Although not at the magnitude of the FTX debacle, The Arizona Cardinals organization is rocked by scandal. Episode 4 opens with head coach Kliff Kingsbury(Pictured, left) addressing the media about the dismissal of offensive coordinator Sean Kugler. The stress within the Cardinals camp is palpable, having just left Mexico City with a loss, further dropping their win-loss ratio, and now dealing with their second sexual harassment accusation. The Cardinals are arguably the most can’t win for anything NFL team covered by HBO Sports. And this writer is acutely aware of the antics of Antonio Brown during Season 14 of HARD KNOCKS. Injuries, scandals, personal tragedies, and simply being outclassed will cause the Cardinals to miss the playoffs. Can the situation get any worse? Yes. Episode 4 has the Cardinals experience bad officiating.
On a positive note, the staff and players are beyond excited to visit a women’s shelter to serve food to disadvantaged women. This event is particularly close-to-home for wide receiver Deandre Hopkins; the young man’s mother lost her eyesight due to a horrific domestic incident. Not much time is allocated to the shelter visit, but the smiles on the ladies’ faces cemented the impact.
Wide Receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown (pictured, right) is back after breaking his ankle during NFL week 6. Hollywood looks very sharp in practice, which is the inverse of linebacker Isaiah Simmons’s performance. Simmons is naturally gifted, having the second-fastest 40-yard dash in NFL combine history for a linebacker. However, highlight reels reveal he has an awful technique and has lost his starting position. HARD KNOCKS and HARD KNOCKS IN SEASON thrive on showing the individual triumphs and struggles of the players and staff. This season continues that excellence, however, the issues with the Cardinals are so multilayered that it is difficult to sympathize with just the individual.
The Cardinals focus on shutting down Charger Quarterback Justin Herbert for this episode’s featured game. Their plan works intermittently. However, a recovered fumble that was later reversed in a controversial call staggers the Cardinals’ momentum. In the third quarter, a pass that is clearly a completed pass is called incomplete. Referees have a tough job, but these two controversial calls should have never been controversial. With less than 2 minutes left, the Cards are up by one touchdown and are defending the Chargers at the 1 yard. The Chargers score after the Cards triples down on one Chargers receiver leaving open another receiver. The Chargers boldly go for the 2-point conversion and are successful. The Cards lose 25-24.
The best possible situation for the Cardinals to end this season is to have a 9-8 record. Unless the teams in their division begin to lose consistently, then the playoffs are a no-go. The players and staff are now playing and coaching to justify contract extensions, roster positions, and employment for the 2023 season. HARD KNOCKS IN SEASON returns on December 7, 2022 at 10PM ET on HBO.