Everyone knew that the final episode of "Hard Knocks" would end with the return of Darrelle Revis after he agreed to a contract early Monday morning. Knowing what was coming didn't wind up spoiling the moment, though.
When Revis walked onto the field, after Ryan said the team had signed some "slapd--k," the Jets were whole and HBO and NFL Films had the perfect ending to a series that was always about more than simply taking a look behind the scenes at training camp. That point was driven home in the first moments of Wednesday night's finale when the focus was on the signs around team headquarters that urge members of the team to "Play Like a Jet."
That's an exhortation that has been, more often than not, met with laughter in the recent history of the NFL. The arrival of Rex Ryan, the emergence of Revis and the confluence of a dozen other things over the last two years has changed that meaning. This season of "Hard Knocks" won't be met with glee by many corners of the football world because it revealed the Jets to be a cocky and profane group of players and coaches, but there are plenty of places where the reaction is going to be the polar opposite.
The Jets aren't content to be the league's sad sacks any longer and they aren't afraid to scream from the mountaintop that such a state of affairs isn't acceptable. They've sent that message from the first moment of "Hard Knocks," but it was impossible to fully believe it until Revis walked onto the field to a group of players genuflecting in front of him. It was the final scene of the show, but the first scene of the actual season that will determine if the Jets have successfully rebranded themselves.
The final episode was long on the procedures of cutdown day, which meant it was a little shorter on humor than some of the other episodes. Not much funny about watching guys get told they aren't good enough to keep following their dreams. We've still got the highs and lows, however.
High: Ryan's infamous Sunday tantrum during a phone call with Revis's agents. He spoke for every Jets fan when he told the agents, "It's a f---ing joke. Three years left on a f--ing deal. Watch Monday night. Watch what the f-- happens."
Low: The lack of cameras at Ryan's meeting with Revis and the lack of coverage of the decision to release and re-sign Tony Richardson earlier this week. The former is understandable, but the show spent lots of time covering the decision to cut hopeless players like Cody Reamer and Brashton Satele when the Richardson story was both interesting and full of bearing on the season to come.
High: This one's high comedy, but could easily be seen as a low. Woody Johnson, in reference to Revis, telling Tannenbaum "We're in New York, we can't be hustled." It would be easier to believe that if you weren't wearing a soft, floppy cowboy hat with a tie.
Low: Filling up Mark Sanchez's car with packing peanuts was played like one of the great prank moments in history, but the defensive coaches could have done better. We've discussed this before, but we're still not sure what to make of the fact that Sanchez is liked more than he seems to be respected around the team. Mark Brunell seemed to be selling a growing respect, but then he called the starter a "fruitcake" which dials things back a bit.
Low: Jason Davis's promise to whip the Jets' a--es when he plays them with another team would have carried more weight if they hadn't just shown him quitting during a practice. Davis took to Twitter to argue that the editing skipped over an ankle injury that was the real reason he asked out of a drill, which seems plausible, although he might have a hard time explaining to other coaches why he seemed so content to enjoy the high life that came with being married to a lawyer.
Quote of the Week, Non-Ryan Division: "This is so easy, Schotty. You suck." Sanchez to Brian Schottenheimer after calling plays that led to a touchdown in last week's final preseason game. Hopefully this will inspire Schotty to ditch some of the needlessly exotic plays he's been so fond of in the past.
Quote of the Week, Ryan Division: "This team has no excuses." Ryan's reaction to Revis's return is the perfect ending point for the show and the perfect starting point for the season.