Last summer, a new coaching regime was in place for the Miami Dolphins, a first round rookie quarterback was being introduced, and the team looked to turn around after the Tony Sparano regime. As training camp opened, there was an extra group of people floating around the team. The Dolphins were the featured team on HBO and NFL Films Hard Knock. The show would follow the Dolphins throughout training camp, giving fans an inside look at the team over a five week span.
Tonight, Hard Knocks returns, with the Cincinnati Bengals being featured for the second time. The team first appeared on the show for the 2009 season.
Before we get to tonight's season premier, here's a look back at some of the highlights from the Dolphins' season last year.
Episode 1 (August 7, 2012):
The first episode focused primarily on the start of the quarterback battle, with David Garrard, Matt Moore, and Ryan Tannehill taking the spotlight (and Pat Devlin always seemed to be off camera). The show also introduced new Dolphins wide receiver Chad Johnson, who was on the Bengals 2009 Hard Knocks, setting him up as the star of the show. Overall, there was not a lot of meat to the first episode, but it did show why Vontae Davis was struggling in camp and with the coaches (immaturity), a storyline that would come back with a vengeance later in the show.
The show did have one funny repercussion not expected. During the show, the HBO crew showed a picture of general manager Jeff Ireland's computer screen. The screen was showing the Player Enterprise Management System (PEMS), a league wide system to track players, their performance, and their status with the team. Also included in the system are things like the player's address, combine scores, and phone number. Unfortunately, the episode zoomed in on the screen with Tannehill's phone number in plain view.
Episode 2 (August 14, 2012):
The second episode of the season became the most watched episode of Hard Knocks, thanks to the dominant storyline of the night. The show was done well, starting with head coach Joe Philbin discussing the death of his son, Michael, in January 2012, and relating that to the death of, then Philadelphia Eagles coach, Andy Reid's son Garrett, who had died in a dorm room at Eagles camp that week.
The show then turned back to on the field things, focusing first on the tight ends. Michael Egnew and Charles Clay took heat throughout the episode, with Egnew's inability to block leading offensive coordinator Mike Sherman to state, "I would cut you today if I were the General Manager." He then turned to Clay and said, "I've got nothing to say about you except you aren't good enough."
The episode returned to the quarterbacks, showing Tannehill as the developing rookie, trying to claim a starting spot ahead of the two veterans. However, the battle against one of the veterans was short lived, as Garrard's career ending knee injury became a story for the show.
Before the dramatic ending of the episode, the producers gave us a lighthearted look at the rookie haircuts that have now become tradition for the Dolphins. They also showed the offensive linemen using the film room to watch the Dolphins Cheerleaders perform "Call Me Maybe."
But, the reason so many people watched the show was the ending. The Dolphins released Chad Johnson following his arrest for domestiv violence. Johnson was brought into Joe Philbin's office, wherehe immediately began apologizing for embarrassing the organization and for letting down Philbin.
"I let you down a little bit...a lot," Johnson stated. "I understand what you're doing. You got the message across clear the first day we met. I apologize for embarrassing you, and our organization, my teammates."
But, as we know, he was released.
Episode 3 (August 21, 2012):
The third installment brought more of the quarterback battle, with Ryan Tannehill working his way to the starting spot for the preseason game against the Carolina Panthers. When guard Richie Incognito asked Tannehill if he was going to start, Tannehill said he was. Incognito then held out his fist, told the rookie to "Pound it," then started to walk away, looked back at Tannehill and added, "Now don't f*** is up."
The episode also featured the now infamous "Leadership Council" with Jake Long, Karlos Dansby, and Reggie Bush (all of whom are not with the team in 2013) speaking to coach Philbin about trying to find a way to better police themselves, as well as a way for coaches to address the players without it becoming a situation like happened with Chad Johnson.
The rookie talent show also got plenty of air time.
The receivers got some air time, with Chris "7-11" Hogan continuing to be the talk of the show.
Finally, the episode ended with Moore and Tannehill being informed that the rookie had won the quarterback battle. For the first time in team history, a rookie quarterback would start the first game of the season.
Episode 4 (August 28, 2012):
The fourth episode featured the first round of cuts for the Dolphins.
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.
This was also the episode where Tannehill admitted that, outside of the AFC East, he did 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.
The cuts then took over. 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, the cuts were not even the most discussed portion of the show. At the end of the episode, we got an inside look at the working of an NFL trade.The Colts general manager Ryan Grigson sent a text message to Ireland, asking him if Vontae 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."
Episode 5 (September 4, 2012):
The finale of Hard Knocks was much less entertaining than the first four. The show spent a lot of the time looking at Chad Johnson, who was working out on the beaches of Florida, trying to find a way back into the league. It was kind of an odd choice, given the Dolphins were not considering bringing him back, but Johnson was newsworthy at the time, so it's not overly surprising the producers would look for a way to get him back onto the show.
Overall, the show was a great look inside a franchise that has, traditionally, been very closed off to fans. Unfortunately, in the season where the team is bringing in a ton of new talent, and trying to take the next step in the AFC, the Bengals will now take the spotlight instead of the Dolphins.
But, it will likely be an entertaining season.
The season premiere will air at 10pm ET tonight on HBO.
To see all of our coverage from the 2012 Hard Knocks, check out our group of stories from last year.
For coverage of the 2013 Hard Knocks, you can head over to Cincy Jungle.