Remember back in grade school when we all had to write about what we did on our summer vacation? Well, after the 2012 NFL Draft ended, I took a great deal of time touring the European countryside, listening to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Now, it's time to get back to work. But instead of writing about what I did this summer, I thought I'd write about what I missed while I was away. And the one story that really piqued my interest was:
Darlington: 'Hard Knocks' in Miami
Like most fans, I love to peek behind the doors of sports franchises. Providing an opportunity to see how things really work, "Hard Knocks" is a fantastic show.
However, it is also a dangerous show.
The danger is in exposing to fans that some organizational members might not be too well-versed in their jobs. When I worked for Al Davis with the Oakland Raiders, he would always stress to everyone that whenever you were talking to the media, you were really talking to three groups of people: 1) your own players; 2) the organization; and 3) the fans. Each word, each thought must be crafted with a clear understanding of the message you want to deliver to all three groups.
I remember when the Kansas City Chiefs did "Hard Knocks" back in 2007. In one scene, then-head coach Herm Edwards was sitting in his office deciding which quarterback should start: Brodie Croyle or Damon Huard? Edwards agonized over this decision like he was choosing between dating Angelina Jolie or Megan Fox. I realize television made this decision more dramatic than it really was, but Edwards could have done a better job of articulating his thought process. I watched this scene as I'm sure many Chiefs fans did, screaming into my television that he does not have a real decision to make, as he has no quarterback. Neither Croyle nor Huard was a legitimate NFL starter. For Edwards to play this dramatic game for all to see made many lose confidence in his thought process. I realize Edwards couldn't have come out and said both aren't good enough, but he could have done a better job in sharing his football knowledge with the world. As the 2007 season wore on, I could see the fans had lost faith in Edwards and couldn't help but think that "Hard Knocks" had something to do with that. That's where the danger is.
In fairness to "Hard Knocks," it's not a bad experience for everyone involved. When the Cincinnati Bengals allowed "Hard Knocks" inside their training camp, America was able to take a peek into the inner workings of the organization, and everyone finally realized that owner Mike Brown was making all the decisions, which then shined a brighter light on head coach Marvin Lewis. Lewis displayed notable diplomatic skills in dealing with Brown; he was polite but firm in trying to accomplish what he felt was in the best interest of the team. It is not an easy job being the head coach of the Bengals, but Lewis showed his fan base he was up for the challenge.
When fans peek into Dolphins camp this summer, general manager Jeff Ireland must prove to everyone that he is the most qualified person for the job -- that he's not just a "yes" man for owner Stephen Ross. Head coach Joe Philbin must show everyone he is ready for the challenges ahead and that he is not just waiting for someone (Ireland or Ross) to tell him what to do. This is a fine line to walk, particularly for a first-year head coach.
The reason so many teams won't consider doing "Hard Knocks" is because the show is a potential (and unnecessary) distraction. The smart position coaches and executives try to stay out of the limelight, steering clear of the cameras' line of fire. But some coaches and executives see this as an opportunity to get their next big job/promotion, which can be a huge mistake.
I am excited to watch "Hard Knocks," but more excited to see how Ross behaves -- as well as Ireland and Philbin. This is a huge undertaking for the Dolphins, as they could potentially gain more fans. But they could also lose whatever confidence the fan base has in the organization.
For me, the risks far outweigh the rewards with "Hard Knocks."
I hope all the fathers had a wonderful Father's Day -- especially my dad, who is still going strong at 86 years young.