The New York Jets Debut on HBO’s Hard Knocks

Last night marked the season premiere of HBO’s Hard Knocks, the show which tracks a National Football League team through training camp.  This year’s feature team is none other than my favorite, the New York Jets.  Last year at this time, the Jets were a directionless team, with a rookie coach and a rookie quarterback.  This year, the team is a smash-mouth, loud-mouth powerhouse that many regard as a Super Bowl favorite.

Having grown up a disgruntled Jets fan it remains absolutely impossible to embrace the pervasive optimism surrounding this team, especially considering the ongoing holdout of the team’s top player, Darrelle Revis.  It is unquestionable that Revis, the team’s star player, played a key role in HBO’s interest in the Jets for the Hard Knocks series.  Revis is both an outstanding talent, and a well-spoken and admirable locker room presence on a team full of audacious personalities.

Hard Knocks, as is standard for a “reality tv” show, attempts to dramatize and personalize the experience of an NFL training camp.  Cameras follow around star players, front office personnel, and undrafted free agents in their simultaneous attempts to prepare for the NFL season.  The show started with a tease of sorts, in opening with some words about a “new contract” before cutting to the teams coach and general manager, Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum respectively, signing their own new contracts.  Here are my initial thoughts and observations on episode 1:

  • Something does not feel right about the locus of drama for this particular Jets team and this particular season of Hard Knocks.  Most of the real drama takes place off the field and behind closed doors as the Jets and Revis engage in a battle of wills.  Rex Ryan was particularly entertaining wandering around the team’s facilities in Cortland slinging one-liners left and right about missing his top player.
  • Braylon Edwards made not one, but TWO nice catches in the first episode.  The first was a nice over-the-should catch on a fade route, with Mark Sanchez leading Edwards towards the end-zone pylon.  Historically this is one of the places where Edwards tends to fall short.  He can run the route, get open, but far too often drops the pass.  In episode 1, that was not the case.  The second was just in a casual toss.  Either way, it seems like the fluffy beard is paying some early dividends!
  • Rex Ryan really trimmed down.  That being said, the man still likes to eat.  This off season, much discussion centered on the head coach’s surgical weight loss procedure and subsequent altered eating habits.  Despite shedding the belly, Ryan continues to sport a punchy wit and an aggressive mentality.
  • Woody Johnson loves his iPad.  The team’s owner was relatively quiet in episode 1, and when he did appear, each time his iPad was either in hand or on a nearby table.  I can see the iPad providing a particularly useful set of tools for an NFL team, as it offers far more functionality than the old-school white boards that coaches have used to draw up plays on the sidelines.  I am intrigued to see how this new tool is implemented around the NFL.  (for the emotional commentators on my iPad post, I “get it” and this is clearly one awesome use of the iPad, I just think Apple can do better)
  • What’s a Jets-based review without talking about the quarterback(s).  Mark Sanchez looks poised…ok sorry for the poise word, let’s try this again.  Mark Sanchez appears READY to embrace his role as the team’s de facto leader in the absence of Darrelle Revis.  The team’s most famous quarterback, Broadway Joe Namath made a cameo appearance in which he offered Sanchez some sage-like words on how to receive the snap from under center.

Altogether, the show was entertaining; however, as both a Jets and NFL fan, the experience feels incomplete with Darrelle Revis as a mystical figure talked about, but unseen.