“Hard Knocks ’16: Ep1” – The 5th Down UK review

hardknocksLet’s make one thing clear – at the 5th Down UK, we love Hard Knocks. It’s been brilliant for the UK market, and has gradually got more accessible, starting on Channel 4 with the ’13 Bengals, through to the last few seasons on Sky Sports. It’s also helped newcomers to the sport understand what it takes to be a professional footballer in the NFL just as much as it highlights what it means to the players who aren’t able to make it. It’s with this affection in mind when we say that the 1st episode of the new 2016 series was massively disappointing.

We’d be very surprised if the nickname “Hollywood Jeff Fisher” catches on

The Rams are a side who haven’t had a winning season since 2003. Head Coach Fisher (who we see literally fishing in the opening scenes) hasn’t coached a winning team since 2008. For all their talent, this is a team established in mediocrity, and we worry that this series, as with the fates of the Rams, may end up in the shadow of the superb “All or Nothing” series that covered their NFC West rivals, the Cardinals and their effervescent Coach Arians.

Part of the backdrop of the series (and presumably a big reason why the Rams were selected), is the new location of Los Angeles – the Rams going back to a city they left in 1995 because of lack of fan interest, and a long spread of mediocre play. The NFL have a lot invested in the Rams being successful in LA, and when Les Snead sold the house in the draft earlier this year to bring in a big name QB in Californian Jared Goff, it was surely to try and reignite some excitement about pro football in such a big media market. The jury will be out on Goff until he actually hits the field, but as this episode highlights, he still has to win the starting job.

kushOn the positive side, Hard Knocks has always thrown up some unlikely stars, and the brightest moments of the opening episode see Aaron Donald show how much he cares about table tennis, and Eric Kush walk us through his wonderful collection of tanks. This was all classic Hard Knocks.

We hope as the season goes on, we see more of Donald and Kush, and a little less of Gurley and Goff, who both seem to be overly aware of the cameras. As Fisher says – there is a little too much “7 and 9 bullshit” around this team. Let’s hope this season of Hard Knocks can avoid the same fate.

Hard Knocks will be on Sky Sports later in August, and episode 1 is now up on NFL Game Pass, and new episodes go up every Friday.

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