‘Hard Knocks’ with the Dolphins, Episode 1: No Fun Philbin
If you had a chance to catch my preview of the season’s “Hard Knocks” with the Dolphins, you’d know that I couldn’t have been more lathered up for last night’s premiere. In hindsight, maybe my expectations were a little high. Despite their prime geography and storied history, these Dolphins are not giving me the theatrics of a Rex Ryan or grandiosity of a Jerry Jones. Not with Joe Philbin at the helm, that is. Nope, these Dolphins are all business, and it showed.
On a pure football level, you have to appreciate the camp Philbin is running. He’s making the players work hard by running simultaneous scrimmages (quite the feat given the restrictions on practice time under the CBA), being upfront but firm with players, and he seems to have immediately garnered respect from the coaching staff by relying on their input on player evaluation (but who knows behind the scenes on that one). But from a pure entertainment level, what a friggin’ bore! The only player on this team with any kind of personality is Chad Johnson, and Philbin goes out and muzzles him after he gives a press conference that included a few profanities (which the reporters were eating up, by the way). Did you not see Rex Ryan’s performance from the previous season, Joe? Johnson is the only quality TV we have to work with here. Child please, let the man speak.
As expected, the key football storyline the producers have honed in on is the (allegedly) open three-way competition for the starting QB job. And already, you can see an icy relationship between David Garrard and Matt Moore forming, with golden boy Ryan Tannehill sauntering in late to stir the pot. I’m hopeful this competition will lead to some interesting TV, but it will be even more interesting to compare how the “news” regarding the competition plays out in the traditional media among beat reporters and how it is portrayed on “Hard Knocks.” Already we saw, in the final scene of the episode, Philbin walk in to deliver news of the depth chart (which was reported by the media on Monday), but with the important caveat that this was still open competition. Is this just spin for the TV viewership, or does he really mean it? I’m guessing the former, but we shall see.
In the classic “Hard Knocks” no-name-trying-to-make-the-team category, we were treated to the story of Les Brown, an undrafted free agent who didn’t even play football in college (he played basketball), but was picked up off the street after running a 4.3/40, creating visions of the next Antonio Gates in the eyes of the organization. Unfortunately, though, Brown is bad at blocking. I mean, fall on your face or get knocked on your ass every time bad. There’s no way this guy can survive the first round of cuts, let alone make the team, right? If this is really the best storyline for the producers to latch onto, that would be really depressing, because the no-namer you fall in love with is, year in and year out, the best part of the show. You better step it up next week on this one, “Hard Knocks.”
Given the dearth of compelling storylines, it’s not surprising that the producers spliced in 2-minute montage of the Dolphins cheerleaders, with nary an effort to conjure up a contrived transition to weave them into the plot. I appreciated it, though. If the coach is muzzling your only entertaining character, if the QB competition seems like a ruse, and if the best “no-name” storyline you have is an undrafted tight end who can’t block, well then I guess the least the producers could do is throw in a little gratuitous T&A. Heck, maybe next week, we can be treated to the stripper with a heart of gold who’s trying to make that squad, lest she be thrown back to the pole. (Wait, do I hear spinoff?)