2012 Hard Knocks, Episode 4: Lost at Sea

As any “Hard Knocks” aficionado knows, the fourth episode is where things finally start to get serious because it corresponds to “cut day,” when teams are required to trim their roster to 75 players.  At this point, all the practice montages and locker room antics transition to candid interviews and evaluations that will affect people’s livelihoods.  It’s truly the best in Reality TV.

This year, we were treated to one of the most compelling cuts in “Hard Knocks” history, with Chad Johnson getting the axe due to his unfortunate penchant for receipt hoarding.  But by the time the real cuts rolled around, I’m sorry to say the series yielded a resounding thud.  Because, as opposed to prior years, the 2012 version of “Hard Knocks” did a poor job of cultivating our interest in the “bubble players” who would be subject to the cut line.  Basically, the show was Les Brown and a bunch of other dudes I hadn’t heard of up until this point.  Oh, some released player (Rookie DT Chas Alecxih) almost killed himself by jumping off his jet ski in the Gulf of Mexico to urinate and then was lost at sea for 8 hours? Yeah, don’t think I’ll be shedding a tear for him.

The most shocking revelation of the night, however, came from Ryan (Marino) Tannehill.  You know how there are certain gym rats who live and breathe football 24/7, and will do anything they can to get to the top? Well, Tannehill is the opposite of those guys.  As I chronicled his nonchalance after being named the starter was on display last week, this week we learned that Tannehill doesn’t know the divisions and conferences other teams play in.  Yes, when put on the spot by a cagey Matt Moore, Tannehill expressed the belief the New York Giants play in the NFC North, and the Kansas City Chief play in the NFC East!  This caused Moore, who was clearly goading Tannehill into his display of ignorance, to shoot a Jim Halpert-esque look to the camera that implied, “I can’t believe I’m backing up this guy.” If I was a Dolphins fans, I would be crapping my pants right now knowing Tannehill was my starter, because he has all the red flags of just another talented arm who doesn’t have the drive to make it in the league.

And then there’s Les Brown.  HBO really wanted you to believe he had a chance to make the team (to the point they made his girlfriend, Jamie Crandall, a star), but this release was as academic as they come.  I’m no Bill Parcells, but even I know that you’re not going to be an NFL tight end if you’re (literally) getting bowled over on every play.  Brown took the news hard, but, as ushe, he left with his head held up high.  Perhaps next year he can get on that famous Melky Cabrera weight training regimen and give it another shot.  He’s fast and tall, so all he needs at this point is to, you know, learn how to play football.

As bad as the “cut day” storylines were managed, “Hard Knocks” redeemed itself at the end by giving us another unexpected (well, if you don’t read the news) twist to the Dolphins season, as Jeff Ireland pulled the trigger on the trade of Vontae Davis to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for a 2nd and conditional 6th round pick.  I couldn’t tell if Davis was more saddened, angry, or perplexed upon hearing the news, but I did appreciate his first response was that he needed to call his Grandma.  More so than the cuts, this trade brought home the harsh business that is the NFL, especially when most of these players are just out of college and have only a limited shelf life before they’re shown the door. But that’s why we love the sport, isn’t it?  Because the collective demands, ferocity, precision of the game is larger than any individual who plays it.  Well, except Tim Tebow.