This episode starts with Defensive Line Coach Brenston Buckner. This is the first time we have heard Buckner sounding like any other coach in the past episodes of Hard Knocks. He points out that some of the players are just going through the motions and will be cut. Instead of saying this to the whole group what should have been happening is Buckner should have been telling each player throughout training camp what they need to work on and improve to make the team. From watching the past three episodes, this is probably something that Buckner has done.
Unfortunately, in this episode Buckner simply tells players they need to “get better,” “play harder,” and “get tougher.” These are the typical generic things we often hear in Hard Knocks each year. These comments do not help at all. To Buckners credit, he has given a lot of specific instruction, perhaps he is frustrated that the player are not improving in the areas he has told them to work on.
Throughout the years, I will probably refer back to Darren Waller, and his honesty and humility in working to stay clean and sober. He is a great example of how sobriety looks and sounds.
An overall theme in all these episodes is the respect all the players have for Jon Gruden. Notice how often players refer to him as “Coach Gruden,” or say “Yes, sir.” This is one reason I am confident this team will be successful over the years.
Gruden is always specific in his criticism. He will criticize what the player did – not the player personally. He gets angry and frustrated, but never follows it up with a threat of being cut. He is respectful in his criticism. He is very quick to praise players, both in private and in public.
Before the preseason game, Gruden stresses camaraderie, as he also did on the last day of training camp. He talks about how he wants the team to bond. He has players welcome each other to Canada.
During the game Gruden is quick to congratulate the offense as they come off the field after a score. Down 21 – 10 at the half, Gruden again puts the focus on what they need to do, “pick it up,” and “challenge people.” He does not make threats of cuts because of the poor performance in the first half – something we have seen in previous episodes of Hard Knocks. He goes back to his “raise the bar” theme.
As both the defense and offense play better in the second half, Gruden is quick to praise everyone.
Backup quarterback Nathan Peterman plays much better. Notice how he is much more confident in all aspects of his game. He encourages and gives his teammates direction in the huddle and between plays. He praises the lineman for doing a good job. Many back up quarterbacks we have seen in previous episodes of Hard Knocks are less confident by the 4th week because the coach destroys their confidence week by week. Peterman has clearly improved, a credit to both him and Gruden. Two weeks ago Gruden was telling Peterman how he needed to exude confidence on the field. Peterman has accomplished this.
After the game Gruden praises Peterman in front of the team, and then individually tells Peterman exactly what he did right. Again, I do not think we have seen this type of behavior from coaches in the past.
Gruden does not make threats of the cuts that everyone knows is coming. He simply says: “We’ve got some tough decisions to make, and it’s gonna be really tough.”
Peterman earned the backup quarterback position in this episode.
This is an eight to ten win team this year, and will be better next year.