The Best and Worst of Amazon’s “All or Nothing” Carolina Panthers (Episode #1/8)
Well, now it’s Amazon’s turn to show us what they got. The past week or so, we looked at the BEST and WORST of HBOs’ Hard Knocks (2018 Cleveland). We have the 2018 (season) Carolina ‘All or Nothing’ (2019 release) to review – eight episodes. I’ll watch and review each episode over the next week or so.
Typically, I like the Amazon production better than the HBO…but I like them both. A look behind the scenes that I still cannot believe the NFL allows to happen because it exposes how silly these people (coaches and GMs) look in real life/real time. And I’ve watched/reviewed them all…and they’re all the same nonsense management – except Sean McVay…you could tell right away he was different.
Let’s see what we have with the BEST and WORST of Amazon’s Carolina Panthers’ 2018 season!
WORST: All of Episode One…one word = ‘Boring’
I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I know this – this was a boring start to this documentary series. Probably the least interesting episode of one of these types of shows that I have reviewed, Amazon or HBO versions.
WORST: Is this what common fans think/want?
Having just watched the Browns documentary, I was hooked into that pretty early on – the Baker Mayfield story, the flailing Hue Jackson watch, a focus on some interesting lesser-known players caught in interesting snippets of behind the scenes talk – I might have disagreed or found silly what they were talking about, but it was at least drawing my attention. By comparison the Carolina first episode was very dull.
…it was also shocking what they focused on.
If I had to sum up episode one, it would be: Cam Newton is everything (1a) and ‘1b’ Greg Olsen is the most important player to the franchise.
I would have figured the focus for a Carolina piece would have been: (1) Cam, (2) McCaffrey, (3) Kuechly, (4) rookie CB Donte Jackson’s rise to starter status, (5) the O-Line injuries in the preseason leading to Week 1.
Amazon went with: (1) Cam, then (2) Cam and Olsen, (3) Olsen. I’m not sure Luke Kuechly was mentioned as being on the Panthers, despite the fact he’s their best player.
I am stunned at what Amazon tried to focus on here. Greg Olsen has all the electricity of Jason Witten, that is to say…none. Nice guy but dull as can be…with nothing but clichés and nonsense to talk about (like we saw with Witten in the 2018 Amazon series…and as was exposed on ESPN/MNF). The first 33% of this documentary was all Cam focused. The next 65% was Cam-Olsen focused, but mostly Olsen. And that left 1% for something else/one other passing mention of a player…we’ll reveal who at the end here.
WORST: Cam as the first 33% of this episode’s focus…
I could argue that Cam Newton is arguably the most gifted/valuable player in the NFL. No, seriously. He’s not Tom Brady, so stop comparing him to that (I tell myself over and over). On 3rd & 3…you want the ball in Cam’s hands. The problem is, you don’t if it’s 3rd & 10…especially in the red zone when he is forced to throw the ball in tight quarters. Cam is the most uniquely built/constructed QB to play the game to date. His size/speed running the ball to take pressure of his passing deficiencies – it can make him great, an MVP at times.
BUT…Cam is not a leader (or consistent). In a sport/business where the QB is ‘the face’ – Cam is like a 12-year old who thinks he’s a walking genius among men because God gifted him a 6’5” chiseled body with fleet feet and a rocket arm. If Cam would just shut up and focus, he might go down as one of the greats…and you’re reminded of that with the start of this episode.
The show opens with Cam coming out of the locker room to the practice field…alone (no one really goes near him), walking past people and not greeting them or talking to them. We see he does two things walking to practice: (1) He asks a random worker if Beyonce’s music is now ‘classic’ or still ‘current’? (2) He then goes over to the music machine (that’s playing the music for the team doing a workout) and he plugs in his music/changes the tune to his preference and cranks it up too loud. In and of itself…it isn’t bad, but it fits the whole motive of Cam for years and the first 10+ minutes of this documentary – Cam is about Cam, and then some more Cam.
We see ‘Cam things’ in this episode like…
-- A scene shot inside his house where we see giant murals and pictures of him that are real magazine covers with Cam on the cover and their blown up to like side-of-a-building size. Cam has pictures of himself blown up bigger than my king-sized bed. His house is a shrine to his favorite thing…Cam.
-- We see Cam in front a team meeting talking, trying to be inspirational…and one of the first things he says is the same nonsense every football coach/player does about how everybody has to ‘want it’ and ‘work hard’ (because that’s not ever dawned on this room of pros), but then he quickly adds…”Do it for me.” And then catches himself and says, “Do it for us.”
Do it for me? Who says that? Cam does…because Cam wants you to do ‘things’ for the almighty presence in the universe…that being Cam.
Cam is not a leader of men…for whatever that means in football wins and losses (if any). Baker Mayfield (who we just watched) has more leadership by accident than Cam does in his entire NFL career. It’s just not who he is. If he stayed quiet and ‘followed’ instead of thinking he’s a mogul/leader/god…he might have that extra X-factor to make him the best QB in the NFL today. Cam gets distracted by Cam being Cam. He’s never not Cam.
The first person who says, “He’s just having fun! That’s how he plays.” Keep telling yourself that. I know that’s how he plays, and he’s a Hall of Famer – but I say if he reinvented himself and followed/listened more than tried to lead (with no one following)/non-stop senseless chatter – he’d be, maybe, the greatest QB to ever play the game…because he’s so physically gifted/dangerous.
I’m not the only one saying it, but when Cam is happy…he can be electric, and the Panthers are awesome. When Cam is flustered, he falls apart quickly in his own head and takes the team with him. Cam deserved to be the first 10+ minutes of this show – he IS the Carolina Panthers, the highs and the lows.
Don’t tell me Cam isn’t one of the greats – especially if you think Philip Rivers is great…he’s never been as good as Cam, or to a Super Bowl, or league MVP (and Rivers seems like he’s as much a spoiled brat as well, constantly whining about things gone wrong BY OTHERS on the field). Cam can win a Super Bowl…he just can’t have greatness consistently – thus the Panthers are great one year, awful the next, lucky one year, unlucky the next, etc. They go as Cam goes, and you take the good and the bad with that.
BEST: Ron Rivera lets Cam be Cam…
All you can do with Cam is to not try to change him. Just let him be him. Take the highs with the lows. No player, no quarterback is perfect. You’d like a more mature, focused QB…but you can take Josh McCown, Derek Carr, Andy Dalton, Jimmy Garoppolo, Chase Daniel, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Philip Rivers, et. al. – I’ll take Cam. I just don’t think I could hang around him for long, but if I wanted to stay employed as a coach…I just roll with it.
WORST: Ron Rivera…just like the other coaches in all these documentaries, so far.
We only get a glimpse of Rivera in action, so it’s too soon to judge…but what we get to see is the same type of clichés as I see everywhere else. He tells the team, in prep for Dallas, the names of the three main coaches and that ‘they’ve been around a long-time’ and that they are going to have to play focused and tough and smart to win.
No, really? That’s the big speech we see.
Small BEST that when Rivera does speak…people listen. He’s not trying to get along with the players by cussing to be cool. He’s not ranting and raving (yet). He’s just stern and steady. Rivera is not my top choice for top five NFL coaches, but I bet he’d be in my top 10…by default. He’s not full of himself and he lets Cam be Cam…that’s something most coaches are not/will not do. Kudos to him. I’m looking forward to seeing if we find more depth with him as we go…or if he’s just an old, steady, respectable football codger.
WORST: Amazon thinks it’s all about Greg Olsen (like 65% focus of episode one)…
When this documentary started all about Cam…it was justly deserved. He is the Carolina story. But then they grafted Olsen in as ‘as Cam AND Olsen go, so goes the Panthers’. What?
Greg Olsen is a good player but he’s one of the most overrated, overpaid players in the league. The Amazon episode one shifts to Cam-Olsen, but then quickly becomes mostly about Olsen. We see him talking behind the scenes…and he’s uninteresting but thinks he’s charming/delightful (and the Amazon director does too, apparently).
This episode jumped straight to their Week 1 game with Dallas…and it was a montage of Olsen catching passes as if he was everything in this game…I think we see like 3-4-5 catches of Olsen’s, but (I checked) he only had two catches for the game(?). He then hurts his foot in-game and the scene music changes to sad tones, as we see the Carolina sidelines get depressed as they fear (the truth) -- Olsen broke his foot again…right out of the gates. Carolina wins the game without Olsen…goes 3-1 to start the season without him. Loses the game he returns in Week 5. They win three in-a-row with Weeks 6-8, then lose his next 4 starts before he’s hurt again and gone for the season. I’m not sure Olsen really ‘matters’.
Olsen has had a nice career overall and mostly with Carolina. He’s a Hall of Fame player for Carolina’s franchise, not for the NFL (but he’ll get into Canton because everyone who plays 10+ years does, I think). Olsen wasn’t providing great ROI for the spend for years, but Carolina loves him – he’s the kinda guy Belichick would have moved on from long ago because he wasn’t worth the spend.
Olsen is returning to hold back the offensive upside again in 2019. Ian Thomas’s development gets pushed back another year, potentially.
What is it about NFL coaches and old, grizzled veteran tight ends? Antonio Gates could play every year from now til he’s a hundred years old, if he wanted. Jason Witten’s deal for 2019 to return to Dallas is ridiculous. Olsen has slowed considerably, and Ian Thomas was really shining in his place…all that gets pushed back so Olsen can return this year and collect his last fat paycheck ($11.8M if he plays this season…$3.7M hit to cut). The $11.8M payday potential for 2019 is why Olsen’s back and not in the TV booth…yet. Don’t kid yourself.
WORST: Oh, by the way…Christian McCaffrey is here…
Because this episode is so Olsen-centric, when they go through the whole Olsen injured foot thing in the Week 1 game the voiceover then tells us that this injury has opened up opportunity for Christian McCaffrey. As if he were some ‘right place, right time’ guy. Hell, the coaches were saying they were going to build the offense on McCaffery all preseason -- and they did, and CMC responded with a record-setting season. THIS WAS ALL KNOWN when they edited this documentary in 2019, but it was presented very late in this episode that McCaffery now had a chance to step up with Olsen down!
This isn’t even factually correct. If I were supervising this project, I’d have thrown out most all of episode #1 and told them to re-do it and remind them that Cam-McCaffrey should be the focus…not all Greg Olsen all the time. Amazon’s people are basically presenting a lie/drunk history with episode #1.
What sway Olsen has over people in football media I do not know. I wish he would’ve gotten the MNF gig so his blandness could be on display. Good football player but not great and not worthy of all this focus.
BEST: Norv Turner’s presented resume…
Norv is new in 2018. Early in this episode, Turner is presented as some great add to the franchise, as I would have expected (but you know I cannot stand him). Here’s how the Amazon director/editor decided to make the case for Turner’s greatness…
The voiceover: 20+ years ago, he coached (O-C) Troy Aikman to a couple of Super Bowl wins and then as Chargers’ head coach he helped Philip Rivers (?), who is now 8th all-time in passing yards.
20+ years ago, he was lucky enough to be around Jimmy Johnson for a few years. And has done little impactful stuff since. But remember that e one stretch in the 1990’s? So relevant to 2018 football…
Since the year 2000, here are Turner’s ranks in PPG/scoring as either head man or OC of a team, starting in 2000 and by ranking…
He has been in the top 10 of NFL PPG/scoring in just five of 18 seasons…and all of them with young Rivers-Tomlinson-Gates…and no top 12 appearances in PPG scored since 2011.
This is considered greatness in the NFL. He’ll probably be in the Hall of Fame someday. His bust should say ‘was around/in the proximity of other’s greatness for about 30% of his career and please ignore the other 70%’.
Jimmy Johnson was the original Bill Belichick – all his assistants got head coaching careers because of using the same toilet seat as the great coach on occasion. Norv Turner and Dave Wannstedt should tithe to Jimmy Johnson to this day.
BEST/WORST: Where is Curtis Samuel?
Had like two seconds of background screen time.
His time is coming. He’s the one thing I’m going to watch for/observing in this entire show. You know why…
I better get some insight!
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