The Hard Knocks Podcast: “Knock on Wood (With Mike Tirico)” | Episode 4 | HBO

The Hard Knocks Podcast: “Knock on Wood (With Mike Tirico)” | Episode 4 | HBO


BRENTSON BUCKNER:
Look in the mirror.
Don’t go and tell, “Oh,
Coach Buck he just hate me–
I don’t hate nobody here.
I love everybody.
But I dislike some
of y’all football
with a passion.Some of y’all football sucks.And you ain’t man enough
to know it sucks,
’cause you tryin’ to be hard,“Well I know he ain’t talkin’
to me. I do this.”
No, you won’t,
you won’t do nothing
but take what I’m telling you,
and either get you a job
or won’t get a job.By the time we kick off
in Winnipeg, on Thursday,
you better make up
in your mind,
that I’m trying to get a job
for the Raiders,
and let me go out there
and show them I can play
the way they want to play.The storm comin’.I hope you built a ship.
The storm comin’.
♪ (“HARD KNOCKS” THEME PLAYS) ♪ PETER SCHRAGER:
Oh, baby, that is Raider’s
defensive line coach, Brentson Buckner,
and you better believe we’ve built a ship
on this podcast. And can I just get this
out of the way? This is the fourth time
we’re doing it, but, (MIMICKING GRUDEN)
“Knock on wood
if you’re with me.” Yes, you are with me.
You are listening, and we are with
this 2019 Raiders team. In Tuesday night’s show,
we got a unique trip to Winnipeg,
we got Antonio Brown reading fan mail,
we got lots of Keelan Doss, and we got a good debate
on Canadian icons. No disrespect to Mike Myers. It’s theHard Knocks Podcast,
I’m your host, Peter Schrager, and this week we’ve got
another good listen for you. Our guest is broadcast legend,
Mike Tirico, who not only now anchors NBC’s
Football Night in America
studio show,
on Sunday evenings, but, he’s got a seven-year experience
with Jon Gruden, his former broadcast partner
in the booth on Monday Night Football
under his belt. Mike’s gonna take us
behind the curtain, and tell us what Jon Gruden’s
really like. He’ll share what he thinks
was going through the head coach’s mind
when Gruden was told that the Raiders
would be competing on an 80-yard field
in their third preseason game. And after all that,
I’ve got my MVP of the week, and what to watch for
in next week’s final episode. ♪ (MUSIC PLAYS) ♪ But first, Winnipeg. Yes, Winnipeg,
nothing seems to be easy for the Raiders this month. First, it was Antonio Brown’s
mangled feet. Then it was
the whole helmet saga, and now, now it’s the field conditions
up in Winnipeg, Canada. It’s a foreign land and
a completely foreign situation. And it serves
as another obstacle in the Raiders’ 2019 preseason. Jon Gruden welcomes his troops
north of the border, and notes that some players,
primarily veteran starters, would not be making the trip. Gruden’s in good,
but cautious spirits going into the game. As the preseason winds down,
the threat of cuts is ominous. And you can feel that anxiety
in the room, as vulnerable players
are thinking about ways they can prove themselves. The team arrives at the stadium,
IG Field in Manitoba, and sure enough,
some concerns arise. Okay, so the field… Let’s backtrack a little bit.
Let me explain. The standard
Canadian Football League field is both longer and wider than
a standard NFL football field. The total length of a CFL field
is 150 yards. The total length of an NFL field
is 120 yards. The goal posts
in the NFL are at the back of the end zone,
but in the CFL, the goalposts are like
those old, vintage highlights you see of 1960s football,
where they’re up in the front of the end zone. So, when you run in
for a touchdown, you literally have
to make sure you are not running into those giant yellow poles. NFL, they moved those back a long time ago
to the back of the end zone. They are right there in front
with the CFL. And those are just some
of the differences between a standard
Canadian Football League field, and a standard
National Football League field. Then on top of that,
there were issues with the actual surface
of the field itself. It was a mess. BRETT MUSBURGER:When they
reduced the size of the field
for the NFL, they had
to remove the goalposts,
and that left an area
that they had to patch.
They have tried to patch it up.
The Packers weren’t satisfied.
COMMENTATOR: The doctors
of the Green Bay Packers
do not believe the field
is safe.
SCHRAGER: We see stadium
officials stomping down on a temporary patch of turf,
to smooth and flatten it out. And in the end,
instead of running the risk of having players play
on that patch, the resolution was
to just shorten the playing field entirely,
to 80 yards. So now, the Raiders
are not only playing in a stadium that they’re
completely unfamiliar with in a country
they’re unfamiliar with, but now they’re also on a field
that is significantly smaller than any field
they have ever played on before. Okay, so what’s really going
on here? Obviously, it’s not ideal, and people want to point
and say, “Well, who’s to blame?” Okay,
well in previous instances like the one in Mexico City,
last year, fingers were pointed
at everybody, from Shakira for a concert
that she had the week before, to the NFL operational folks, who didn’t get the field
in proper shape in time and they had to change
the location of the game from Mexico to Los Angeles,
in a moment’s notice. But with this one,
it was actually the Raiders, and not necessarily the NFL,
who helped lead the way on pushing to make
this Canadian game happen. The league did assist
with operations, though. And honestly,
the game didn’t have the same marketing push as some of those other
international games we’ve seen, whether it be in London
or Mexico. And yet, by Thursday,
there was definitely some momentum heading
into the exhibition game. Aaron Rodgers,
the star quarterback of the Green Bay Packers
showed up in Canada off a plane,
wearing all denim and a bolo tie.
The clip went absolutely viral. There was actually real juice
to this game. People were talking about it
all Thursday. But when the Packers doctors
decided the field was unsafe to play on,
Green Bay decided to pull 33 different players
from the game. Rodgers, who is arguably the sport’s
most marketable star, was supposed to start
and at least play a few downs for the Canadian crowd
and that new audience. But it never happened. The Packers played
DeShone Kizer and Tim Boyle, a relative unknown,
at quarterback instead. Again, it’s not ideal. And Coach Gruden doesn’t
seem that thrilled when he’s talking
to officials before the game. JON GRUDEN:Hey, just so I know,
can I ask this question,
just so I know this?
So I can explain this?
How would you explain this
to your team,
that we’re playing on a what,
80-yard field?
And just trust that the referees
will educate us on–
OFFICIAL:So the end zones
will be–
The end zones will start
at the 10-yard line,
to the typical goal line.
We’ll move the goal line pylons,
so they will see that
the pylons have been moved up.
-JON GRUDEN:
There’s no kickoffs.

-OFFICIAL:No Kickoffs.We’re gonna set the ball
at the 25-yard line,
which is really like,
the minus 15, right?
GRUDEN:I’m glad you guys
have a great feel for this.
OFFICIAL:We will–
we will get through it.
GRUDEN:Yeah, yeah, we will.
Yeah, great, that’s great.
SCHRAGER: Ahh, adversity.
And this is what Gruden loves. And of course he uses
the situation to rev up his guys. Hell, after his pregame speech,
I was looking to suit up and play for him
on an 80-yard field. I would have played
on a 60-yard field, I would have played
on a pile of rocks. Gruden is a master
of taking a challenge and using it
to motivate his men. GRUDEN:
We’ll play on a 180-yard field.
We’ll play on any shaped field,
right guys?
All right,
let’s go get after their ass.
MAN:We’re in fucking Canada,
man,
let’s go ball the fuck out.
Hey, ball out on three!
-One, two, three–
-TEAM:Ball out!SCHRAGER:
Throughout the entire preseason, Gruden has faced a bunch
of challenges, but has been surprisingly
calm and collected every single step of the way. This was really the first time
we saw him a little peeved. So I reached out to a guy
who has spent a bunch of time with Jon Gruden,
both on the job and off. ♪ (MUSIC PLAYS) ♪ Mike Tirico spent seven years in theMonday Night Football
booth, alongside Coach Gruden. Tirico and Gruden
have a special bond. They worked together.
They dined together. They met with teams together
every week during the football season
for nearly a decade. Tirico is incredibly fond
of Gruden, and vice versa. MIKE TIRICO: Peter,
Mike Tirico, how are you? SCHRAGER: I love you, man.
Thank you for doing this. Let’s talkHard Knocks.
The field situation in Canada. -TIRICO: (LAUGHING)
-SCHRAGER: Yep. Jon Gruden put on this face
on Tuesday night’s episode like he just wanted
to play ball. He’d be willing to coach
a football game in outer space -if he had to.
-TIRICO: Right. SCHRAGER: Is that real Jon?
You worked with him for years. Or is that just fall machismo that he’s showing off
to the cameras? TIRICO: Jon has a great way
about showing his displeasure with his facial expressions,
more than his words. And then when it gets
to the point where it boils over and he can’t keep it in anymore,
then it becomes the words. I will tell you,
that watchingHard Knocks,if anybody thinks that Jon
is playing for the camera, I spent seven years
with the guy, three days a week for 20 weeks,
that’s a lot of days, you can do the math.
And, uh, this is Jon. This is who Jon Gruden is.
It’s the way he acts, it’s his love and passion
for football, connection with players, frustration when things
aren’t right. Like when the officials told him about the 80-yard field,
and he said, -“Okay, yeah, that’s great–”
-SCHRAGER: (CHUCKLING) TIRICO:
“Yeah, that’s just real great.” That’s vintage Jon saying,
“I don’t like this, but we’re gonna have
to deal with it.” This has been a trip down
memory lane for me to be honest, these four weeks so far. SCHRAGER: You were with him
for those seven years. Do you get the sense he had
that itch to come back? I mean it’s fun to do the games, but did you know,
maybe year three or four when he’s up
in the booth, in say Washington,
in a game in week 14 that, “Maybe I want to be out there
on the field coaching”? TIRICO: Yeah,
there were always times that you knew that the coach
in Jon was still there. You can hear it
in his frustrations with different parts
of new football, adjustments the league has made,
all those things. And Jon’s very old school
in a lot of ways. A lot of times to benefit,
a lot of times to detriment, and he knows that.
But that’s who he is. And he’s very secure
in who he is and he never changes. But Jon never stopped wanting
to be a coach. I always felt that.
That was in him. And he coached us. You know,
he’d always tell us, “We’re gonna coach you guys
as a team. We’re gonna coach you up. We’re gonna get you
all figured out here.” And that’s what he loves
to have as part of his life, and what he loves to do. And I think you’re seeing that
as you watch the show. The Jon Gruden on TV,
the things he said, not very different
from the Jon Gruden who talks in front of his team
or says, “Hey, do you like that?”
“Are you with me?” All that stuff,
I can’t tell you how many tables in hotels in NFL cities
I knocked on three times. SCHRAGER: Is that right?
That was his thing? -TIRICO: Oh, my God.
-‘Cause I didn’t know that
back to the Oakland or Tampa Bay days.
I don’t remember the “Knock on wood
if you’re with me.” TIRICO: Jon did that in all
of our meetings. He’d do a video presentation–
Jay Rothman, our producer
fromMonday Night Footballand Jon really struck
a perfect harmony of preparing us
for a broadcast. And Jon would get up
and do video presentations on the team,
on the opponent, or on an aspect of it. And he’d give you, you know,
as he and his back are just sitting there in the chair
drinking a cup of coffee, with the cowboy clicker
in his hand, going back and forth
on a piece of video, “Knock three times
if you’re with me.” -SCHRAGER: Yeah, yeah.
-TIRICO: You know? “Hey, Tirico,
hey, Salters, (STAMMERING) what’s the only way
to do this here?” You know, and he’s kind of
waiting for us to chime in. So that is very real Jon. I honestly, week one and two,
I laughed so hard watching the show,
and it really dawned on me, this is seven years of my life.
I’m watching it over and over and it–
And I miss it. I really miss it, and you can see there’s
a magnetic quality to it. Now, you’re gonna have to win. And he knows that. He knows
this is a results business. But I think, to come back for the Raiders’ last two years
in Oakland, to get them into Vegas, to try to create the magic
that was about the Raiders, this is vintage Jon. And with all the sideshows
that are coming along with it from the personalities
on this team… Uh… Jon likes heavy metal, Jon likes the volume loud,
and that’s what all of this is. SCHRAGER: If anything and I know
I’m hosting this podcast and full disclosure,
with HBO and NFL Films, I feel like we haven’t gotten
a lot of Richie Incognito, who is this enigmatic character. We haven’t gotten
any Vontaze Burfict, who has this troubled past,
and yet, Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock welcome
these guys into the locker room, even Antonio Brown with how
things ended in Pittsburgh, were you surprised
or were you not surprised that he wanted those type
of characters, guys with troubled pasts,
on his roster? TIRICO: Jon can see the hope
and the talent and believes he can connect
with guys. Some folks have gotten
to organizations now where they don’t want any part
of that. Jon sees that and he believes
that “I can get to this guy.” We really don’t talk about that
much, but just being around him, knowing the players that he had
coached in the past, the stories he told us,
the second chance guys, uh, he knows that
you can’t coach Derek Carr and Antonio Brown
and Richie Incognito and Vontaze Burfict
the same way. I’ll give you this, Peter. I don’t think I’ve ever
talked about this. We’d go
into production meetings… and sometimes, there are things
you have to talk about in production meetings that are
not the most comfortable things, whether it’s a starter
got benched, a coach is on the hot seat,
somebody made a big mistake or has got a contract situation
hanging out there. And usually, it’s kind of
the job of the play-by-play guy to bring that up
in a production meeting to kind of run it along. I was always ready for it
and Jon would head on, “Hey, man,
let’s talk about this. They’re talking about ya. What’s
going on? What’s the deal?” So, even though there’s that
little bit of Jon Gruden back and forth, he has a way
of being very direct and getting to the point. And I think you’re seeing
a little bit of that with the guys who are
on this roster, and I’ll be fascinated to see
if he can make them all work. I’ll tell you this, I think his connection with Derek Carr
is real. I think we see it in some
of the leadership you saw on the show of Derek
connecting with players, just saying, “Hey, 99 percent
isn’t good enough. It’s gotta be 100 percent.”
So all of a sudden, Derek’s becoming an extension
of his head coach and I think that’s a little
example of what Jon tries to do with veteran leaders. Now can he do that with a guy
like Burfict and keep him from getting
silly penalties? Can he do that
with an Incognito? Who we’ve known where he’s been
but we also know that he can be a very important
veteran piece to a puzzle still in the NFL. That will be
fascinating to see and those are the challenges
that I’m not surprised Jon is willing to take on. SCHRAGER: Yeah, and this week,
particularly, coming up is gonna be a huge week
for not only Jon Gruden and the Raiders, but also
the Raiders’ franchise with Mike Mayock now at the helm
where we’re gonna learn who’s the making
the final roster, who’s making the 53.
Knowing Jon the way you do and how many times you guys
have had conversations about this stuff, what should we
know before we go into this week of decision-making process
on who goes from 90 to 53 and who makes the cut for
the Oakland Raiders 2019 roster? TIRICO: Yeah, without
the specifics of the roster, just in general to not highlight
one or two guys, and you can see the guys
who are his kind of players. I think the interaction has led
the producers to put those guys front and center
in a lot of storytelling here, you know, like a Doss,
like a Renfrow, et cetera. If you watch the show,
you get a sense of that. I know that that is gonna be
the toughest part for Jon. I was working with Jon.
I saw it through his eyes, and he’d explain to me
how tough it is to cut a guy. That’s that guy’s life.
Man, you’re ruining– changing his path forever. So, I know this is gonna be
a really tough week I think– And I don’t know how much of it
is gonna be on camera, how much of it’s gonna be
captured, but I know watching those
in the past has always been
an uncomfortable point for me because the window
Jon’s given me on that process and how tough that is.
And now, with it all coming at once and doing
30 some odd in one day, and Mike will be going
through it for the first time in the big chair of a GM.
That’s gonna– it’s gonna be a tough week
for them and all their peers around the league, and while
it’s the best part of TV -and the TV guy in me loves it,
-SCHRAGER: Yeah. …watching from a little bit
closer and getting to know guys is really, really
a tough stretch coming up. He’s been the biggest
head coach star thatHard Knocks has had,
and I think they’ve maximized that with the production
of the show this year. SCHRAGER:
All 90 of these players
are gonna take something away from their experience
at Raiders camp, -and I’m not getting sentimental
with you…
-TIRICO: Yeah. …but you spent seven years
in the premier spot ofMonday Night Football.The same seat that Cossell
was in and Frank Gifford
and all the greats, you were next to Jon Gruden,
what was the one thing you take away
from those seven years? What was the one thing
you learned from Jon Gruden? TIRICO: Passion for the job. Absolutely love where you are
and what you’re doing, Peter. In more than ever– I had done– Oh my gosh, maybe 18-19 years
of football, whether it would be calling
college football or working in the studio
or NFL studio shows at ESPN and I thought I really knew
football. I was pretty, you know,
blindly confident that I understood the game, and I had
a seven-year undergrad, graduate and doctorate class
with Jon. He taught us ball. He got me to understand the
West Coast Offense terminology, new terminologies, how things
converted, what coaches think,
what players think. He brought me
into an inner sanctum that I never would have. The conversations that
Jon and Peyton Manning had or Jon and Tom Brady. Jon and some
of the great coaches, Andy Reid, those guys. And just
the things that I learned by being around him
were all incredible in my education about the game
and hopefully made me a little bit better wired
for the rest of my career to explain football
when I get the opportunity to. But the one thing that Jon
sharpened for me is the passion
for what you’re doing. SCHRAGER: That’s beautiful.
Mike, where can we see your work this season
during the NFL campaign? TIRICO:
We are Chicago bound here. I will watch
the lastHard Knocks episode from Chicago as we get ready
for the season opener. We’ll get theFootball Night
in America
crew, Tony Dungy, Rodney Harrison,
Chris Simms, Mike Florio, and Liam McHugh will all be
on the road in Chicago and then every Sunday night
beforeSunday Night Football.So, we’re cranking up that.
Getting ready
for Notre Dame football, and the season’s here
and life is good. SCHRAGER: All’s good.
Mike Tirico, thank you so much for joining
theHard Knocks Podcast.Awesome as always. TIRICO: My pal, Schrags,
great to connect. Keep up the awesome work
onGood Morning Footballand can’t wait to see you, man. SCHRAGER: You’re the best, Mike.
Thank you so much. TIRICO: Thanks, Peter. ♪ (MUSIC PLAYS) ♪ SCHRAGER: As Mike hit on,
Gruden seems to be able to get the best out of everyone. The Raiders go on to win
that preseason game in Winnipeg, coming back from a 21-to-10
deficit. Nathan Peterman is the guy
who leads the Raiders back from the brink. GRUDEN:Hey, Nate.
I can’t tell ya, man.
That’s as good as I’ve seen you
play since Pitt, man.
You made some great throws, man.I mean, four-five of them
should have been big plays.
You saw the field good, man.Made some great audibles.
No sacks.
I mean, you took care
of the ball, two-minute drive.
-NATHAN PETERMAN:Appreciate it.
-Great job. God bless ya.
Great. Great.
-GRUDEN:Proud of you, Nate.
-PETERMAN:Appreciate it, coach.SCHRAGER: I love that. And
I love Nathan Peterman’s story. I am gonna come out and say it.
I am rooting for him to make that Raiders’ final 53.
You see, for years, Nathan Peterman’s been
an NFL internet meme, a punching bag for everyone
on Twitter, and a name who’s been written
off by most football fans. He was a draft pick
of the Buffalo Bills and had about as rough a start
of an NFL career as any quarterback
in the history of the sport. He threw five interceptions
in his first game. A year later,
still with the Bills, he threw another bad
interception in a game against
the Houston Texans when he was inserted
into the lineup off the bench. But here’s Nathan Peterman, trying out
for the Oakland Raiders and making good. Jon Gruden
is clearly in his corner. Even if he’s saying his name
as Peter, man. ♪ (MUSIC PLAYS) ♪ Each week, we give out
an MVP award. This week, I’m going with Raiders
tight ends coach, Frank Smith, who just busts Canadian-born
Luke Willson’s chops the entire episode. PLAYERS: (SINGING)♪ O Canada ♪♪ Our home and native land ♪FRANK SMITH:That’s why
I’m always asking him
about where’s the Labatt beer
at, you know.
LUKE WILLSON:
I asked if he could translate
the script into French
and he told me to fuck off.SMITH:
Head to head, who could get away
with more trouble in Canada,
Mike Myers or Drake?-WILLSON: Drake. Yeah.
-SMITH: Really?-Yeah.
-SMITH: I thought Shrek.
Wayne’s World… WILLSON: But that’s
no disrespect to Mike Myers.
SCHRAGER: No disrespect taken. ♪ (MUSIC PLAYS) ♪ In addition to the MVP, I always give a thing or someone
or a story line that I am looking towards
for the next episode, and in this case,
it’s the final episode. And I’m fascinated to see
how these cuts go because they are 90
different players in Raiders training camp
and preseason right now. Only 53 will make
the final roster. We’ve become invested
in some of these guys’ stories, and it’s everyone
from Darren Waller, the tight end trying to make
a comeback with the Oakland Raiders
to Hunter Renfrow, the undersized college superstar
trying to make the NFL roster. And there are the stories
of the longshots who are making good.
I’m talking about Keelan Doss, the wide receiver who was
a local high school legend who went undrafted
in the 2019 NFL Draft. Will all of these players
make the final 53? Will some of them?
Will none of them? And how does Jon Gruden
and Mike Mayock go about in telling
these players whether they’re in
or they’re out? It’s the beauty of
the final episode ofHard Knocksand I can wait to see how
it all unfolds. ♪ (“HARD KNOCKS” THEME PLAYS) ♪ And that’s it
for this week’s episode of theHard Knocks Podcast.This show was produced
by HBO Sports, NFL Films, and Pineapple Street Media. Also, check out theHard Knocks
Instagram page, at HardKnocksHBO. There’s amazing stuff on there,
includingHard Knocks Nowwhich shares daily updates
from Raiders training camp. Also, listeners,
we want to hear from you, Tweet me at PSchrags.
That’s P-S-C-H-R-A-G-S. I’m your host, Peter Schrager.
Make sure to watch episode five ofHard Knocks on HBO
next Tuesday at 10 p.m. Eastern. It’s the final episode
of the season. You don’t want to miss it. You can also find
theHard Knocks Podcaston Apple Podcasts, Spotify,
Stitcher, or wherever
you listen to your podcasts. And don’t forget to rate,
review, and to subscribe. We’ll be back with our own
season finale next week. Till then, thank you everyone. ♪ (MUSIC PLAYS) ♪ ♪ (MUSIC CONCLUDES) ♪

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