Opener: I’m watching last year’s Hard Knocks (HBO) this year because I don’t have/want/need HBO, and not getting it just for Hard Knocks. So, I watch it for free and review it for fun the following year and have done so for years. We’re watching/reviewing Hard Knocks Cleveland this week…which should be a ‘trip’, now knowing what really transpired in the 2018 regular season.
Enjoy this review daily (five episodes over 5 days), and I’m doing it in my favorite format for such things (a rip-off of what someone else created) – the ‘Best and Worst’ format. Next week, we’ll be doing a subscription show on a platform I do subscribe to – Amazon prime’s ‘All or Nothing’ Carolina Panthers. Same deal for that starting next week.
The Best and Worst of Episode #2 Hard Knocks 2018 Cleveland Browns
WORST: Corey Coleman gets traded
Part me thought (when this happened/at the time)…if the Browns didn’t like him/improve him than that’s not necessarily a strike against him…it might be because of ‘the Browns’ (they’re going to cut Carl Nassib soon, one of the single dumbest moves of the 2018 preseason…so, maybe they are stupid Coleman too). However, Coleman then spent time with New England last year and was dumped by them soon after…and that kinda seals the deal for me – Coleman probably isn’t going to make it.
This show portrayed him as lackluster/lackadaisical and thus he was traded to Buffalo (for nothing) and was gone from the Bills not too long after. When TV shows a player to be ‘lacking’ and then the Patriots take a look at you and dump you…that’s really the end of any Corey Coleman for fantasy hopes. NFL teams will see him as toxic.
Coleman is one of my worst ‘misses’ in scouting. The measurables were that of a star. The college output was star-like. Ultimately, I downplayed some of the rumored work ethic/diva data and notes out of Baylor (OBJ had some similar whispers at LSU) and thought Cleveland’s big bet on him was a positive (he was the #1 WR taken in his draft). Coleman started out well/promising, but ultimately, it appears, he doesn’t have the full heart/desire for ‘it’. 3rd-wheel WR with awful Eli and then Daniel Jones is not going to revive anything either.
R.I.P. Corey Coleman…unless he has a hot preseason, then I’ll be sucked back in.
...and that truly deserves a ‘worst’ because I can see myself getting sucked back in on a preseason head fake.
…but if he could just get his head screwed on straight…
WORST: Antonio Callaway breaks all the rules with no punishment
Much of this series, so far, like all the other Hard Knocks episodes, is a lot of noise from coaches talking about family, honesty, hard work, etc.
In this episode we see Antonio Callaway, a problem child in college, is pulled over late night/wee hours with a suspended license and traces of marijuana in the car. He’s written up/ticketed but not fully arrested. He keeps this from everyone in the Browns organization.
Of course, the Browns find out soon after and bring him in for a ‘serious’ meeting and he gives an excuse I’d expect from a five-year old…and Hue and the GM just buy it and jaw at him a little about honesty, etc., as it looks like it goes in one ear and out the other for Callaway.
Callaway is then not suspended…or cut…or anything – instead, his punishment is that he has to play the whole game in Week 1 of the preseason. There are many players who would love 20+ snaps to showcase in this game, BUT the rookie Callaway’s punishment is to play the whole game, and thus keeping others (who have kept the rules, worked harder, and were ‘first in, last out’) from vital snaps.
NFL team management is as two-faced, random, incoherent, and is as desperate as any business in America.
Josh Gordon perpetually has a spot waiting for him no matter how many rules he violates, while the smart/talented Carl Nassib gets cut last September. Antonio Callaway is screaming ‘problem child’ all episode (and his history) and he stays while Corey Coleman has to go?
I’m not suggesting Callaway should’ve been cut…I’m just laughing at the irrational mixed-messages Hue Jackson constantly delivers. He didn’t become the worst head coach in NFL history by chance.
WORST: The Jugs Machine ‘punishment’/fix all…
So, David Njoku is shown to be having issues catching passes in practice…which, if anyone had scouted him in college knows that it’s just how he is…he’s a natural poor-catcher of the ball.
However, the coaches blame ‘focus’…as they often do. So, Hue (the brilliant managerial mind that he is) sentences Njoku to catch 30 balls from the jugs gun after practice.
Njoku was dropping passes all over scrimmages in live action. To correct that, he goes to a shaded building and has a machine zip passes to him while he stands in the same spot with his shirt off catching 30 balls being shot to the same spot over and over.
How is that logical?
It isn’t. It’s more utter stupidity from NFL coaches who haven’t a clue.
WORST: Baker kisses ass…
Baker got the ‘first in, last out’ speech last episode and in this episode we get a scene of his going over the playbook at 6+ am. I’m sure Hue was really proud of himself. Likely, Hue will be waiting for the phone call from Baker, in 20+ years) to introduce Mayfield at his Hall of Fame induction ceremony…Baker’s success is all about Hue…in Hue’s mind.
This is not the last I’ll write of Baker v. Hue…it’s going to get interesting in a bit.
BEST: Myles Garrett doesn’t kiss ass…
We get a nice segment where Myles Garrett is writing poetry in his room as a form of relaxation and enjoyment. He mentions that people think it’s weird, but he doesn’t care.
Guaranteed Gregg Williams thinks there is a Myles Garrett problem (no matter how well he plays), that he isn’t aggressive enough, and would cite that he writes poetry as one of his examples. The NFL loves players who get up in front of the team and talk nonsense clichés and profanity…but think a player who is quiet, writing poetry in his off-time has something off/wrong with them.
BEST: Browns def. Giants in Week 1 of the preseason…
1) A wonderful, foretelling moment pregame – Baker goes up to OBJ, from behind, and greets him and OBJ acts like Baker and he are very/super-close friends/friendly (because they were).
Guess that relationship came into play a few months later…
2) Baker enters the preseason game after Tyrod, and completely takes command of the team likes he’s been there for years. You cannot teach what Baker has as a leader and as a football talent…the only people who cannot see it are Hue Jackson, 90%+ of the NFL scouts going into the 2018 NFL Draft, any of the analysts who think Sam Darnold is better today (90%+ of them), and Colin Cowherd.
They’re all about to get educated…and Baker was showing them from his first moment of NFL action, if any of them were looking. They were looking…they just don’t see it because they are terrible judges of talent, by and large.
BEST: Devin Cajuste…human connection
The best feel-good player of the first two episodes is, by far, Devin Cajuste. The try-hard tight end (former WR at Stanford converted to TE in the NFL) is interviewed for a few segments and is just as nice and natural a human being as could be.
Cajuste’s father is also a big part of the story, a guy who has battled multiple heart attacks and strokes – he flies out to watch his son in the preseason and is just a lovable guy too. The bond between father and son is beautiful…especially compared to the backdrop of fake ‘family’ and ‘hard work’ speeches from players and/or the completely empty words coming from the coaches every episode.
I’ve watched years of these documentaries, taking notes, looking for clues on players, coaches, etc., for fantasy and gambling edges…and I always come away thinking the players, by and large, are normal human beings and the head coaches are lunatics supposed to be in-charge/leading them. I almost think the players could manage the teams better – the coaches get out of the way and let Dak Prescott, Sean Lee (especially), Baker Mayfield, etc., call the plays/set the lineups, etc. The coaches just seem to be in the way and in-love with themselves having sway over ‘kids’.
BEST: Baker Mayfield v. Hue Jackson
Again, I am watching these documentaries in great detail…studying, looking for clues, etc. I do the same when I go watch training camp/practices or pre-Draft workouts in person. I look at body language, who is interacting with who and how are they doing it, etc. Watching Baker Mayfield around Hue Jackson through two episodes is a pure delight for me…because I can see Baker doesn’t have one ounce of respect for Hue Jackson, and Baker doesn’t suffer fools well. He doesn’t look to stir the pot (at this point), but he doesn’t ‘fake it’ very well either.
Every time Hue tries to touch him/grab him to give a pearl of wisdom…Baker tries to pull away or just has a ‘get it over with’ look/body language. Anytime Hue comes near, Baker tries not to make eye contact so he doesn’t have to deal with him. Baker probably realized in five minutes being around Hue what the entire football establishment and ruling class couldn’t figure out for years about Hue Jackson – he’s terrible at his job and doesn’t make personal connection with anyone. I’ve heard negatives on Hue from so many internal sources over the years (the common folk)…which always makes me think – what are the supposed ‘football insiders’ reporting on if they never reported on that/know about it? Are they just terrible at their jobs or are they keeping stuff from us ‘for our own good’/their own good or benefit? Either way…we’re being conned by the ‘State controlled football media’.
There’s one part of this episode where the players aren’t moving fast enough in and out of the huddle, etc. Hue loses it on the players for their efforts, etc. It got me thinking – why do head coaches have to yell bloody murder at players about their motivations and desire to play this game that the players should love and obviously recognize how financially lucrative it is?
There’s like 90+ players in early training camp. I’m sure there are +/- 5-8 guys who are just losers. However, I suspect the vast majority are there willing to lose their life for just a chance to suit up on a given Sunday. All these guys are pre-motivated, mostly…so why are they dragging around during a practice session?
Could it be because Hue Jackson, and all the coaches of his ilk, drain the fun out of football? I’m not saying ‘party time’ fun, but…you know…like…have you ever been at a job you loved, at first, and only to hate it years later? Same job…just you used to be proud and excited to go, and then a few years later you loathe every day. What happened? Isn’t it usually the bosses and/or the work environment that sucks the life out of you? If that’s the case, isn’t Hue Jackson responsible for lifeless players…which is the opposite of managing (his job)? He’s actually ruining them, not inspiring them…making them hate what they love.
I think its practice formats in general (and I see it in youth sports on up). Most every coach does the same type of training camp and coaching/drills, etc. Everything in the world has evolved over the past 5-10 years and past 50-100 years…but football tends to stay rooted in the ‘who needs cellphones anyway…remember when people just talked to other people?’ mentality. When Kliff Kingsbury allows cellphone breaks during practice…the traditionalist’s minds explode.
I’m not sure the answer to the problem, but I’ve attended many a practice, camp, etc. – they look miserable. There has to be a better way of training your team than ‘surviving misery makes you better’. If it worked like that/if it were that simple…then Hue Jackson wouldn’t lose every single game he ever coached. Instead of Hue looking inward and saying his way is losing/ineffective, he just yells at the players more. He’s going to yell them into victory (spoiler alert: he didn’t in 2018 either). There has to be another way…even if it fails…because the old way is mostly failure for coaches anyway.
That’s why I love Baker – he doesn’t suffer this nonsense for long. And when Hue went to Cincinnati in-season…and Baker was out from under him, then Baker didn’t play nice. The NFL is only going to change because radicals force it…and the radicals have to win games to force it.
Chip Kelly had change on the way, but they took him out (and he took himself out with being too self-centered/impersonal) – the establishment needed Kelly’s ways to fail. At least he tried to change the routine. Ditto for Moneyball management in Cleveland. Soon, they will try to take Baker out. I pray Baker wins a lot of games and has the open platform that cannot be silenced…and he leads the NFL to new ways of thinking.
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