Side Of The NFL

After five weeks of HBO Hard Knocks this season wrapped with last nights final episode.  As the camera’s began to fade, an emerging figure of David Garrard at his locker was shown with a tag line informing the viewers that he was cut “this afternoon”.  And so another season ended and the look into the Dolphins world of high-expectations goes back to a black cloud of secrecy where we have to rely on the beat writers for our information.  Joy!

Most will tell you that HK was about the Miami Dolphins.  Some will complain that it was nothing more than a team trying to improve it’s image or an opportunity for the HC get liked quickly by the fans before everything fall apart.  Maybe even a way to see beleaguered Jeff Ireland in a different lite.  Well, you can put down the pitch-forks and the conspiracy theories.  HBO Hard Knocks is about making an NFL roster.

It’s a tricky business shooting something like this.  As a director or producer you don’t know where the story lines are going to be.  Fans wan’t to know why there wasn’t more on guys like Cameron Wake or Koa Misi, or even rookies like Olivier Vernon or Lamar Miller.  It wasn’t about them.  At its very core the show is simply about the hard knocks a player takes trying to make his dreams come true.  That would be those guys like Les Brown, Chris Hogan, and even the enigmatic Chad Johnson, trying to pro-long his career.

The Dolphins likely opted to do the show for the image improvement.  After years under Bill Parcells and a black veil of secrecy, the Dolphins have been trying to become more transparent with the media and their fans.  In some way doing Hard Knocks helped achieve that in other ways the transparency may have hurt the team.  While fans got an opportunity to learn about the process and the head coach, the Dolphins took a few shots on the chin by airing out some of their dirty laundry for the world to see.

Karlos Dansby calling out the management, a coaches meeting with players on a “leadership counsel” that came across hokey and uninteresting, and the behind closed door coaching talk that belittled some players.  Roberto “ankle weight” Wallace anyone?  Then of course there is Vontae’ Davis.  Davis’ televised reaction to his trade was taken in several different ways, but in reality showcase the show’s true intention.  The business side of the NFL that no one sees.

Davis’ reaction has been described as complete shock, immature, and even flippant (I wouldn’t say that).  His “I want to call my grand-ma” comment was met with public laughter and used to express an immaturity about the player.  Add that to his earlier comments about “acting” like he was in shape or not tired only makes the moment more scrutinized.  No one really knows what Davis was thinking at that moment when Ireland told him the rumors were true.  Was his face one of shock and disbelief or did he simply not care or even get what was going on?  He knows that.  Davis is a very likable young man and those that know him or have met will tell you he is soft spoken and approachable.  But the NFL is a business and we saw that first hand.

If anything, HBO Hard Knocks came across a bit soft.  From the perspective of the team and the players, they likely are glad it wasn’t more revealing.  Some of the cuts that were made have made for good television if they spoke to the players directly after leaving the room.  Seeing guys like Les Brown talk to the camera’s is one thing, an immediate reaction from Chad Johnson or Clyde Gates would have been another.

What I took away from this was I like Joe Philbin but if he doesn’t win it won’t matter.  I like Jeff Ireland’s demeanor and hard nose approach but his inability to fix this team is going to cost him his job sooner rather than later.  I enjoyed watching the QB competition and despite all of the issues surrounding the team elsewhere, Ryan Tannehill could develop into a legitimate franchise QB.  I also realized for the first time just how cut-throat professional sports truly are.  That level of athletics is like nothing in any other business and it’s apparent that there is no easy way to crush someone’s dream.

While watching Hard Knocks I wondered why it was the underlings who made the initial call to the players to say, “Ireland wants to see you” but I realize as the show progresses, like portrayed in the movie “Moneyball“, they are professionals, tell them like it is, they know the business.  As uncaring as it seems on camera, it’s the right way to do it.  I’ll miss watching Hard Knocks and can only hope that when/if it comes out on DVD that there are a lot of unseen footage added.  I can’t imagine how much film was shot, sure would be nice to get some hands on that.


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Tags: HBO Hard Knocks Miami Dolphins NFL Vontae Davis

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