If “Hard Knocks” is the Odell Beckham of the NFL Films roster, then the recent arrival of “All or Nothing” must be Jerry Rice. Quite simply, All or Nothing can only be described as Hard Knocks with big boy pants on.
Following a similar style to the now familiar Hard Knocks, the documentary series chooses one team, and instead of following them through the pre-season, it broke ground by going deep behind the scenes with the Arizona Cardinals for the whole of the 2015 season. The one criticism of Hard Knocks has been the questionable quality of the teams involved; not so with this series – the Cards were hot favourites for a deep playoff run in 2015, if not favourites to go all the way.
The choice of the Cardinals was inspired – they were coming off a season of heartache, having had their 2014 hopes crushed by decimating injuries at QB, resulting in a post-season thumping. They also boasted a roster littered with fascinating personalities, and a star turn in the incredible Head Coach, Bruce Arians.
You could probably make an 8 part documentary just about Arians’ life story, and it is his wonderful personality and charm that anchors the show throughout the series. The players are very much the supporting cast, but just like Arians ability to find a gem either through the draft, or a veteran via free agency, there are very few busts. The players might play up and relax in equal measure in the presence of the cameras, but their commitment to the cause is never questioned.
The extended schedule of 8 episodes allows us to into the homes of not only the star attractions like Patrick Peterson and Carson Palmer, but also some of the lesser known heroes – guys like Lyle Sendlein, an 8 year veteran who lives year-to-year without ever getting a long term contract, who joins his Dad for a burger in the after-game tailgate. We also get a fleeting glimpse of former British Olympian and 49er Lawrence Okoye, who falls foul of Arians strict parking rules.
The show makes for exhilarating and addictive watching – I binged the whole series over 2 nights, and despite knowing what happened to the Cards in the NFC championship game in January, I found myself on the post-season rollercoaster all over again. Ultimately it’s another heart breaking journey, not just because of the results on the field – watching star safety Tyrann Mathieu go down with a season ending injury is pretty painful, but seeing Arians tearing up, and seeing Mathieu in the locker room and on the sidelines supporting his team mates makes it so much more tragically real.
As with the Cardinals season, this series ends on an emotional note. The near legendary Larry Fitzgerald had put the team on his back against the Packers, but in the final moments of the series, Fitz is left sitting with his back to the locker room following the final game of the season; it’s a poignant but hugely respectful moment for a player destined for the Hall of Fame, but who may have just missed his last chance for glory. Having taken us on the journey for the whole season, this scene is typical of the film makers class and quality to be able to capture such beautiful moments.
All or Nothing is already a must-see for all NFL fans (and we’d recommend it to those who aren’t!) We now await with anticipation what team will get the cameras for this coming season – they’ll have big cleats to follow…..
You can find All or Nothing: A Season with the Arizona Cardinals on Amazon Prime Video.