This week’s episode of Hard Knocks began with Rams coach Sean McVay watching video of police shooting Jacob Blake in Wisconsin, which should give you an idea of the tone of the episode. Dammit, HBO, I was trying to watch these young men compete to give each other head trauma to forget all that!
There were some brief forays into other subjects, like Mike Williams’ loose gloves and Justin Herbert’s beautiful balls, but in the end it was back to social issues. Mainly it was the open question of whether these football players should use their platforms to try to effect change or stay in their proverbial lanes and keep knocking heads. Hard to blame the players or coaches for doing the former, even if it’s yet another example of our inability to have nice things at a time when we need a distraction to maintain our sanity.
Football coaches are also some of the last people on Earth I feel like I need to hear weigh in on how to fix society. But maybe they’re our fitting punishment for our own failure to keep the house in order. Send Sean McVay to Congress. Have him force Mitch McConnell to watch 11 hours of constantly paused game tape breaking down predatory policing between weird platitudes like “time to lean or time to clean, am I right chief?” Whip these clowns in congress into shape! Especially the ones who used to coach football!
Okay, whatever, this is the [Update: SECOND TO] last episode and thus the [second to] last recap, we might as well get on with it.
Merciless Cut Of Previously Anonymous Player
Second: Rams quarterback Josh Love.
Your reward for going from walk-on to the third most prolific passer in San Jose State history? 30 seconds of screen time on Hard Knocks during which you get cut! Brutal, man.
Starter: Rams linebacker Bryan London II.
Josh Love got cut to make room for some new linebackers, as did London, who is… (*checks notes*) also a linebacker. Meanwhile, the coaches inexplicably attempted to explain this decision by describing all the positives of the news guys they were bringing in. “Yeah hey, we thought you did great, but we’re bringing in some guy we’ve never seen play on account he has such a great body. I mean 6’4″, 250! Just pure muscle, this guy. Anyway, you did amazing with what you got.”
I thank God none of my ex-girlfriends chose to dump me this way. “You tried really hard, but have you seen the abs on Steve? We just think he’s worth bringing in, just to see if he works within our system.”
Gratuitous Haka Footage
Starter: Breiden Fehoko
What the hell, guys? You had a guy who would lead the Haka this whole time and you hid him from us until the fourth episode? This is professional negligence. Give me all of the Hakas.
Too-Brief Moment Of Football-Like Excitement
Second: Justin Herbert’s beautiful balls.
The Chargers backup quarterback began this episode with a notably bad practice that coach Anthony Lynn somehow tried to spin into a positive — “no, honestly, looking like shit is exactly where we want him to be.” That quickly became backstory for Herbert’s incredible turnaround, stepping up in the pocket and throwing ball after beautiful ball. Boy, Justin Herbert has some beautiful balls, doesn’t he?
Dammit, Tyrod Taylor is going to get hosed again, isn’t he. And all so the Chargers can go 4-12 in an empty stadium.
First: The end-zone dive drill
Kudos to the Hard Knocks cinematographer, I never thought I could be so excited about guys jumping over a stack of pads. I guess we found out why Ekeler is the starter.
Legacy Hire Making Good
Second: Van Jefferson
Son of all-star Shawn Jefferson, Van Jefferson made some plays this week (“Jefferson wowed with his precision route running,” said the announcer). Then we realized he was just a sacrificial lamb for depicting the greatness of CB Jalen Ramsey. That’s my favorite Hard Knocks move, by the way. They spend five minutes puffing up a guy before you realize they’re only using him for scale.
Starter: Clay Johnston
After four episodes I still have no idea why this guy gets 5-10 minutes of screentime every episode. Is it for the apparently mediocre play? Was it solely a means to get his Godfather “Papa Favre” on camera? Come for the dull banter, stay for the cringey PG swears! “Fudge! Gosh, isn’t football great? Gee golly, I sure love the game.”
I wish NFL players got to write social justice messages on their jerseys like NBA players, so we could see Clay Johnston running around the practice squad in a “SHUCKS” jersey.
Anachronistic Joke Award
Starter: WAAAAZAAAAP, Justin Herbert.
Damn, that is a callback. A little internet sleuthing shows that Justin Herbert was one year old when the first Waaaaazuuu Budweiser ad aired. At this rate, he’s going to get to “…said no one ever” in about 10 more years. God bless him.
And with that, we say goodbye to season 15 of Hard Knocks, the first not to feature a single preseason game or live intra-team play. Like most things in 2020, we bid it a hardy “good f*cking riddance” and pray we never have to do it this way again.