Mar 3, 2009; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Zac Efron at NBA game between the Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

HBO Series “Hard Knocks” Debut Puts Fresh Face on a Troubled Miami Dolphins Organization


HBO’s series “Hard Knocks,” focusing on the Miami Dolphins this season after a two-year hiatus, premiered Tuesday night and provided multiple story lines that were quite interesting whether you’re a fan of the team or not. I, like millions of others, am more of a Lauren than a Ryan Tannehill fan. It’s south Florida, and with a warm climate year-round, the eye candy is always going to be around. Add highly paid young male athletes in and you can’t get away from it.

The good news is that the producers didn’t overdo the eye candy thing and did a good job drawing the viewers in with some good story lines.

The biggest focus of the first episode was on the quarterbacks both on and off the field. Tannehill was one of the last high picks to sign and missed the first couple of days of camp and we got a sliver of some of the behind the scenes back and forth that led up to his arrival. Not much, but just enough to let you know there were issues. As always, no matter what, the show must go on.

That “show” not being “Hard Knocks” but the production that is the NFL. First-year coach Regis Joe Philbin comes across as a calm, soft-spoken, even-tempered man. He’s as much the anti-Rex (Ryan) as a coach could be and still have the same qualities you need in a Head Coach. He’s reserved while Ryan is grandiose. It would appear he’s the type of coach the organization really needs – a steady, if new, hand steering the ship after an off-season of tumult.

The thing that stood out the most to me about the camp is that Philbin has both the first and second teams on the field at the same time, facing opposite directions. When one team finishes a play, the other one runs theirs while the original team gets lined up again. It’s the fastest-paced camp of any NFL team and in the hottest and most humid environment imaginable. Clearly, the Miami Dolphins are going to have a drastically changed look on the offensive side of the ball.

We also learned that Tannehill came into camp his first day and looked like he didn’t miss those first practices. Even Coach Philbin was wowed on the sidelines while he watched the prized rookie taking snaps. Without seeing an entire play (the camera shots were too tight and focused for that), the apparent feeling is that they truly have three quarterbacks that could start on opening day.

The past few seasons have seen Dolphins quarterbacks getting injured so it has to make the fans feel good that they at least now have some good depth at the position and the viewers were treated to the moment where coach Philbin informed the quarterbacks group that David Garrard was atop the depth chart after the first scrimmage. Tannehill shouldn’t be at all surprised that he’s 3rd on the depth chart, but Matt Moore has to feel a bit unloved, given his 6-3 record as a starter last season.

New coaches, new players, and a clean slate.

Chad Johnson looks to be on the road to being a more disciplined guy, although he’s hit a couple of minor bumps along the way. One scene showed Philbin chatting with Johnson on the sideline at practice, discussing Johnson’s use of profanity at the previous press conference. He’s not your father’s coach, Philbin isn’t…in the old days, a coach would get in your face and scream. Philbin treats his players like adults, calmly discussing his position but being firm at the same time. To his credit, Johnson accepted it in kind. Then, on the player’s day off, he vowed to get arrested as he left the facility. Joking, of course, but that’s his personality.

A few other things of interest:

Left tackle Jake Long showed his leadership during the camp, asserting himself and telling the group of offensive linemen when they’ve messed up or what they need to work on. He’s clearly their leader.

You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a shirtless 350 pound nose tackle, Paul Soliai, doing his impression of a hair stylist on a few of the rookies. Then again, that may be one of those things they haven’t yet invented “The Brain Scrubber” for – to forget what you’ve just seen. It was somewhat reminiscent of the late Bubba Smith the florist in the old Police Academy movies…some things just don’t seem right.

We got to see the reality behind the feel-good story of Zac Efron’s presence. He’s the accountant-turned-tight end with blazing speed. What the media doesn’t report is that, according to his position coach, he is “a complete liability in both run blocking and pass protection.” While I’d be surprised at this point if he wasn’t, since he last put on a football uniform in high school. But as Philbin pointed out on the show, you just “can’t go out on the street and find an athlete of his caliber. You just can’t.” They knew he’d be a project and he’s turning out to be exactly that, but he works hard, does what he’s told, and it appears as if the coaches and front office are going to have some patience with him. It’s possible he could wind up on the practice squad while he hones his blocking, but they like everything else about him.

I’m sure it doesn’t hurt for “Hard Knocks” that he’s also got a very hot significant other. It’s show biz.

Tags: Bubba Smith Chad Johnson David Garrard Featured Jake Long Joe Philbin Lauren Tannehill Matt Moore Miami Dolphins Paul Soliai Rex Ryan Ryan Tannehill Zac Efron