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'Hard Knocks' Episode 5 recap: Finale puts bow on Dolphins training camp

For most television shows, the season finale provides the payoff for everything that came before it.

"Hard Knocks" is the same way ... to a point. Plotlines for fringe players are tied up neatly, the final cutdown day representing the climax of storylines we followed for a month.

But the NFL season is so much more than just training camp. HBO gave us everything we'll need to know about Chris "7-Eleven" Hogan. Ryan Tannehill, not so much.

Perhaps that's the next logical step for the superb "Hard Knocks" series -- documenting a team for an entire NFL season. It's hard to imagine anyone (even the Jets) giving that kind of access for six months, though I suppose stranger things have happened ... you know, like David Garrard telling America about his annual colonoscopy exams.

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Let's get to the observations from Episode 5:

Hard knocks on 'Hard Knocks'

As you might imagine, a large portion of the finale was dedicated to bubble players praying they don't get summoned to Jeff Ireland's office. Some players -- like wide receiver Marlon Moore and fullback Jorvorskie Lane -- get happy endings. Others -- like defensive end Jarrell Root and nose tackle Isaako Aatui -- do not.

It's easy to feel for Aatui as he packs his belongings and prepares to move his family whereever the football gods summon him next.

"I'm still kind of freaked out about the news this morning," he says. "I wasn't expecting it. ... We'll see where this road's gonna take me."

That's where "Hard Knocks" leaves off on this story. We learned Tuesday the New York Jets released Aatui three days after claiming him. Let's hope he never got around to unpacking.

It was a pretty heavy message to send to a team when you're talking about Week 4 of the preseason, though we suspect this is the first time Philbin has lost four straight games in some time.

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Joe Philbin has his work cut out for him

As we watched the Dolphins drop to 0-4 in the preseason, you could see the frustration radiating off Philbin. The Dolphins coach -- who recently spoke with NFL Network's Albert Breer about his "Hard Knocks" experience -- tore into his players at halftime and again after the game, deriding their lack of effort and execution against the Dallas Cowboys.

Wide receivers. Wide problems.

Speaking of Chad Johnson ...

You can read my full rundown of Johnson's three-minute finale cameo here, but let's just circle back to the calf tattoo for a second.

Fellow Americans: Never get permanent body art of your estranged wife on a prominent area of your body. If you feel like you have to engrave a loved one on your person -- and I can't foresee a reality where that would be case -- but if you did, get ink of your mom. She's always going to love you. Anyone else is just playing with fire.

Moving on.

Did you have 11 minutes in the Lauren Tannehill office pool?

That's how long "Hard Knocks" held off this week before Ryan Tannehill's ferociously blonde wife appeared at the home the couple shares with 34 dogs. I like to think I have a good reality television B.S. radar, and my emergency siren went off when Ryan and Lauren were putting together Ikea furniture in their living room.

Make no mistake: Putting together Ikea furniture is the worst. Even the powers that be at Ikea concede as much. Rich people -- like the young and fabulous Tannehills -- don't assemble ridiculous end tables made in Sweden. Unless of course, HBO producers needed to justify Lauren's inclusion in the season finale.

You can tell me I'm cynical, but don't tell me I'm wrong.

Quote of the night, Part I

"I think I had the 'Homeward Bound' soundtrack on cassette tape." -- Matt Moore, respected NFL quarterback

Quote of the night, Part II

"Usually when girls give you a number they give you six numbers, you know what I mean? When you dial it, there's no seventh number, you get it? The only reason I know that is because it used to happen to me all the time." -- Jim Turner, offensive line coach and known ladies man.

David Garrard falls short

You get the feeling the Dolphins really wanted to keep David Garrard on this roster. And considering Philbin developed a full-on man crush on Pat Devlin by the end of camp, this could've meant curtains for Matt Moore. But Garrard didn't look healthy enough in his workout, his surgically repaired knee keeping him from moving fluidly and driving his throws.

It appears Moore and his 37.5 passer rating in the preseason caught a fortuitious break.

The long-awaited return of the gratuitous Dolphins cheerleader interstitial

After trolling us with the Sweaty 300-Pound Men Stretching With Foam Rollers interstitial last week, "Hard Knocks" returned to form Tuesday with a peak into the Dolphins' cheerleader calendar release party. This actually exists, and it apparently all happens in slow motion.

Tony Romo makes a cameo

Back in Episode 3, tight ends coach Dan Campbell made waves in a coaches meeting when he compared third-string quarterback Pat Devlin to his former Dallas Cowboys teammate, Tony Romo. Later, we see Campbell and Romo talking on the field at Cowboys Stadium.

"Don't you ever compare me to another quarterback again in these meetings, OK?" Romo says as he lands fake body blows to Campbell's solar plexus. "I'm watching this."

I'd love to tell you Romo said that in a nasty way, but he was clearly kidding. Stand down, Tony Haters of America.

Final takeaways

It was a lot of fun recapping these episodes -- because as I said five weeks ago -- this is undoubtedly the greatest football program in the history of the television medium. I'm now invested in this Dolphins team, and I'll closely follow the players and coaches "Hard Knocks" brought to light.

And if "Hard Knocks" can make you care about this potentially sorry Dolphins team, they can make you care about anyone. Bravo, guys.

Dan Hanzus recapped every episode of "Hard Knocks" this summer. Read his first four recaps here, here, here and here. Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.

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