The Miami Dolphins' appearance on HBO's Hard Knocks reached the penultimate episode last night, with the focus on the first round of cuts by the team and the trade of cornerback Vontae Davis. NFL Films tweeted before the show that this is the first time an entire trade process was shown, and it really did provide for fascinating, if yet again awkward, television.
The show opened with a look at Les Brown and Chad Alecxih, with both explaining how much they wanted to make the team, and the foreshadowing that they would not make it through the first round of cuts. The show then flashed to quarterback Ryan Tannehill talking about the team releasing running back Ryan Mahaffey, who he had "just talked to" the night before. The final opening scene had offensive tackle Will Yeatman sitting in his room talking to tight end Charles Clay about having a roommate last year, who was just suddenly gone - everything packed up and the guy just not there any more. Yeatman said he got another roommate, who a week later, was also gone.
And, with those three scenes, the entire theme of the show was established.
The show progressed to guard Eric Steinbach, who was featured during last week's show trying to make his comeback from injury, deciding that he could not do it any more. Steinbach spoke to head coach Joe Philbin, general manager Jeff Ireland, and the cameras about his decision to retire. He clearly wanted to make the team, and be an effective player for the Dolphins this year, but his body just could no longer do it. He seemed at peace with the decision, knowing he gave it his best try, but that the end of his career was upon him.
The show took an unexpected turn this week, with running back Daniel Thomas being called to Philbin's office. Philbin then talked to the sophomore player about three violations of team rules he had within a four day span. Thomas was late to the team plane for the flight before the Carolina Panthers game. When he did show up, he was not within the team's dress code. Then, on the Monday following the game (the same day as the meeting), Thomas had shown up 15 minutes late to a weightlifting session.
"From where I sit," Philbin told Thomas during the meeting, "I get concerned about that stuff. Obviously, you're going to be fined, but that's not the point. The point is, I don't want to be fining anybody. I want guys that do what they're supposed to do and be where they're supposed to be. And, right now, two times in four days, that's not a good thing.
"And, I'm just telling you," Philbin continued," this can't happen, this kind of stuff can't happen. I'm getting a little queasy about you. You've got to take responsibility for your own career, what you're doing, and when you are doing it. I don't want to come talk to you again. I want to see you out there, and next time, I want to talk to you on a positive thing. Not this kind of stuff."
The episode also gave us a unique insight into an offensive meeting. Philbin and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman used film from the Carolina game to show the offense why their attitude was wrong. They showed a play from the offense's first series, where no one really have a full effort except running back Reggie Bush. Sherman then lectured the team about just allowing Bush to lay on the ground with three Panthers on top of him, throwing elbows into him, and no one came to help. The rest of the offense simply stood around and waited for Bush to extract himself from the pile and pick himself up off the ground, rather than, as Sherman expounded, helping their teammate up.
The show also gave us a quick look at the defense preparing for the Atlanta Falcons' game. Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle told all of the defense that they needed to come out and play in the game like it was the first game of the season, because if they didn't they may not be around for the first game of the season. The defense responded with their best performance of the preseason.
We also got a chance to see injured quarterback David Garrard, who was sitting in a suite with his family during the Falcons game this past Friday. Garrard remarked that it was strange to be in the lockerroom, watching everyone get ready for the game, while he was just there.
There were also a few lighthearted moments during the show, such as guard Richie Incognito hacking into rookie tight end Michael Egnew's iPad. He then put up a Facebook status post on Egnew's account, indicating that the rookie had, well, let's say had an issue in his pants. Incognito then told Egnew that he may want to change the password on his iPad to something other than "84-84," the tight end's jersey number.
We also saw Tannehill admit that, outside of the AFC East, he does not know the divisions of the NFL. Matt Moore and Pat Devlin began quizzing him on some of the divisions, with things like the Kansas City Chiefs ending up in the NFC East. It really has no bearing on his ability to play the game, and Tannehill explained that he did not grow up watching NFL football, but it was humourous.
The drama of the show came down to the cuts and Davis' trade. Throughout the show, Alecxih and Brown were highlighted. They were shown working to try to make the team, and getting frustrated by not getting more reps in practices and the games. They both clearly knew they needed to impress the coaches if they were to have a chance at making the roster.
They also give us some backstory, like Alecxih's trio last summer to the Gulf of Mexico. Alecxih and some of his friends were using jet skis out in the Gulf, and traveled out too far. When the undrafted rookie jumped off his jet ski, the Gulf's current pulled him and the watercraft apart. After eight hours of floating in the Gulf, and with the sun about to set and the search scheduled to end for the night in five minutes, a helicopter spotted Alecxih and directed a police boat over to him.
Of course, after getting to know the rookies a little better, the cuts began. College scouting coordinator Chase Leshin had the unfortunate job of serving as the turk - the guy who tells a player that he needs to bring his playbook and go see the general manager. The scene then changed to inside Jeff Ireland's office where we see the GM sit down with Alecxih, Jonathan Wade, Marcus Brown, Jerome Messam, and, finally, Les Brown.
Some of the players took the news stoically, despite the rush of emotions they must have been feeling. Messam began to half argue-half plead for his job, pointing out that he did not get one carry in a game. Ireland laid out for each player what the team saw that led them to the decision, such as telling Les Brown, "When the pads come on, that's where the weakness is."
But, it's also not necessarily the last we will see of some of these players. Ireland flat out told Alecxih that the practice squad was still an option for him, and it was hinted at with Les Brown. The now released tight end met with his position coach, Dan Campbell (who is becoming a star of the show), where the two had maybe the best moment of the show. Brown's emotions got the best of him. With tears rolling down his cheeks, Brown told Campbell, "This won't be the last you guys see of me. That's for sure." Campbell told him he has no reason to feel ashamed, and that he should be proud of what he has done, just making it this far. Campbell continued to tell Brown to keep working, and that their paths would cross again.
Brown was then shown getting his things out of his locker, while players, including Tannehill and Egnew, came over and shook his hand, hugging him.
Of course, the other part of the show that intrigued people was how the trade for Vontae Davis happened. The show confirmed the Armando Salguero report that the Colts called the Dolphins, looking to make a deal. The Colts general manager Ryan Grigson sent a text message to Ireland, asking him if Davis was available. The initial Colts offer was a fifth round pick and a sixth round selection. Ireland had no interest in that deal.
When the talks continued, Ireland approaced Philbin about the possibility, and what he thought of making the move. Philbin responded, "He's a good kid, but I wonder if we're ever going to get him to where we would like him to be."
Ireland agreed, saying that he knows Davis would be a contributor this season, but he wasn't sure how much the cornerback would be in the future plans for the team.
Eventually, the Colts brought the offer all the way down to the second and sixth round pick the teams settled upon, and Ireland told Philbin he wants to pull the trigger. When Philbin agreed, the deal was done.
Then, Davis was brought into Ireland's office to be told of the trade.
"The rumor is true," Ireland told Davis. "We just traded you. We traded you to the Indianapolis Colts, alright? So, you okay?"
In one of the most awkward moments of the show, the obviously shellshocked Davis simply responded, "I'm gonna call my grandma." Davis clearly looked like he was going to call his grandmother right there in Ireland's office, but the general manager wanted to keep him focused on the situation at hand. Ireland told Davis that he may need to get on a plane quickly, because the Colts would probably want to get him out of Florida ahead of Tropical Storm Isaac's arrival.
Ireland also explained that the team appreciated everything Davis did for them, and that they know he can be a great player. But, he explained, the issue was consistency. The ups and downs were too big for Miami, and they had to move on. Ireland reminded Davis that he should see this as a positive, and a fresh start with Indianapolis.
Before he left the officer, Davis asked Ireland who the Dolphis received in the trade. Ireland said, "A couple of picks." Davis just sat there staring, still stunned by the news.
The show ended with the near-mandatory scence of Davis' locker being cleared out and his name removed from the locker.
While the show was filled with drama, a moment right after the show ended may have eased the feeling better than anything else could. Davis, clearly waiting for the right time to post the tweet, sent this out immediately following the show:
I do Love Grandma!!!!!!— Vontae Davis (@VontaeDavis21) August 29, 2012
The final episode of the Dolphins' season on Hard Knocks will air next Tuesday.