The season of Hard Knocks is now in the books, and as final episodes usually do, this one hit hard. We saw a lot of quality players with great personal stories cut. There were certainly some surprise players let go (unless, of course, you follow Raiders news obsessively) and you could tell the coaching staff struggles with the decisions they had to make.
Episode 6 started off with Brentson Buckner talking about the sudden retirement of Andrew Luck, and part of his farewell press conference was shown. Buckner discussed the fleeting nature of football, and how everyone’s career ends at some point (though not often as shockingly as Luck’s did). This became the theme of the episode and in fact is the theme of the whole series. Sometimes, you just don’t get to play anymore.
Jon Gruden and Paul Guenther car-pooled to work because of the price of gas. Jon Gruden makes $10M a year, but he is a man of culture and morals, and sees carpooling as a preferable option to being gouged for solo driving. He claims Paul Guenther will be a head coach soon, and rocks out to Wherever I May Roam by Metallica. “Anywhere I roam, where I lay my head is home” is a great slogan for the Raider team itself.
Antonio Brown is shown practicing with the team in full pads and a helmet, and he makes some spectacular catches and runs impeccable routes. As much as we feel Oakland’s secondary has improved, they absolutely cannot hang with AB. Good luck, Denver. Brown is then shown at home getting a massage, and he shows off the new helmet he’s been using. His feet appear to have fresh new skin on their soles, and Brown says he is trying to build up the calluses.
While some teammates razz Brown about his new “Power Ranger” helmet, Jon Gruden practices pass-rushing his own quarterbacks, hooting and hollering, the love of football palpable in his demeanor. If the team is ever low on defensive ends, Gruden should just put himself in.
Gruden then watches film with the team, and shows them LeVeon Bell pass-blocking from the RB spot. He tells Josh Jacobs, who remained unseen the entire series, that if he can block like this he will have a job forever. Gruden then quizzes his backs on what college Danny Woodhead went to, and none of them know. Woodhead, in fact, went to Chadron State, which apparently is in western Nebraska. I didn’t know either, Coach. Gruden then shows the team a Bucs RB who is not showing eye discipline when blocking, and new Browns DE Olivier Vernon easily blows up the play.
Brandon Marshall is highlighted, and although he says he is fully healthy, he does not know if he has done enough to remain on the team for this season. His fears were well-founded, but the decision to cut him leaves Oakland thin at linebacker.
Gruden is then seen in his office, talking about how difficult the choices on who to cut are. He is proud of Nathan Peterman’s development, and during the Seattle game we see Peterman get hurt and keep playing through the pain. He played exceptionally well, displaying heart and guts, which go a long way when trying to secure a job.
One guy who might have lost his job during the game was Keelan Doss, who dropped two crucial passes, one right in front of Gruden himself. He had the drops in practice throughout the series, and that may have overshadowed his other talents. Jason Cabinda played really well, but it wasn’t enough to save his job or his mother’s happiness, though he put enough on tape to be picked up immediately by the Lions.
Then we saw the actual cuts. Marshall and Luke Willson were let go, and Willson especially was a big part of the show and it sucks to see him go. He hasn’t landed anywhere else yet, but the Excellence of Execution shouldn’t stay on the sidelines for long. Marshall was cut, and it was pretty sad to see him remove his nameplate from the locker. But these Raiders are going young, and he couldn’t keep up.
Peterman explains that he’s hurt and isn’t on the 53-man, leaving the spot for “someone else”. That turns out to be DeShone Kizer, but we don’t see him. Doss, Keith Smith, and Cabinda are cut next, though they all quickly find new homes.
After the cuts are done, we get a glimpse at the owner, Mark Davis, who has kept his father’s office just as it was before his death. We see the new stadium in Las Vegas, and are reminded that the Autumn Wind is a Raider and the greatness of the Raiders is in its future. Gruden promises that they are bringing the Raiders back. Antonio Brown is then shown working out in his pool well into the night, One wonders if he ever sleeps, or if he just works out constantly. The episode, and the series, end there, but not before we see a Chucky doll with Gruden’s voice imploring the Raiders to practice hard.
It was a fun season, and it was great to see the Raiders in candid situations and get to know the players better. Hard Knocks will continue on in the future, but it might never again show the greatness of the Raiders.