Why this year’s Hard Knocks experience should make more want to follow in the Dolphins footsteps…

When presenting an argument, it can be important to disclose your bias off the top. We all have them in some form or another, and doing so can assist in clarity. I’ll do that now in saying that I love HBO’s Hard Knocks. I was a big fan of the show before, and this season featuring the Miami Dolphins has only increased that. It’s must-TiVo TV.

So, some of this, I’m sure, is presented through that prism — I want the show to continue. Knowing all that, my point is this:

The Dolphins have come off extremely well in Hard Knocks. And this experience should make other teams fall over themselves to be featured next year.

I’m starting to realize my views might not be in the majority. This morning, analyst Ross Tucker tweeted that he thought no team would want to do Hard Knocks with the criticism QB Ryan Tannehill, coach Joe Philbin, and GM Jeff Ireland are getting. Miami-based agent David Canter described the fan base as “livid.”

I don’t get any of that. As I said, the Dolphins have represented themselves quite well. Let me explain.

What have I learned about the Dolphins by watching their TV show? Well…

Philbin is a sound, reasonable guy who has his door open for players, believes in strong values, doesn’t like cursing, and handles even the most ridiculous thing (a player cursing at him) with class. When Philbin cut Chad Johnson, it could have been awful. An inside look at a terrible reality for a coach, crushing someone’s dreams. He could have been outed as a soulless jerk. Instead, Philbin was gentle but stern, explaining the reasons for the release but never using the word release or cut. It was classy, and it seemed like even Johnson appreciated that. When players are in pain, it looks like Philbin feels it.

Sure, it’s obvious they are still building a team. Not already having a veterans counsel in place is surprising. But it’s got to start somewhere, and the Dolphins showed they are doing it. They look like things have really slipped the last few years, but are starting to build it back up. That’s the feeling I get.

Tannehill and QB Matt Moore are funny, and their conversations crack me up. If there were points for worldly intelligence, Tannehill would fail for not being able to name the NFL divisions, but that was all in good fun. I like him more after that, because really, it’s not that easy. And Tannehill can laugh at himself. I’ve thought most of the individual players have come off as team-oriented, including Moore and David Garrard. Both handled getting passed over by Tannehill with a team-first attitude. What organization wouldn’t want to show that?

The inside looks at coaches’ evaluations haven’t been kind, but they never are. What fans have learned is that there is a reason why a guy isn’t getting playing time. If he’s cut, they can learn why. And actually, I think Hard Knocks provides a service because it shows fans who may be drinking optimistic Kool-Aid that the Dolphins are seriously rebuilding. There is a major talent issue, and Hard Knocks lets us know. This, in reality, will cushion the fall when this team starts off and looks terrible. It’s like we’ve been prepared.

Sure, it hasn’t all been perfect. Life isn’t perfect. If someone had me in a reality show (God forbid), there would be some moments where I simply look bad. Me staring at my phone because of an unreturned phone call, screwing up some takes for TV, putting on makeup. Life is not always pretty. Neither has it been for the Dolphins. But you don’t need to cover up all warts to make it a worthwhile experience. If it was simply a PR vehicle, no one would watch it. There have to be some issues that don’t look good to make us believe the ones that do.

To me, the only person who comes off looking not fantastic is Ireland… and that’s just in one scene. The pep talk with Vontae Davis after he traded him was awkward. Ireland should’ve just told Davis he was traded and allowed him to walk out and call his grandma. You don’t break up with a girl, then explain why you chose to hook up with her hotter and more fun neighbor. I could just tell Ireland was playing to the cameras.

It’s the same reason I cringe when my wife is watching Keeping Up With The Kardashians or when The Hills was on… both of which I swear I never watched. Anyway, both shows are essentially fine fluff, except when it’s clear their characters are playing to the cameras or uttering scripted lines. Then, I want to punch the TV. That was the category that Ireland’s Davis pep talk fell into. He knew the cameras were there, tried to make sure it looked good, and it didn’t.

But besides that, Ireland comes off as savvy. Think about the sneak peek we got into the Davis trade, one that shows Ireland to be a sound business man. The first offer he got for Davis from the Indianapolis Colts was for a fifth and a sixth round draft pick. Well, after haggling, Ireland received a second and a conditional late-round draft pick. What fan wouldn’t be interested in knowing their GM is fighting effectively when it comes to value?

Anyway, Hard Knocks is not PR. It can function as that, but there are some negatives. When the organization isn’t prepared or has to rip a player for being terrible, they show it. But charismatic coaches like Jim Turner show themselves to be tough guys you’d love to play for. Philbin, also, appears as a reasoned, rationale coach you’d suit up for.

So, where is the negative? Maybe I missed it. To me, as good as the Dolphins have shown themselves to be as a franchise, I think another team would jump at the chance to follow in their footsteps.

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