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 #4 Hard Knocks 2018 Cleveland Browns
Last episode, we saw Jarvis Landry acting a fool, again. We saw Dez Bryant have a first date with the Browns and not go on a second date with them. Josh Gordon emerged from another ‘time off’ stretch, with no recourse or hit to his roster standing…Hue Jackson is giddy about him possibly gracing a field. We saw the Browns lose to the Bills in their second preseason game…committing about a billion penalties, which the coaches didn’t mention much at all in this episode…KIDDING, they lose their minds about it.
WORST: NFL Coaches…
After a loss with a lot of penalties committed…you can imagine how fun the team meetings and mood were the following week.
If I transcribed word-for-word what HBO showed us of what the coaches said to the players about it…you would know if it was things said at a meeting of employees and management in a multi-million dollar business or whether it was random words captured from residents at an insane asylum. From Hue on down…nothing these coaches say ever make any sense, but they are passionate about it…so that’s supposed to matter(?).
The topper being the Browns’ 50-60+ year old, 400+ pound O-Line coach who looks like Andy Reid ate an entire other Andy Reid, and is still digesting him, and who drives a Maserati, was talking about how the human body hasn’t changed in 200,000 years so who cares about all the new-fangled stuff/modern training equipment. He also said somewhere in this show/series that the soldiers who won World War II didn’t ‘stretch’ or do all kinds of fancy calisthenics to win the war, so why are we wasting all this time on it with modern football players. I understand his logic, to a degree, but he doesn’t look like the best messenger on physical fitness or technological improvement observations.
The players barely react to any of the words coming out of any high-level coach’s mouth…in every episode I’ve ever seen on Hard Knocks or All or Nothing. They know they just have to grin and bear it…like us viewers.
WORST: Lazy Players…
Much of this entire series is dedicated to coaches yelling at players, and players yelling at players to hustle more.
After four episodes of it this series, it made me wonder – how is this possible? How is it the top of the top of the top football players in the world with mostly pristine bodies playing a very violent, competitive game…how are they all of a sudden lazy everyday/every second in the pros? Especially after a loss. After a win…all is well. After a loss, everyone is terrible human being.
Then I thought…Hue Jackson and friends have been yelling at players about ‘focus’ and ‘hustle’ for three years, and it has gotten them nowhere…the players are still ‘lazy’!
…unless they aren’t.
All these coaches do is focus on whether guys are running full speed back to the huddle, etc. Coaching minds have invented the nonsense of a guy getting touch-tackled in non-contact practices but the ballcarrier keeps running through the play/’tackle’ and sprints to the end zone. Have you seen this idiocy? You know, the thing where a two-yard run gets ‘touched’, and everyone stops but the ballcarrier regathers himself and sprints 47 yards to the end zone while everyone else watches and waits…all this to prove…to prove…I don’t know what it proves. Coaches love displays of meaningless ‘hustle’ and yet cannot see true talent operating in front of their noses. In fact, they hold a subconscious resentment against talent for being talented…so they judge players on how fast they run to the huddle or if they came into work four hours early – because idiots can see those superficial things and judge it easily. It’s harder to ascertain whether Seth DeValve is truly a better tight end than David Njoku. It’s easier to assume Njoku is better because he was higher ranked by the media/draft herd and as long as he’s hustling and ‘looks’ like a great tight end, physically – it’s all that matters.
All this yelling and screaming for weeks of camp and guys coming into work hours early for nonsensical meetings with lowly-educated assistant coaches – and Cleveland still lost to Buffalo last week and committed a million penalties. In order not to blame the coaches and their overall ineffective system – everything is blamed on the players not hustling (even though the other team hustled or didn’t about as much if you watch the tape and judge such things).
It can’t be what team ‘hustled’ more? How do you even judge that? By what criteria?
Do players hustle more for Bill Belichick? Is that why they win every year…with YOUR players you didn’t want/thought didn’t hustle enough?
It makes no sense. Every coaching staff screams about ‘hustle’ and ‘focus’ on every documentary or live practice I’ve ever gone to…and most of these teams are losing more than winning and coaches are getting fired every 2-3 years. When will coaches wake up? When will the GMs that hire them wake up? When will the owners who hire the GMs who hire the coaches wake up?
WORST/BEST: Hue refuses to let Baker take first-team snaps…
It’s a WORST because it’s so stupid. Hue is in a press conference and asked why Baker isn’t working with the 1st-team ever and Hue goes on about a new offense and Tyrod needs all the reps in it to learn it.
So, training camp isn’t about competition for each position? So, your team took a QB #1 overall in the draft and you won’t even SEE if the team looks better with him at QB? It’s so mind-bogglingly stupid but that’s NFL coaches for you – they make absolutely no sense on anything. They are a walking double standard, cliché-filled, profanity-spewing waiting-to-be-fired entity 95% of the time.
It’s a BEST because had Hue let Baker start right away, Hue would still have a head coaching job and be seen as a genius today.
It’s also a BEST because no one asks – how is it that training camp is so important, and learning the playbook so crucial, and ‘reps with the 1st-team’ is so holy…and yet Baker Mayfield gets thrown into a regular season game in Week 3 without taking 1st-team work and changes the franchise in an instant? Any dope could see Baker Mayfield was 1,000x better than Tyrod Taylor…except a guy who made more money not-coaching in 2019 than I’ll make in all my football work combined…the guy paid because ‘he knows better’. Talent matters more than running to the huddle after plays, coming into work nine hours early and ‘learning playbooks’. Baker 2018 is yet more proof of this.
BEST: The one good coach…
For less than a minute, we see tight end Darren Fells working with Devin Cajuste on blocking technique. Fells is not yelling nonsense…he’s smart, attentive, great at communicating/teaching in a steady teaching voice. Fells sticks with Cajuste for a while until Cajuste gets it. I felt like I learned a little tidbit about blocking from watching Fells explain it.
Again, I say, for however many years I’ve been analyzing these documentaries and going to live practices, etc. – and I swear the players are better coaches than the coaches. The players, by and large, are more normal-acting and focused, and mature. The player-leaders are great working with the young players…and the young players really listen and respond. When the coaches belch nonsense the players have a blank look just waiting for it to end.
Behind the scenes, from my vantage point working in ‘pro football analysis/observation’ -- the players are mostly normal. The referees are mostly normal and very dedicated to doing a good job and treat everyone with respect. BUT the coaches and GMs are almost always mockable humans in these documentaries.
BEST: The Rookie Show…
The most enjoyable part of the training camp behind-the-scenes, by far, is ‘The Rookie Show’ – where the rookies put on comedy skits…usually poking fun at the coaches, etc. I couldn’t do it justice trying to describe it, so here’s the entire thing (from this Hard Knocks) on YouTube (but note there will be F-bombs.
Mostly WORST: The Browns defeat the Eagles to go 2-1 on the preseason
Four notes from this game:
1) Tyrod Taylor landed awkwardly on his wrist and it looked like he was done…for weeks, maybe even the year. It ended up that it was just a dislocated pinky and sprained wrist – they taped him up and let him come back into the game a few series later.
I get the emotion of a warrior, etc., but why go subject him to more hits and further issues? Hue knows why…he didn’t want to give Baker any platform to look better than Tyrod…and Tyrod knows he’s inferior as well, so he had to do all he could to hold off Baker as long as possible.
…because that’s how ‘it’ happened – Tyrod got hurt into their Week 3 game, where the Browns/Tyrod looked awful…and then Baker was thrown in and came back and won the game and stole the franchise away from Tyrod (and Hue). Hue tried to suppress Baker…but like most football things he’s involved with – things went the opposite of what he tried for.
2) I remembered this game when they showed parts of it – because I remember thinking what an awesome collection of defensive talent the Browns have. Surprise! D-C Gregg Williams didn’t get them to the next level, despite the talent. I guess he should have yelled some more expletives for no reason.
3) Jarvis Landry gets yelled at for being lazy by O-C Todd Haley. Landry could find a long ball thrown his way and when he did see it – it was over his head/out of bounds by 10 yards, so he slowed up when he saw no chance to grab it.
As you know, there is nothing more important than running hard for no reason…so, Haley loses his mind that Landry pulled up. Landry, however, has stroke…so he basically tells Haley to go ___.
Later Haley apologizes in a weak way…because for all their bluster, the coaches are not tough. Just fake tough. Scared of the star players and scared of being criticized and fired. No different than anyone else in the workplace…only even more pressure because they really control nothing but screaming at players to ‘hustle’, and hoping everything works out well so they keep a paycheck year-to-year.
Haley would be such a great hire that he would be fired with Hue, midseason. RIP Todd Haley’s NFL coaching career. I’ll never forget the way you screwed Ricky Stanzi in Kansas City. I know the details of what happened behind the scenes and you should be ashamed of yourself. Tyler Palko? Gimme a break. Stanzi should sue you for career negligence.
4) At halftime, and post-game there’s a lot of yelling about their effort and hustle and not being in the right places. Again, I say…is it the players or the coaches’ fault? Or none, just coaches acting loony?
BEST: Baker Mayfield…he just is…
Two things about Baker at the very end of this episode…
1) The Eagles game ends, and Jim Schwartz (Eagles D-C) comes up and introduces himself to and hugs Baker and says, “I never played the game, but if I did…I’d wanna play it like you.”
Schwartz knows Baker is going to go down as one of the all-time greats in the history of the game, and Baker hasn’t played an real NFL game yet..
Just Hue Jackson doesn’t know this…but he only sees him every day at practice.
2) Post-game press conference…Baker is wearing a ‘Boz’/Brian Bosworth throwback/airbrushed sweatshirt. A tip of the cap to his fellow OU alum…and a foreshadowing of the NFL rebel Baker is about to become – Baker will be the simultaneously most popular and most hated player in the NFL in very short order.
Hue Jackson likes Tyrod Taylor’s talents and leadership better, though.
And as a reminder…EVERYONE in football analysis from ESPN to NFL Networks to Fox to CBS to Colin Cowherd to your local sports talk host to every unpaid football/fantasy analysis bloggers agreed that Hue Jackson was an excellent hire by the Browns and would change them in short order, and they stuck by that for a few years until they couldn’t anymore.
…and most of those same people swear up and down, to this day, that Sam Darnold is the far superior QB prospect than Baker. The one that don’t -- they like Josh Allen better.
I make a lot of fun of coaches and ‘establishment’ football people when I watch these documentaries, and that makes me seem like a cranky ‘know it all’. I feel like I can evaluate talent better than they can and I’ve got the time logged (talk about getting to work early each day/hours at the office) to make the case. But I’m not trying to promote myself as much as I am trying to chop away at the notion that THEY know better.
THEY all agree on players or teams or prospects, but THEY are so wrong so often it blows my mind. There’s nothing wrong with being wrong in some predictions, but they never admit it…and then all of footballdom just assumes THEY are right on whatever the next thing is. No group of people are more worshipped for their opinions on football than the people whose track record is so awful (the media, ex-players, ex-coaches).
Being wrong about players, etc., is bad enough for nobodies like me to complain about, but the true crime is all the potential careers ruined by the hive mind of the NFL establishment. They almost ran Nick Foles out of the league. They were ready to ban Tyreek Hill for life. There are a ton of players I could name that never got a shot…and playing half a game in preseason game #4 once is not a real ‘shot’. When THEY are bad at their jobs, people’s lives are affected. They are a ruling class, a group of Pharisees trying to keep control of this thing they are milking.
I can’t change it, but I am going to nail my grievances to their church door every day that I can…and more importantly I’m going to try to profit off of their mistakes, and invite you to try to cash in with me.
Where was I?
Oh, Baker Mayfield is going to have a pretty good NFL career.
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