Tuesday night’s episode of Hard Knocks was highly anticipated because it was sure to take viewers inside the Dolphins’ decision to cut receiver Chad Johnson after he was arrested on a domestic violence charge, and it delivered with a dramatic conclusion.
But what the episode also showed was that the Dolphins might have cut Johnson even if he were a model citizen.
In footage shot last week, before Johnson’s wife accused him of head-butting her, Johnson was seen struggling on the practice field and becoming frustrated with his own performance at practice, at one point berating himself on the sideline for what he called “a rookie f–king mistake.” Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman was shown in the coaches’ box during the Dolphins’ preseason game, becoming furious when Johnson dropped a pass. And head coach Joe Philbin was shown talking about Johnson struggling to learn the offense: Philbin didn’t seem impressed with Johnson’s grasp of the playbook, or with Johnson’s failure to learn the responsibilities of the slot receivers in the Dolphins’ offense.
“Chad hasn’t done a lot inside, we’re trying to get him — you know, the big knock when he came here was he couldn’t pick up the system,” Philbin said.
Even Johnson himself was shown saying that he didn’t think he was a lock to make the Dolphins’ 53-man roster.
“There’s no such thing as locked up. I’ve got to earn a spot,” Johnson said.
All of that was a prelude to what we all knew was coming: Johnson’s arrest and his subsequent release. Hard Knocks saved Johnson’s departure for the end of the episode, as the producers knew that’s where this week’s drama would come in. And it was dramatic: The cameras were in the room when Philbin sat Johnson down and informed him that he was being cut.
Johnson attempted to persuade Philbin to give him another chance to remain with the Dolphins.
“Coach, I’ve never been in trouble before — ever,” Johnson said. (Which isn’t true; Johnson was convicted of domestic battery in 2000.)
Philbin told him, “I wish it was different, I wish I could tell you something more encouraging, but I just think it’s best for both of us that we kind of part ways at this point in time.”
Johnson thanked Philbin for the opportunity to play for the Dolphins, and Philbin told Johnson he wishes him well. With that, the men shook hands, and Johnson left the coach’s office. The episode’s final images were of a member of the staff clearing out Johnson’s locker, and Johnson walking toward the exit.