"Hard Knocks" Garners Praise For Highlighting Chad Johnson's Release From Dolphins
The best reality TV ideally is “able to catch lightning in a bottle by being there when things get truly real,” and for NFL Films, producers of HBO’s "Hard Knocks" series, that “happened after Chad Johnson's recent domestic violence arrest, and the inevitability of his release from the Miami Dolphins,” according to Doug Farrar of YAHOO SPORTS. Last night's episode began with first-year Dolphins coach Joe Philbin “talking to the producers about how the scene would work, then explaining on the phone to someone -- most likely a team executive -- exactly what was about to happen, and saying that Johnson's ‘temperament wasn't good’ for the team.” Johnson then “entered Philbin's office, and he seemed to know what was coming.” What made the show “compelling television was that both men handled it about as well as could be expected, given the emotion surrounding the event.” Johnson knew “full well that he had made a mistake that could -- along with many other factors -- cost him his NFL career.” Philbin, “at this point, has to wonder what the heck he signed up for.” The show “ended with Johnson's gear removed from his locker, and his nameplate taken down.” Farrar: “It's hard to argue with the way Philbin handled this. And it's certainly easy to see why the Dolphins were the right team for this year's show” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/15). In Miami, Adam Beasley writes the “rare, compelling look at the star receiver’s ultimate fall from grace was the climax of Tuesday’s ‘Hard Knocks,’ a sensational hour of television that documented easily the most trying week yet of Philbin’s short time as a head coach” (MIAMI HERALD, 8/15). ESPN.com’s James Walker wrote HBO “did a good job of highlighting” Johnson's arrest and subsequent release by the team (ESPN.com, 8/14). In West Palm Beach, Ben Volin notes while the conversation between Philbin and Johnson “was what everyone came to see, the far more interesting insight came earlier in the show when it was revealed that Johnson was having a hard time picking up the Dolphins’ offense, just like he did last year” with the Patriots (PALMBEACHPOST.com, 8/15).
LETTING YOU GO: Philbin addressed the Dolphins after Johnson was arrested for domestic abuse and told them, “We’ve worked long and hard to make this a professional working environment and we got a lot of work to do.” Speaking on the phone, Philbin said, “His temperament isn’t great for us.” Philbin then met with Johnson, with Johnson saying, “I let you down a little bit. Well, a lot. I understand what you’re doing. You got the message across clear the first day we met ... and I apologize for embarrassing you and this organization.” Philbin: “I appreciate that, I respect that ... and I hope you know that everything I do -- to the best of my ability -- I attempt to put some thought behind what we do. ... I do my best not to fly off the handle and act irrational. It’s just I don’t know that this is working for the benefit of you, me and Miami Dolphins.” Philbin that it was “not really just last night” in regards to his arrest, but said, “I don’t see the mesh right now ... and I just think it’s best for both of us if we kind of part ways” ("Hard Knocks," HBO, 8/14).
PHILBIN'S LOSS: In Ft. Lauderdale, Izzy Gould notes HBO “cautioned viewers not to miss the first five minutes, going as far as saying the episode was one of the proudest moments in the training camp series,” and the “final product did not disappoint.” Viewers had to “wait until the end of the show to see the meeting” between Johnson and Philbin after Johnson was released from jail. Gould: “So what happened in those first five minutes? The show begins with the news of the death of the son of Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid. First-year coach Joe Philbin talks about the death of his son Michael, who died in January. Philbin's wife attended Reid's son's funeral. Philbin maintained his even demeanor throughout the reflection of his son's passing” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 8/15).