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A Recap of Episode 1 of Hard Knocks In Season with the Arizona Cardinals plus takeaways

The Cardinals’ first foray onto the HBOMax documentary pulled zero punches on the team’s desire to win and their frustration over self-inflicted wounds.

The following is a recap of HBO’s Hard Knocks - In Season with the Arizona Cardinals in the spotlight.

Kyler Murray walking alone angry after the 3 turnover Vikings’ loss and slamming his helmet into the ground.

That opening?

Dramatic. Sweeping. And absolutely stunning as the opening showed the team’s quarterback leaving the field after falling to 3-5. Rather than a positive, hopeful approach such as training camp, it immediately jumped into the same semblance of doom and showing the pressure the team is feeling.

Kliff addressing his coaches, the coaches addressing the players...but not a lot of context

The most notable thing about Kingsbury and the Cardinals (besides his good looks and bachelor lifestyle) IS that he was hired after a firing, and that they were a playoff team last year.

The coach seemed far more like an alpha, at least as far as assuming that sort of role to everyone else, compared to what is normally the case.

One thing that does seem to be a bit...different, however is the reaction of the players to their coach. It’s going to be interesting to see Arizona after a win, how the players react or how they band together/fall apart.

It was interesting seeing the Quarterback coaching room and Murray dwelling a bit on the plays that could have been made in the evaluations, and it was also interesting that Kingsbury wasn’t in the room.

My belief, given the nature of the Cardinals and how the Cleveland Browns game went in 2021 is that he’s developing the gameplan for the following week as far as the script, the practice and everything else.

On the other hand, the fact that the coaches were specifically talking about effort and looking at Budda was fascinating. Baker plays without abandon and has incredible instincts and hustle.

The way things get framed can be deceiving (more on that later) and I’m guessing that the Cardinals aren’t necessarily a lazy team but rather building a narrative from different stories makes sense as far as painting Baker’s passionate play. It’ll be interesting to see without him how they do or if effort’s brought up a lot.

Coaches Burke & Davis brought up effort in the episode.

The stakes were plain to everyone

“Can’t go 1-3, season comes down to the next 3 games.” The team seemed to be completely aware of the fact that going 2-0 could mean a return to first place.

There was a desperation, a pressure that you could feel, and there was still hope at 3-5.

It’ll be interesting to see if that hope caves after today. The coach indeed, for all the “Coach Bro” love he gets had a mouth salty as Bruce Arians on All or nothing.

Some interesting details on Kliff, along with the obvious followed...

Took 12 minutes and 30 seconds to mention he coached Mahomes.

You knew it was coming.

The trip to his house was interesting as:

  1. Kliff is a bachelor so his taste in art is...interesting (3 paintings and a bunch of TV’s like he never left college) inside the famous house
  2. The open, blank spaces of the house, brightly lit followed by the darkness of the TV room could make for some great psychology analysis
  3. It was interesting hearing the phrase “Everything is Copacetic” used in episode by the narrator as it was also used by Michael Bidwill this summer in talking about the extensions and Kyler Murray. before.
  4. Kliff didn’t make his bed before HBO shows up? He’s just like me, for real!

There was a surprising amount of star power.

Between those two, a night out with Hopkins & his Clemson protege and Budda Baker stealing the show and hearts before his’s good for the show and for the Organization.

J.J. Watt and Zach Ertz also got some showing as well as Murray, who seemed to hold a gravity all his own throughout the show.

It was interesting that James Conner didn’t get much love, nor any of the cornerbacks, defensive or offensive lineman. Or the special teams!

The conversation with Shawn Jefferson and DeAndre Hopkins

“It’s who you are.”

Yeah Hopkins is different. It was a bit tragic to hear him ask if he still had a shot at the Hall of Fame after his suspension, of which he pleaded his case to Isaiah Simmons...although he didn’t go into detail.

It was a surprising bit of humility from a player whose cocky attitude years ago on Hard Knocks with the Texans wound up with an ankle-breaking move on DeAngelo Hall. Like the coach said—he’s almost ignorant of how good he is.

There was some humor.

Murray’s mention of Mucinex-D when the rain stormed.

The talk in the pouring rain and players being afraid of it by JJ Watt and Zach Ertz, the former being from Wisconsin and the latter born in Cali...but played in Philadelphia for years.

You still never get used to it when it happens in Arizona, frankly.

Watt posing in the rain meditating was a fun image as well. You could almost hear the dramatic music playing in his head.

Budda Baker’s inspirational speech—step up, recover, tired of losing...whew.

It’s almost like watching a “death flag” or an item before it happens, in a way. (Like a soldier in a war movie who pulls out a picture of a girl back home where you know that he’s going to die because it happened). And we know the ending.

You know they will lose and he gets hurt but he rallies the team and you can see how the team’s struggles to correct the issues seem to be spiraling.

Also it was amazing to have his profanity-laden tirade followed up immediately by the Lord’s Prayer in the locker room.

I, too, need to try to play harder than Budda after seeing him.

Also...Mary Carter might be a small star of the show right now and I hope she’s in more episodes.

Budda’s relationship with his sister is awesome.

Me and my sister aren’t probably as tight as those two are...him joking about charging 50 cents to do laundry as his sister would be attending ASU was a highlight. More family stuff, please. Like Kyler’s mysterious yet close family unit, for example.

Budda’s family was adorable, though.

Michael Bidwill flying in on gameday and getting checked by his own crew.

Bidwill flying in on gameday from D.C. was interesting (perhaps a politics meeting?) as well as him driving himself to the airport and being checked by security before walking into the stadium that’s for his own team.

I do know that Michael doesn’t always drive himself, but he did today for the cameras.

Alright, time for the main event...

Before the game against the Seahawks.

JJ Watt about Budda Baker meeting a small child fan “same number, same size.”

He’s a national treasure, and clearly has replaced Larry Fitzgerald as the go-to guy giving a good ribbing in the locker room.

The owner’s box with Bidwill, Keim, and some other guy to the left of Michael Bidwill

Looking at owners box, I saw Michael Nicole, her Son, Brother and brother William Bidwill V, and...Arizona Governor Doug Ducey.

It was funny that Steve Keim got captions with his title. The governor of the state? Nah.

Bidwill and Keim always have Airpods in while watching the game, and I’d guess it’s to listen to Dave Pasch & Ron Wolfley’s call on the radio, which isn’t to be missed.

It’s also interesting to have essentially the Bidwill family and Steve there in the box each game. You get the sense of how close the long-time GM is with the org having spent 20 years as a scout. With his groan and job potentially at stake, he’s a character that we haven’t seen much of just yet.

It’s possible that it’s due to the In-Season nature vs. training camp we don’t see Keim as much.

The game had its ups and downs before the loss (Budda’s sister was adorable watching the team) but here were a few highlights:

  • Kyler’s hamstring being an issue previously and being re-aggravated with the news that he could miss some time, it might be Colt McCoy as a star next week if he can’t go
  • The tricky nature of editing. The plays with the high snap and two false starts (in which Billy Price seemed to not have or know the snap count or had all the Seahawks fans cheering too loudly) was edited where the 3rd and 18 play looked to be Hopkins upset at Murray that he was open. Rather, that was a 3rd down on a whole different series as they just ran the ball on 3rd and 18.
  • Murray’s forced fumble, on replay, wasn’t actually the ball swiped away. Rather the tackle Neal hit Murray’s knee as the ball came up and essentially stopped him but the ball kept its forward progress and flew out of his hand, like being ejected from a car without a seatbelt. It was an unusual play too, as Murray even said he wasn’t pushing his speed due to the aforementioned hamstring
  • Zaven Collins’ interception was fantastic in how it was covered and presented
  • Michael Bidwill is VERY dialed in with the team...he was able to see players like Budda fly across the field and understand some of the team’s play tendencies (finding Hopkins for a TD) and it’s definitely a different viewing experience I would imagine
  • Kliff saying “they can’t stop us” was...perhaps a bit motivational but in any case it was a unique and quiet postgame once it was shown that Seattle could indeed.

When looking at the offense, there were issues on the ground in several areas. Some linemen had problems, Murray invited pressure at times while also bailed the team out and the passing concepts, at times, were simply just covered too well by Seattle.

The biggest takeaway from watching this episode after watching the All-22 is:

How much of the game is ultimately emotional and physical.

It’s easy to see the game mentally from a sky-high view such as a passing play in which Murray moves to his right due to pressure while the play shows everyone covered.

And also how absolutely decimated Arizona’s O-Line has made their ability to run the ball. James Conner and Eno Benjamin had to break contact and the Seahawks seemed primed for a lot of their Defensive Line, from the stunts and pressures, it’s a miracle Murray didn’t get a bigger hit.

At the end of the day here’s the 3 takeaways:

  1. Budda and Kliff seem to be the stars so far, at least in episode one
  2. The behind-the-scenes Kliff and pressure he faces, along with the rest of the players, is a real look into things we haven’t seen much with the Cardinals, such as a postgame speech by Kingsbury
  3. There was a sense of dread and a feeling of being “lost” that seemed to carry throughout the team.

It does feel almost as though the issues the team have could just be related to injuries & personnel (after all Joseph’s own “I TOLD you about the boot” in an exasperated tone has this team starting out, essentially, with their last small bit of hope left suddenly extinguished by the end of the episode.

As some fans pointed out, it’s hard to target the root cause of their issues. Murray’s hurt but not banged up enough where the throws aren’t having velocity...they just don’t have a deep game or confidence there and it’s not seemingly related in practice. The team seemed to practice and execute just fine. Which makes the gameday issues all the more frustrating.

And adding injury to insult, losing Budda Baker as well was a cruel bookend for the episode.

“I’m not hungry. I’m mad.”

I think that describes most fans as well. Mad at the disappointment thus far this season.

Hungry for another episode.

I don’t know if Arizona is a team in collapse or a team that’s at their darkest before the dawn but in any case, the drama of their spiraling seems to be only just underway.