GREEN BAY – While Green Bay Packers fans who understand how general manager Ted Thompson operates know full-well that their favorite team will never do HBO’s training-camp reality show “Hard Knocks,” at least they’ll get to see some familiar faces later this summer when the Miami Dolphins star on the NFL Films-produced show.
First-year Dolphins coach Joe Philbin – the former Packers assistant and offensive coordinator – announced Tuesday that his team will be the subject of the show, with the first episode set to air on Aug. 7 on HBO.
In addition to Philbin, ex-Packers head coach Mike Sherman, the Packers coach from 2000 through 2005, is Miami’s offensive coordinator. With a first-year coach and a quarterback competition brewing between incumbent Matt Moore, veteran David Garrard and No. 8 overall pick Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins, with only one playoff berth over the last decade, might make for interesting fodder.
Philbin, who at the NFL Meetings in March said that he was "built for radio, not TV" when asked about Hard Knocks during the AFC coaches breakfast, said he has never watched the show in past seasons and said he did not pursue the show but rather the network and NFL Films came to them.
“I’m not really sure how it got to be. I certainly wasn’t necessarily auditioning for it,” Philbin said. “The more I thought about it … Let’s face it, the easy answer is to say no. ‘Oh god, it’s a huge distraction, you’re going to have cameras everywhere, we’re not going to be able to deal with that stuff.’ That’s the easy thing to say. But this program’s not based on doing what’s easy. We thought it was in the best interest of the organization at this point in time to do it.”
A handful of teams turned down the network and NFL Films’ overtures, but Philbin made it clear that he’s not worried about the show being a distraction – something Thompson and the Packers felt would be an issue for their team. The Packers were approached before the 2007 season to do the show but turned it down and have shown no interest since.
“As we know, there’s distractions in everything. And it is what you make it,” Philbin said. “One thing I guarantee, which I told the staff and I told the players, these players will follow the lead of the coaching staff. So if we make it a big deal, if we’re thinking, ‘Oh my god, this, this and this,’ it’ll be a big deal. But I don’t think it’ll be a big deal.”
Given Philbin’s low-key personality, the decision to do the show came as a bit of a surprise to those who know him and have covered him, and many assumed billionaire owner Stephen Ross was behind the decision. Accoridng to Philbin, though, Ross did not push him to accept HBO’s offer.
“It was a football decision. It was made by the football operation staff. Our owner Steve (Ross) supported the decision, but in no way, shape or form forced us to make this decision,” Philbin said to open his press conference Tuesday. “I’m personally very excited about it, I shared my thoughts about it with the football team this morning.
“No. 1, first and foremost, it’s a football show, it’s a show that’s going to showcase our players, a great group of men we have assembled here in Miami. Second thing, I think it’s a great opportunity for us to connect with our fans, the people who aren’t going to be able to come out here on a daily basis in 110 heat index and watch our guys participate in training camp. And the third thing is, I think it’s a chance for us to show the new direction, identity of this football team, where we’re headed, and at the same time, connect with our past, the great tradition and heritage we have in Miami.”
Asked what role Ross played in the decision, Philbin replied, “He wanted to really stay out of it for the most part and make it a football decision. He in no way influenced this decision. He was probably more worried. ‘Joe, it’s your first time as a head coach, man, there’s pressure, there’s this, there’s that.’ Myself, I think it’s a better time to do this as opposed to Year 2, Year 3, Year 4.
“I think the No. 1 thing in coaching from a philosophical standpoint is you have to be yourself. So I’m not concerned about how I’m perceived or looked (at). I have to do what I feel is going to help these football players reach their potential and this football team reach its potential. So I’ve given no thought to that. I’m not really concerned about that. … We’re just going to be ourselves.”
Philbin also said he wasn’t worried about how the cameras would affect how his team behaves. It certainly seemed like the New York Jets, led by coach Rex Ryan, hammed it up for the cameras in 2010, the last time the show aired. (The lockout scuttled any chance of the show being done during training camp last year.)
“I’m not worried about the Xs and Os part of it. That I think is secondary in football anyway. And half-jokingly I said to our team, ‘The last time I checked, they’re going to have some cameras on Sunday afternoons.’ We’ve got to get used to it,” Philbin said. “I told our staff the same thing – our job is to help these guys reach their potential. Teach ‘em how to block, teach ‘em how to catch, teach ‘em how to tackle, teach ‘em how to make good decisions, and my feeling is, we’re going to be able to do that whether there’s one camera or 50 cameras. Talking to the people at NFL Films, their feeling, they wanted access and trust, and our guys, we’re going to go out there and coach just like we’ve been coaching before. I’m excited about it.”
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