LOS ANGELES — True reality television – and let’s be honest, what claims to be real isn’t by any stretch these days – is raw, emotional and has you on the edge of your seat. The second episode of “Hard Knocks” was reality television at its finest. Osi Umenyiora agreed. Chad Johnson, not so much.
When news broke last Saturday evening that Johnson had been arrested following a domestic dispute with his wife of a month, “reality star” Evelyn Lozada, I was shocked. Like most, I didn’t think of Johnson rolled that way. His off-field shenanigans were just that: usually playful, over-the-top, yes, but never brought true harm to anyone. He had never been arrested during his playing career so it wasn’t anything you expected.
The dispute, which depending on who you believe involved a receipt for condoms, and according to the police report, a headbutt, clearly, went too far this time and ultimately it cost him his job and probably his NFL career. At 34, Johnson is years removed from the peak of his playing days and endzone dance routines. He had a nice run with Carson Palmer in Cincinnati but completely lost it in New England last year, and early reports in Miami was he was too slow and didn’t have the hands to compete, despite its lack of wide receiver depth. One scene in Episode Two was telling for me, where the QBs were talking in their meeting about how even they didn’t know what Chad was doing half the time. David Garrard even wondered if he was getting the plays.
The NFL is a production-based league – like all sports – and if you can still perform at a high level people will continue to make excuses for your poor behavior. Johnson couldn’t and so he was let go. It’s sad, yes, because of the circumstances surrounding the release.
When the news broke, I immediately wondered how the producers would handle it. Turns out they went with some buildup talking about the other receivers and how Johnson was struggling, even dropping a sure catch in the Dolphins preseason game that Friday. Then, it happened and Joe Philbin took almost immediate action. In the room, I thought the coach handled it with class. It was obvious Chad was nervous, pensive, bewildered and knew it was coming. In fact, the director of security who talked with Chad said he was freaking out and “he may have an inkling of what’s coming.” But as someone pointed out on Twitter, he never once denied the incident, just that he’d never gotten in trouble before. “I let you down,” he told Philbin, who was not amused from the get-go with Johnson’s behavior. On the phone before the meeting, Philbin told someone, “(Johnson’s) temperament isn’t right for us.”
There was an amazing shot from the locker room of the Dolphins equipment guy cleaning out Johnson’s locker while Les Brown, the former basketball-playing finance man who’s trying to become an NFL tight end, looked on. It was telling because it appeared, almost with certainty, that Brown would be among the first Philbin cut. Alas, it was Johnson, who not only lost his job but his VH1 reality show he was filming with Lozada which was set to premiere in September. It was canceled in wake of the news.
The NFL, the ultimate reality show.
Other things I liked/noticed from this week’s episode: It’s really too bad the Chad Johnson situation overshadowed what started the episode, the tragedy involving Eagles coach Andy Reid and the passing of his son, Garrett. Philbin lost his son within the last year as tragically and knew exactly what Reid was going through. I thought that segment was well done … my man, Les Brown, got a lot of air time this week. He was the first to show up for the meeting and one coach wondered if it was because the HBO was there; “I was in here before the coaches, coach.” Too bad he didn’t see any passes come gametime … Mike Sherman = Dan Campbell = badass … poor David Garrard, who earlier said he was happy and healthy, apparently hurts his knee playing with his kids in the pool. Also, loving the Louis V man purse … It took 32 minutes before we saw Mrs. Tannehill and 39 before the Dolphins cheerleaders made an appearance. Come on, guys … The rookies’ haircuts was easily the funniest part of the first two episodes. Shaving eyebrows makes the bleach blonde hair from earlier look good. And how awesome was Philbin’s reaction to JC’s head penis? “Glad we’re such a first class organization.” Dying for the McKayla Maroney meme with the Philbin NOT IMPRESSED face … Loved the storm time lapse and the helmet in-bump before the preseason game … Offensive line coach Jim Turner’s becoming a quiet star along with Sherman, with the line of the show in reference to showing the cheerleaders’ “Call Me Maybe” video: “I saw the happy faces and the desks were up 6 inches.”