In just a few short years, the New York Jets have gone from a laughing stock to a must-see TV show.
They made their debut on Tuesday night’s HBO series Hard Knocks ’23: Training Camp with the New York Jets with their future Hall-of-Famer quarterback, charismatic coach, and cheeky cornerback. For a camera-shy team — remember, they didn’t want that appearance — the Jets come across as an easy-going, fun-loving team that marvels at everything Aaron Rodgers says and does.
How predictably Rodgers is the star of the first episode. The first 12 minutes is all about him, with comparisons to Joe Namath early on. You’ll see Rodgers’ practice highlights, his no-look passes, fun interactions with teammates and coaches, and of course, “The Call Heard ‘Round the World” — his playcall on Zach Wilson’s 57-yard bombshell in last Thursday night’s Hall of Fame game.
Everyone raves about Rodgers, but the biggest compliment comes from defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich.
While playing the exercise tape with his players, Ulbrich says to them: “Guys, this [pass] is on the other side of the damn field, on the back shoulder. Look at that. I don’t know if there’s another human on earth who can pull off that damn throw. He’s our quarterback. He’s ours. He’s ours.
Other highlights from Episode 1:
Best quote: “One day you’re going to be here.” Rodgers says this to star cornerback Sauce Gardner during pregame warm-ups in Canton, Ohio — essentially telling the sophomore that he’s destined for the Hall of Fame. Gardner replies, “That’s the plan.” To which Rodgers replies, “I’ll be old and gray when that happens.”
— New York Jets (@nyjets) August 9, 2023
Best moment: At coach Robert Saleh’s first team meeting, he addresses the high expectations for the season and tells a whimsical story about a crow and an eagle. He says the crow is the only bird brave enough to attack an eagle, which then soars to great heights—so high that the crow eventually suffocates. In Saleh’s metaphor, the jets are the eagles and the naysayers are the crows. Hey, it works well as a tone generator for the show.
Strangest scene: Actor and “Hard Knocks” narrator Liev Schreiber arrives by helicopter and watches the practice from the sidelines. It’s weird to see Schreiber, the show’s iconic voice, on the actual show. He chats with Rodgers, who turns into an exuberant fanboy. He constantly refers to Schreiber as “the voice of God” and encourages his teammates to introduce themselves to him.
“I’ve always been a fan of yours,” Rodgers tells Schreiber.
Funny sentence from the writer: “Full disclosure: I wanted to drive, but the producers thought a helicopter might be more dramatic.”
Breakout Star: It looks like backup linebacker Chazz Surratt has secured a spot on the roster. Saleh, who was with the mic during the pre-season games, gushes about Surratt after making a big play.
“He’s so fast,” says Saleh. “God, I love this damn guy. … The guy is so good.”
Surratt’s days of anonymity are over.
Blatant omission: There is no mention of free agent running back Dalvin Cook, who caused quite a stir when he attended a practice session more than a week ago. Cameras followed him during his visit, fueling speculation that he would be one of the storylines. It turns out the only running backs not on the roster in the episode are retired backs Curtis Martin and Tiki Barber, both of whom were guests at practice.
Funniest line: Theater-goer Solomon Thomas, speaking to his fellow Defense Attorneys, says he’d love to take them to a Broadway show, but he wants them to show respect for the performance. In a debate about proper Broadway etiquette, Tanzel Smart blurts out that he wants to go to a show and eat a “char coochie board.”
Belichick digs? Ulbrich appears to taunt the “do your job” phrase made famous by New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick in the defensive briefing. “F— that,” says Ulbrich, begging his players to do their job and a little more.