Posted: 10:55 am Thursday, May 31st, 2012
By Post Staff
The Dolphins held a press conference yesterday with coach Joe Philbin, HBO Sports president Ken Hershman and NFL Films senior coordinating producer Ross Ketover to talk about the Dolphins’ appearance on the reality TV show “Hard Knocks” this August.
Here are 11 things you need to know:
1. The players report for training camp on July 26, and filming starts that day. All five episodes air on HBO on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. starting Aug. 7, and will re-air on Wednesdays at 11 p.m.
2. Hershman said the players and the coaches will obviously be the focus of the series (and sadly, not the beat writers). That means focusing on the back stories of the individual players and coaches, but also on the team’s ability to come together in six weeks and get ready for the regular season.
The series will obviously focus on the three-way quarterback battle between Ryan Tannehill, Matt Moore and David Garrard, but will be as much about the unproven players as the well-known ones.
“You can say that there’s a QB battle, but that may not turn out to be the most interesting path, there may be other things that surprise us,” Hershman said.
3. Ketover said a team of producers is already researching the roster for potential storylines – the players’ backgrounds, the roster battles, the relationships on the team – but the goal is to stay flexible.
“What makes this show great is it’s a combination of the players you know and the players you’ve never heard of,” he said. “This year there’s 90 players in camp, so there’s more stories than ever. We’ll come down with a plan, and probably throw it out after four days because our directors will have found totally different stories once they get down here.”
4. The million dollar question: How much say will the Dolphins have over what makes it into the show?
Philbin says not much.
“They were very honest when they came in and talked to us. They talked about trust and they talked about access,” he said. “They know how to do their job. We’re not going to tell them how to make a TV show.”
But don’t worry, NFL Films is experienced enough with this kind of stuff not to give away any of the Dolphins’ state secrets.
“The organization certainly will be able to make sure that no trade secrets or anything competitive is in the show,” Hershman said. “But beyond that, they really put their trust in the relationship to put together a safe, compelling show. This show would not be on the air if we violated that trust.”
6. Authenticity is the goal of this series, both for the Dolphins and Hard Knocks.
“There are no second takes, no scripts,” Ketover said. “Just glory for those who make it, and an honorable, and proper burial for those who don’t.”
Hard Knocks wouldn’t commit to a team that isn’t willing to cede editorial control.
“Coach Philbin and the Dolphins have promised us the access we really need to make a great series,” Ketover said. “We’re giving fans a real access into what it takes to make a football organization. We want to see players struggling, players being successful, guys getting cut, guys making the team. … We’ve created a level of trust with the viewers that they’ve come to expect out of this show, so we need to make sure a team is willing to open all those doors for us.”
And Philbin plans on conducting training camp exactly the same way he would if the cameras weren’t there. He already has the entire camp mapped out.
“I want the guys to be comfortable, be themselves,” he said. “We already have training camp planned. I know when we’re practicing. I know how many reps we’re getting at practice. I know whether we’re shoulder pads or helmets. I know what drills we’re doing. We have a lot of work we have to get done, and it’s going to get done. There will be more cameras around than there have been in the past, but our focus is going to be on training camp and helping these players.”
7. So how did this come together?
Ketover said “the Dolphins are the only team that were ever officially offered the show,” but that’s just semantics. He said “we cast a wide net, we talked to a lot of teams to gauge their interest,” and the Dolphins were one of the few (if only) willing to provide the access that the series requires.
“What we look for is the right quality of storytelling, the access, the right combination of all those things, and a team that embraces this,” Hershman said.
Philbin said his initial thought earlier this month of doing Hard Knocks was, ‘Boy, this is going to be a distraction. I’m not sure if we want to let all of these people into our building,’” he said.
But the Dolphins met with Ketover this past Thursday, and after hearing his presentation, Philbin said that “by the time he walked out the door, I was ready to sign up.”
Philbin said he’s had no second thoughts.
“I kidded them today, they came into town last Thursday, then I called them 19 different times on Friday, just to kick around some final thoughts,” he said. “I was convinced after meeting with Ross that this is something that’s going to be good for us. It really wasn’t that complex of a decision.”
8. Philbin said he hopes that having the cameras in everyone’s face for six weeks will help them deal with the pressures of the regular season.
When asked specifically about Tannehill, Philbin said he’s not worried about the pressures of a reality TV show affecting his development at quarterback.
“Obviously if they can’t handle this stuff, we might be in trouble when its fourth and seven and we have to make a play,” Philbin said.
9. This year is the 40th anniversary of the perfect 1972 Dolphins team. It won’t be a featured storyline on the show, but Hershman said “it’s a storied franchise with an amazing legacy and history, and I think we would certainly have to put that in context.”
Another storyline that likely won’t be explored, unless it somehow weaves its way into training camp, is how Philbin is coping with the death of his son from earlier this year.
10. Philbin said he’s never watched reality TV, and isn’t concerned about being the star of the show or how he’ll come off.
“The number one rule in coaching is be yourself,” he said. He joked that the star of the show is really going to be new offensive line coach Jim Turner, who came over from Texas A&M along with offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. “I know Turner is going to be the star of the show, so I’m already lining up replacements for Jimmy Turner,” Philbin said.
11. Members of the organization who have previously participated in Hard Knocks: GM Jeff Ireland (Cowboys, 2002), defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle (Bengals, 2009), defensive end Jamaal Westerman (Jets, 2010).