How do you know a series is truly great? A pretty good litmus test — when it defines your leisure time during that particular day of the week, leaving behind a massive void once the season ends, then it's probably pretty great. Game of Thrones fans know how that feels on Sundays. Fans of any legendary Thursday night show on NBC's "Must See TV" night know.
And Houston Texan fans now share that same feeling on Tuesdays, at least for the time being.
The 2015 season of Hard Knocks ended on Tuesday night, and as predicted, it was fairly emotional, with characters we've grown to love through these 300 minutes of television learning of their professional football fates, many of which no longer involve the Houston Texans. I will miss this show. I will miss it undoubtedly as a media member, as it made our jobs these last five weeks exponentially easier in covering the team and generating content.
Moreover, though, I will miss it as a fan. As plugged in as we feel with our teams in the Social Media Era, and as good a job as the Texans do of leveraging those platforms, we will never hear head coach Bill O'Brien utter an f-bomb publicly again. Or at least not spew a machine gun-like barrage of multiple f-bombs again. And that's a shame. I'm pondering using all of O'Brien's "fucks" on a loop as my ringtone just to ween myself off the show. I have issues, I know.
All right, let's do the final recap of what was a very enjoyable Hard Knocks season:
1. We open at practice where Bill O'Brien is dog cussing out somebody because they had the wrong down and distance on a drill. As it turned out, that person was O'Brien, who promptly acknowledges the mistake, tells himself to go fuck himself, and then drops and does a handful of push-ups. We LOVE that kind of accountability. You know which former New England offensive coordinator would never have done this in a million years? Charlie Weis. In part, because Charlie never thinks he's wrong and, in part, because it would require heavy machinery just to get Charlie into a face down position on the ground and Brock Lesnar's arms to push that gargantuan torso off the ground.
2. Carli Lloyd sighting at Texans practice! I think any time that any of these four Houston sports figures — J.J. Watt, James Harden, Carlos Correa, and Lloyd — are in the same room with one another, Houstonians should get some sort of push alert on their phones so they'll know to check Twitter for all of the pictures and videos. This week, we get Carli kicking in a field goal kicking contest with 350 pound Vince Wilfork, who miraculously is able to kick a 25 and 35 yard field goal. I say it's miraculous, but Wilfork has basically the same physique as Randy Bullock, so Texans fans should be used to seeing this.
2a. Two bullet points, two fat jokes. I need to grow up.
2b. You can't close the door on the Carli Lloyd appearance without mentioning that wide receiver EZ Nwachukwu likes her. I mean really likes her, like he's pouring his heart out to Cecil Shorts-level likes her. Appropriately, Nwachukwu allows DeAndre Hopkins, the more accomplished veteran player, to talk to Lloyd. Etiquette.
3. We get a segment on former Rice defensive tackle Christian Covington, who is somehow being painted as a risk to not make the team, even though he's been the team's best defensive lineman in the preseason games. We see O'Brien giving a private assessment of Covington to GM Rick Smith and O'Brien makes a point to say that "Covington will put his nose to the grindstone," which is really O'Brien's passive aggressive way of calling Louis Nix III a lazy piece of shit.
4. We get the two minute montage of "guys who we know end up getting waived" — Corey Moore, EZ Nwachukwu, Lynden Trail, Kourtnei Brown, Charles James — and the last time I felt this badly for a bunch of guys in a video sequence like this it was when WWE would recap the Undertaker's opponents in his undefeated Wrestlemania streak.
5. Bill O'Brien and Rick Smith are in O'Brien's office and they're having a discussion about Kourtnei Brown. Just an observation — in these conversations that the coach and GM have about players, I very much get the sense (and I think accurately) that this is O'Brien's show. Smith may negotiate trades and contracts, but none of it gets done without O'Brien's stamp. That's the vibe I get. (Also, I will note here that I forgot which player O'Brien and Smith were discussing in this scene, so I went back to my DVR to check and realized I recorded the Spanish speaking version of Hard Knocks. Oddly enough, Smith makes more sense in Spanish to me than English. Also, I don't speak any Spanish. Take that for what it's worth.)
6. GOOD GAWD ALMIGHTY…. THAT'S ARIAN FOSTER'S THEME MUSIC!! Just when we thought his character had been killed off, here is Arian Foster rehabbing his injured groin with a weird drill that involves a large pink ball in between his knees. I haven't been this excited for a character returning to one of my favorite series since Tony Almeida came back for Season 7 of 24. It would have been better if somehow Arian's groin were all a big ruse to swerve the Texans, and he was really a mole for the Colts on Andre Johnson's personal payroll. But I digress...
6a. Arian Foster's appearance was 41 seconds long.
7. We get a Jadeveon Clowney sequence that is the most revealing thus far as to where he is physically. It's revealing because O'Brien is gushing about having "99 and 90" out there together, and then we watch a play in practice where Clowney ruins a left tackle and blisters some poor running back in the backfield. It was like pre-surgery Clowney explosiveness. I got slightly aroused, I'm not afraid to admit it.
8. Lynden Trail is on FaceTime with his girlfriend's daughter reciting the Lord's prayer. Jonathan Grimes is playing mellow, classical piano with Vince Wilfork. Somewhere near Oakland, there's an earthquake from all of the dead Oakland Raiders of the 70's rolling over in their graves.
9. We are now into the Dallas game, and Kourtnei Brown can't do a goddamn thing right. He runs into the game thinking he's supposed to be part of the group that's lined up, and the coaches scream for him to come back to the bench and remind him he is in sub packages. Not a good look. Then they show a sequence of Brown fuck ups that is essentially the NFL undrafted free agent version of the James Harden Deadspin "awful defense" video. The capper in all of this was Brown tapping out to come out of the game because he was tired. This went over like a fart in the film room with linebackers coach Mike Vrabel. The bottom line with Brown seems to be that Vrabel spends an inordinate amount of time coaching one guy on a ton of very basic shit.
10. The Charles James montage from the Cowboys is not Brown-level bad, but it's enough foreshadowing to know where this story is headed. The play where he just misses a pass break up (and the receiver turns upfield and gains another 15 yards) … one play where he gets mauled on a downfield block … all kinds of "he's too small, he's too short" kind of footage.
11. We see Louis Nix III getting called to the coach's office, Doug West making a slew of phone calls, and Kareem Jackson telling Charles James "If you don't know, now ya know" … and yes, now we know …. it's time to start making cuts. Let's get this thing in the proper mood with some music….
… go ahead and play this music as you read the next several bullet points.
11a. Kourtnei Brown is called into Rick Smith's office for a chat, and Brown knows exactly where this is going. He's heard it six times before. Smith gives him the "so close, did a lot of good things, had a great summer" speech, and Brown looks like he's a patient in the movie Outbreak being told exactly what the symptoms of the Motaba virus are. (By the way, how do Smith and O'Brien decide who cuts certain players? Do they do rocks-paper-scissors? Draw straws? Play Opeation: The Whacky Doctor's Game? I am curious about this.)
14b. Christian Covington is called into Bill O'Brien's office, but it's just to tell him how awesome he is. And O'Brien's right. Covington is awesome. I would trust him watching my kids, my house, and my mutual funds.
14c. EZ Nwachukwu's turn, and O'Brien tells him they're releasing him because he doesn't really run the routes they need him to in O'Brien's offense. O'Brien goes on to tell him that maybe he'd be better on a team where they run a lot of go routes and deep posts. Basically, O'Brien is telling EZ that he'd be the perfect Oakland Raider, and let me say that I commend EZ for not punching O'Brien in the mouth.
14d. O'Brien and Smith are seen in O'Brien's office talking about the final roster spot — Charles James vs Jumal Rolle. We find out that they're trying to trade Rolle, and they spend the entire couple minutes trying to talk themselves out of keeping Charles James, even though they come up with numerous reasons to keep him. Ultimately, they decide that if they can't find a trade partner for Rolle, they will keep Rolle and cut James, because Rolle is longer. Whatever. Honestly, all I heard was the two of them talking about stabbing me in the heart, because I love Charles James and you should, too!
14e. Chris Polk made the team, which means he needs to tell his Mom, which means we get another scene with CHRIS POLK'S MOM!! She spends five seconds congratulating him, and 55 seconds telling him that if he gets tackled he's a big pussy or something. It's right here where I wonder how much Chris Polk's mom would charge me to have her give me a daily pep talk via FaceTime.
(NOTE: We interrupt these player cuts to show J.J. Watt getting on a private plane to Dallas for Wisconsin-Alabama, and Christian Covington hanging out at a Rice game with a crowd of about 5,000. Definite metaphor sequence.)
14e. Charles James gets the phone call, and we see O'Brien and Smith agreeing that "This is gonna be a tough one." NO SHIT, SHERLOCK. O'Brien ends up doing the honors on the release of Charles James which makes me 1000 times sadder than the deaths of Eddard Stark, Oberyn Martell, Bobby Bacala, and James from Good Times combined. I say that with nary a hint of hyperbole. Ok, and here's the football thing with the James release — O'Brien tells James that some of the things that happened in the Cowboys game exposed his physical flaws. Basically, it showed that he was just too small to match up with big receivers and they have a lot of big receivers in the division. So what I'm saying is that any of you who say the fourth preseason game doesn't matter can GO TO HELL … STRAIGHT TO HELL. It cost us Charles James, you assholes.
The only thing that could've cushioned the blow of losing all my favorites would be if Bill O'Brien did the cuts the same way Sporting KC picked their active roster for the Portland road trip in MLS. Random reference, I know, but this is amazing...
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Fortunately, we learn that all of our favorites who just had their dreams splattered against O'Brien's office wall landed on their feet — Brown picked up by the Bucs on waivers, EZ landing on Miami's practice squad, and James choosing to start anew in Baltimore. (And somehow Keshawn Martin remains a Texan.)
The producers leave us with sage words from O'Brien, who was the clear cut star of the series — "You have to compete to earn your roster spot every day. It's all about the team. You gotta earn it every fucking day."
Fuck yeah, I'll miss this fucking show.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at