With the NFL preseason well underway with a lot of bad football and third-string quarterback mistakes, HBO is giving us a reason to watch football before the regular season has started. Now in its sixth season on HBO’s Hard Knocks, the NFL training camp reality series/documentary is better than ever. This year’s series, which airs every Wednesday evening through Sept. 8, is a behind-the-scenes look at the N.Y Jets training camp – the most entertaining training camp the show has put the spotlight on in its six-year tenure.
Last year when the Hard Knocks crew took us behind the scenes at the Bengals training camp or even the previous season in Dallas, the series had a more dramatic and serious feel to it. Young players were being cut. NFL dreams were lost. Training camp was a brutal time for rookies and veterans alike. In comparison to what NFL Films had shown us for the past 20 years, Hard Knocks during the past few seasons was basically the same with a touch of foul language. It was good, but nothing worth clearing your schedule to watch.
This season, with cameras and microphones focused in on Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan, the show is not to miss. Watching Rex Ryan at training camp is a perfect mix of equal-parts NFL Films, The Sopranos (language!) and Curb Your Enthusiasm. I have never been a Jets fan and never plan on being a Jets fan, but I have to say that I like Rex Ryan and the loose-and-humorous way he handles his team during training camp. It is something I didn’t expect to see in the NFL. Believe me, he isn’t the army drill sergeant-type running practice with a lot of screaming and anger.
Ryan simply doesn’t seem like the coach of one the NFL’s most popular teams right now. Frankly, he seems like an overweight car salesman with lot of bad jokes and a mouth that just won’t quit. While some NFL coaches are all business and operate like robots, Ryan, on the other hand, is human. He is overweight and struggles with overeating, yet fines himself $5 every time he eats an un-sanctioned snack. He gets excited, like fans get excited, when he sees a player that makes an unbelievable play. He is a kid in an NFL candy store and often acts like you or I would if we had an NFL team (and all its resources) under our control. It’s nice to see a human wearing headphones for once.
Of course, since it’s on HBO, there is some foul language. And with Rex Ryan, it’s a lot of foul language, particularly the F-bomb. While speaking to the entire team, on the sidelines, in coaches meetings, and just about every other minute during the hour-long program, Rex Ryan drops a lot of f-bombs. This show isn’t for the 10-year-old. Twelve-year-old, maybe, but certainly not for the 10-year-old.
In the sports media world the past week, Ryan’s love of the f-bomb has been a major topic of discussion after former coach and current NBC analyst Tony Dungy told Dan Patrick on his radio show that if he was in charge of a team, he “wouldn’t hire somebody like that” because of his use of language. Dungy later alluded to the notion that the league should clamp down on that kind of language, if it is going to be aired on television.
While I think Dungy means well and has done (and still does) a long list of work for the community and mentoring troubled players like Michael Vick, I think he should just give the anti-Rex Ryan a rest. Dungy isn’t in charge of the Jets or the NFL, so spare us the goody-goody diatribe against Rex’s f-bombs. Is it really that bad? If so, turn the channel.
After Dungy’s comments about Ryan’s language, what do you think the Jets owner Woody Johnson said? “You know what, I love it,” the New York Times reported. “Whatever you’re doing, do it again. Keep doing it.”
It seems Johnson understands that there is a buzz surrounding his team right now and that it is a good thing. Hell, this Bronco fan is excited about watching Rex Ryan coach the Jets this season.
And it wasn’t the f-bombs that Dungy didn’t like. It was Ryan’s humorous and likeable approach to coaching in the NFL. I haven’t spent a whole lot of time in NFL locker rooms lately, but I think we can all acknowledge that Rex Ryan’s style of coaching is different in comparison to most other coaches in the NFL. I think a successful coach like Dungy sees him as almost a joke and his style as a joke. But so far, it has worked. Ryan’s players want to play well for Ryan. They respect Ryan. And players from other teams want to play for Ryan.
Last season Ryan took his team to the playoffs and put the Jets back on the NFL elite team map. This season his team is on Hard Knocks and everybody is talking about the Jets and the foul-mouthed coach. On Tuesday morning, Patriots quarterback “pretty boy” Tom Brady said he hates the Jets. Since when have the Jets been on Brady’s radar?
Of course I am going to remain faithful to the Denver Broncos, but you better believe I, and the rest of the nation, will be watching this season to see if the jokester Rex Ryan and his style of coaching will be successful for a second season in the NFL.
I am willing to bet that it will be.