No way to sugarcoat it: that was a pretty lousy installment of “Hard Knocks” we sat through on Tuesday night. Things went pretty much as expected. Ryan Tannehill was promoted to starter. Jim Turner was gruff and profane. Joe Philbin continues to be that most dangerous type of annoying superior – an even-keel prick.
NFL Films continues to do an excellent job editing and and making a coherent narrative of the footage, even if they keep skimping on the gratuitous cheerleader montages that they teased us with in the first episode of this season. Still, as expected, the entertainment value suffers for a lack of characters. Jim Turner is gonna cuss a bunch, but he’s still a hard-line guy who’s in charge, so there’s only so much he’s gonna do to act up. With Chad gone, there’s no WILD CARD, BITCHES element to this season. The Jets season was great because most of the team, including the head coach, could be counted on for stuff like that.
Documentary work can only be as interesting as its subject matter allows it to be. There are some things you can do to compensate, but only so much. Unfortunately for HBO, the Dolphins are just a boring team. Most NFL teams aspire to be boring, so I’m sure they would take that as a matter of pride. Doesn’t make for compelling TV, though.
While it was an overall subpar episode, there were still a few highlights. Let’s get to ’em:
The realistic best-case scenario for Matt Moore when Tannehill got drafted would have been starting four or five games before the coaching staff felt comfortable throwing the rookie out there once expectations are nice and tempered for the season. That won’t be happening, though. Now someone has to break the news to Matt Moore that he doesn’t get to be the starter of this shitty team anymore. There’s a non-patronizing way to do that, quarterbacks coach. “Don’t worry. It’s not so bad. You’re the best at sitting, Matt Moore.” To his credit, Matty does a better-than-Kenny-Powers level job of concealing his rage.
Offensive line coach Jim Turner is about all we got for consistent entertainment at this point. Second-round pick “Big Weirdo” Jonathan Martin is one of his prized pupils this year and Turner has taken a shine to him because he doesn’t say shit, which “is a pleasure.”
Less pleasurable is him sucking along with the rest of the first-team offense in a preseason loss to the Panthers.
The rookie talent show is a stable of any NFL training camp, so of course it is on “Hard Knocks” as well. We got a rookie guard doing a Jim Turner impression, or a generic Masshole accent. Both work. Then there’s a Cee-lo cover, possibly because that’s who is gonna be the next celebrity owner of the team.
Joe Philbin comes out as more of a prickly little shit each week. Beyond depressing segments about his dead son, the most HBO has done to humanize him is to show how attentive he is to detail. For the most part, this is him complaining about the lack of dimmer switches. The rest of the time, he’s just hitting people with quiet smarm. In my experience, that’s the worst type of person to work for. You can’t call them out because, even though they’re digging at you, they’re doing it in a insouciant way that doesn’t seem abrasive. Damn you, passive-aggression!
I included a few clips from Gruden’s interview on Real Sports. His shtick on Monday Night Football still irritates me, but Gruden seems like someone you could get along with in real life, provided you love watching 20 hours of game film a day. There’s a poignant moment when Bryant Gumbel is reading him a passage from Gruden’s book about how his dad told him not to spend his entire life obsessing about football and try to be with his loved ones, which is advice that Gruden clearly isn’t heeding. The most he can do is tear up and accept what is. Such an asshole, Gumbel.
Then again, Gruden delves into his OCD thought process, even when it comes to preparing for this interview. Yeah, he might be a little insane. Also, it took me a few viewings to accept that Gruden says “famous grin” when talking about Gumbel. I heard “penis grin” the first view times and really wanted to believe that’s what he said – because it’s true! – but, sadly, that’s not it.