Hard Knocks season is upon us, folks. In celebration of the most-anticipated iteration in recent memory—thanks to this year's subject, the New York Jets—Esquire is assigning highly subjective grades to each episode. Usually, we grade the entire team, top to bottom. Since the series has pivoted fully to The Life and Times of Aaron Rodgers, we figured our boy deserved his own special edition.
A+: The Daddification of Aaron Rodgers
I have to say: after the longstanding rumors that a veteran Brett Favre wasn't the kindest to Baby Aaron, it's been nice to see Rodgers—now an aging quarterback himself—mentor Zach Wilson. In New York's preseason game against the Bucs we see Wilson scramble for a nice gain, but instead of trotting out of bounds, he charges straight into a couple of defensive backs. Later on, after Wilson takes a seat, Rodgers gives him the ol' "You done good, kid." It's sweet! Feels like I'm watching the locker-room scene from 80 For Brady all over again.
B+: Training-Montage Do-Over
In my first recap of the season, I ribbed HBO for delivering its obligatory Rodgers-slings-passes montage to the tune of Ed Sheeran. Thankfully, the great minds over there heard my cries—and served up a sequel. I'm not familiar with the song, but the genre is most definitely Aaron Rodgers Dad Rock. Speaking of this montage's narrative intent: it's been special to see the budding connection between No. 12 and Garrett Wilson.
B: Breaking Up the Fight, But Not Really Breaking Up the Fight
We've seen quite a few scuffles this Hard Knocks season, but the brawl between the Jets and Bucs felt... charged? And oddly long? While Sauce Gardner dips in and out of various mosh pits, Rodgers has himself a friendly chat with Baker Mayfield. Then, he moseys on the outermost fringes of the fist-throwing, saying things like, "C'mon bro, we’re too old for this!" Aaron! That is not the way to break up a fight.
B-: A-Rod's Mustache
We knew it was coming: the inevitable appraisal of Aaron Rodgers's 'stache. During the above-mentioned dad-and-son moment between Rodgers and Wilson, the third-year QB notices that some enterprising cameraman put their conversation on the jumbotron. Wilson quips, "Your mustache looks good!" I have to say: A-Rod's current facial-hair situation is nothing compared to what he rocked in 2017. Just see for yourself. That thing was sentient.
C: Another Man Insinuating That Rodgers Will "Lose His Shit"
Tired: Telling your wide receiver corps that they're screwing up the fundamentals. Wired: One of said wide receivers scaring the shit out of the other wide receivers by saying you'll lose your shit if it keeps up.
Cobb's warning felt a little odd to me. I know Hard Knocks doesn't show everything—and Rodgers is certainly too smart to lose his shit on HBO (or MAX, your preference!)—but we've seen the man act like a sweet-boy prom king for about three hours of television. If the regular season is a few weeks away—and the Jets are still working out kinks—isn't now the time for a reckoning?
F: "How's Wifey Doing?"
Non-Rodgers-Adjacent Honorable Mentions:
Zach Wilson's Head Tie: I stand with the kid here. Yes, those little head ties are extremely obnoxious, but highly practical. I wear them—in public—when I run. He who is without sweat through the first stone!
Robert Saleh's "Four Types of Person" Speech: At long last, we're privy to a speech that proves why the man has a head-coaching gig. He's right—every team does have that person who is just scraping by, the one motivated by money, and the Mamba Mentality folks. Saleh should've started the season with this one, instead of the crows and the eagles ramble.
Quentin Williams Not Standing For Body-Shaming: This man is going to single-handedly bring the NFL into the 21st century, isn't he? Rightfully taking offense to Mike Evans jabbing at his weight—and respectfully confronting him about it!—makes Quentin my new favorite Jet.
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