Before You Knock the Miami Dolphins' On 'Hard Knocks'...

Are there any more Reggie Bush and Kim Kardashian jokes that haven’t been used yet? Feel free to get them out of the way now before you continue reading.

Yep, that one, too.



The announcement that the Miami Dolphins will be featured in the seventh edition of HBO’s Hard Knocks was greeted with as much joy as… okay, there was little-to-no joy in the announcement. On the sports world’s real-time stage that is social media, the decision to feature the Fins’ has received overwhelmingly more ridicule than praise. Why exactly?

The Dolphins aren’t the rival New York Jets; the team with head coach who is a walking reality show in himself, whose quarterbacks (starter and newly-minted backup) catch more arrows than a dartboard, and whose defense leads the NFL in blown hot air. They aren’t the New England Patriots, either; the ‘dark side’ to the NFL’s Force that are as much about secrecy as the Navy S.E.A.L.s. They sure as heck are not the Giants, Packers or Steelers or Saints, either; four of the recent Super Bowl champions that were trying to repeat in arguably the most difficult league to duplicate prior success in.

The Miami Dolphins are Washington Redskins-lite; a budding disaster zone with a meddlesome owner, highly-reviled management, another new head coach, ANOTHER new starting quarterback (or three!), and question marks abound all over the field. Except for the incessant punch lines and offending nickname, the Dolphins haven’t piqued much national interest since Dan Marino retired. Wait, there was the time that Mercury Morris was spitting eight bars about the ’07 Patriots….

That may not exactly be enough to sell you on the idea of watching the Dolphins on Hard Knocks. After all, besides a rookie sensation at quarterback in Robert Griffin III, at least the Redskins have an entertainingly villainous owner in Dan Snyder that viewers could laugh at or shake their fist towards, a lá Donald Trump.

Hard Knocks will present the first extended look into the operations of a team in this recently-turned calamitous NFL environment. Considering the aftermath of Bountygate, there are plenty of reasons to wonder how teams will behave after the league brought the hammer down on the New Orleans Saints. As so strongly stated in March by @theNFLchick, there is plenty of simmering anger and questions still out there about how the NFL will truly curtail the slightest flirtation with a bounty again. Being that Hard Knocks is the only show that has such relatively inhibited access to a team, it will be interesting to see how producers frame the controversy with the Dolphins. Despite the controversial release of Gregg Williams’ pregame speech before the Saints were bounced in the playoffs by San Francisco, the sporting public and media don’t know how much it curtails what is plotted upon away from the cameras.

The other white elephant in the room will be somewhat connected as concussions and CTE are also a part of the public discussion as of late. The various suicides of former players that were later discovered to have CTE have cast a pall over the game unseen in generations. Though the game won’t ever be outlawed, the idea of it becoming safer is an academic one, at best.

For those who watched the superb Flyers/Rangers 24/7: The Road to the Winter Classic, you may recall Philadelphia’s star winger Claude Giroux getting concussed by an accidental knee-to-the-head by teammate Wayne Simmonds. Though it was an unfortunate moment, it was also a gift for the show producers as they were able to devote a segment on the NHL’s newly-minted concussion policy. We saw trainers and doctors immediately evaluate Giroux (and the follow-up testing and updates throughout the series). It was a rare insight, and one that gave viewers a real-life application on what they only heard about during the offseason.

When a player gets concussed in training camp or a preseason game – and it will happen – will we have similar coverage from the NFL and Dolphins or will this process remain under the typical cloak-and-dagger?

What makes Hard Knocks – and its equally acclaimed cousin, the 24/7 series – so successful is that each season shines a bit more light on the matters you don’t know much about. It could be learning what makes the star players tick, the long winding road of the various coaches, the triangle relationship between players, coaches and management or the machinations of the Shield.

We don’t know if the Miami Dolphins will give us catchphrases as Rex Ryan did, unintentional comedy like Gunther Cunningham or sheer brilliance like the Cincinnati Bengals had. We don’t know if Stephen Ross will copy Jerry Jones in asserting himself at any opportunity, and we don’t know who will be the underdog undrafted free agent to capture our attention. Yet, considering the paradigm shift the NFL faces, this edition of Hard Knocks may serve as a bit more than polishing off the Miami Dolphins brand. It can educate us a bit on where the league – and the game of football – might be going.

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