Background: December 12, 2022; Glendale, Ariz; USA; Cardinals Zach Allen (94) and JJ Watt (99) sack Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) during the first half of a game at State Farm Stadium. NFL Cardinals Patriots 1213 New England Patriots At Arizona Cardinals. Patrick Breen/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK.
In then aftermath of what has been one of the most tumultuous weeks of an utterly calamitous season for the Arizona Cardinals, HBO’s Hard Knocks In Season offered NFL and Cardinals’ fans a privileged look at how the coaches and players have been conducting their business behind the scenes and on the field.
Criticisms (I want to get these out of the way first):
The position rooms are not impressive —- players, on the whole, do not look or act fully engaged.
QB room, the real coach in the room is Colt. In this episode, Trace McSorley is eating breakfast during the session. It’s a bad look.
WR room, man, this crew looks zoned out.
Defense room with Vance, he commands the players’ attention, which is good. He starts impressively by saying that the last time he saw them (after the Chargers’ game) he could see the look of hurt in their eyes. But, instead of embellishing on and reinforcing that salient theme, he quickly turns the attention to how he and the coaches are hurting as well. And, as a result, the key focus was shifted in the wrong direction and was quickly lost.
Special teams room, while Jeff Rodgers is telling them how the Patriots “attack you, as in attacking the man,” right in front of him one player is looking at his cellphone. It is no wonder why the Cardinals players cannot seem to cohere as a group.
Perhaps, the most impressive room of the series thus far has been the OL room with Steve Heiden now in command. They looked unified in their cause. Yet, they had a rough second half.
The DL room with Matt Burke seems the most engaged and focused.
Be The First One in the Building And the Last One to Leave
Episode 5 begins with Kliff Kingsbury driving to work the Monday after the bye week at 3:18 in the morning. The aerial footage of Kliff’s car being the only car on the road at that hour of the morning is surreal. Kliff talked candidly about the regret he had about not doing all he could to develop as a pro QB and how he “wanted to make sure” that as a coach, regardless of which way his career would go, he could look in the mirror and know he gave everything he had.
On a previous episode, Kliff, while pointing outside of his bedroom window to Camelback Mountain, said that he rarely gets the chance to see Camelback in the daylight because he leaves for work and returns home in the dark.
Then we see Kliff walking into the team facility and conducting his daily workout. There is not another soul in sight as Kliff has turned on the light and is now jumping rope.. Kliff iterates how his morning routine helps him get his mind right in order to dive deeply into his agenda for the day.
In addition to showcasing Kliff’s extraordinary work ethic, this episode provides further evidence of how Kliff has maintained his composure and his belief in his players, despite having to deal with what seems to be some sort of a calamity every day.
“It’s all about playing our best football this week,” Kliff told the HBO crew whole pulling into the team facility. “Let’s get better today and improve, so we can do that.”
The footage of the players’ intensity at practice was extremely well orchestrated. The players were busting their butts, not only for the cameras, but for each other.
As for the game ——.
Despite being heartbroken to see Kyler Murray in such rough shape, physically and emotionally, Kliff sustained an upbeat demeanor on the sidelines, exhorting the players right to the very end.
The home game footage showed in great detail how the Cardinals self-destructed once again. As a fan, it was very painful to re-watch. How can the same old mistakes happen time and time again? What kind of impression do these redundant mistakes make on the fans’ perception of Kliff and the coaching staff?
But, just as many fans were apt to think that Kliff’s days as the Cardinals’ head coach are as numbered as the number of 33 days left in the season that he posted on the video board for all of the players to see, a few segments might make some fans (like myself) continue to have second thoughts as to whether Kliff should be fired:
1 —- Kliff praising Colt McCoy for how tough he played, despite not being given many reps with the first team all week —- and reminding Colt of how confident he is in Colt as a player and leader is impressive.
2 —- Robbie Anderson, who is starting to make some splash plays, made sure to tell Kliff after the game how he and the players and going to continue to “ride with you, Coach.”
3 —- Kliff and Bill Belichick embracing at mid-field, with BB telling him “I’ll call you.”
4 —- Kliff’s best and most poignant post-game speech to the team that we have seen to date on Hard Knocks, wherein he reminded the players how he chooses to treat them like men, and how they cannot continue to make game-altering mistakes. The emotion in the room was palpable and Kliff’s short message inspired a few heart-felt messages to the team from a couple of the players. At that moment, the players looked united.
The Bromance Between the G.O.A.T. and DeAndre Hopkins
So great of HBO to include the actual footage of Belichick’s “Ode to Nuk”. Very impressive. But, Kliff was quick to point out that when BB heaps praise on an opposing player, it means he is going to find a way to take him out of his game.
Nuk said how much BB’s praise means to him. Rightfully so.
Then, before the game HBO shows Nuk and BB hugging and saying “Love you, man.”
How ironic it was that Nuk’s rare disregard for ball security was the turning point in what was then a 13-13 game.
After the game, HBO showed Nuk and BB saying their “love you” farewells.
For those who may wonder whether BB is plnating a seed for a possible trade for Nuk, it’s hard to imagine that BB would give up the requisite, high draft picks and also agree to pay Nuk $30+M a year in order to make such a trade happen.
On the flip side, given that Nuk has a no trade clause and would have to approve of any trade, while he may be flattered that the G.O.A.T. wants to coach him, it would be equally hard to imagine that Nuk would agree to move away from a warm weather climate and be enamored with Mac Jones as his next QB.
JJ and Zach
The scene of them talking about bathing their dogs is a hoot!
JJ to Zach: “So you shower with your dog?”
Another great scene, is the one where JJ is giving Cam Thomas some sage advice. This scene was made even more significant when moments later we see Cam Thomas making great play early in the game.
A Tale of Two Mothers
The most endearing scenes of episode 5 were the ones involving DeAndre Hopkins’ and Kliff Kingsbury’s moms.
For those who may not have been as keenly aware of DeAndre Hopkins’ mom, Sabrina Greenlee’s near-death domestic violence experience, her recounting of the story of how she had acid thrown in her face by a jealous mistress of her then boyfriend is absolutely devastating. Not only was Sabrina blinded for life, while she was bleeding profusely, her boyfriend left her for dead at a gas station.
If you haven’t read the whole story, this is one of the most inspirational reads one could ever find: https:
If there is one thing or person whom DeAndre Hopkins loves more than anything else in life, it’s his mom. Clearly, DeAndre believes that his devotion to his mom, means more to his legacy than football ever could.
I thought the scene of Sanrina Greenlee telling us about how moved she was to know that DeAndre wanted so badly for her to come to his games —- telling this all the while having beautiful makeup applied —- was a very artistic touch on HBO’s part.
Then she regaled us with the story of how DeAndre would bring her the ball after every TD pass he caught in Houston —- capped off by hearing her say that every time she touches the ball she thinks,
“That ball it signifies love, it signifies strength.”
In Arizona DeAndre prefers to have his mom, family and friends sit in one of the suites.
Thus, to see D-Hop’s mom all decked out in her son’t rhinestone studded #10 Cardinals’ jersey while hearing the play-by-play of the game from DeAndre’s lovely sister Shanterria Cobb, was a highlight of the episode.
After most of the key plays of the game, HBO showed Shanterria explaining to her mom what happened —- and very candidly —- because she told her mom that DeAndre’s fumble was “on him.”
When DeAndre met his mom and sister after the game, he echoed his sister’s claim.
DeAndre Hopkins took full ownership of his mistake. It takes a man to do that.
After losing his dad so early in life and then seeing what his beloved mom had to endure as a suddenly blind and scarred single mother, DeAndre said that as a teenager he came to the quick realization that “I gotta be a man, now.”
One can imagine that Kliff Kingsbury felt a similar calling after losing his dear mom, Sally Kingsbury, in 2005 to cancer.
For those of us who know about Kliff’s eternal devotion for his mom, when HBO showed the portrait of a woman in Kliff’s office, we immediately knew who she was. Sally Kingsbury was a beloved teacher, humanitarian and trailblazer.
Kliff said in the episode how much he was “in awe” to see his mom putting aside the intense pain she was coping with whenever she could be of service to others.
“She was always my biggest fan and was always positive, always supportive, win. lose or draw —- and just to watch her go through the battle with cancer and her positive attitude and always worried about everybody else except her in the darkest times —- was incredible.”
“Anytime I am going through a rough patch, I think of her and how she handled everything with grace and, yeah, it’s definitely motivation.”
Well, if we ever wanted to know what makes Kliff the kind of person and coach that he is, by now it should be plainly evident that Sally Kingsbury taught her son extremely well.
Like they say, “the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree.”