Culture / Sporting Life

Jerry Jones’ Whataburger Obsession, Micah Parsons’ Connect 4 Skills and Ezekiel Elliott’s Kid Enthusiasm Make Hard Knocks Pure Joy

Taking the Post Credits Scene to a Fresh New Level

BY // 09.02.21

Marvel perfected the art of the post credit scene, turning the practice into an expected institution. But even Kevin Feige and company never cooked up a post credits as funny and relevant as what HBO’s Hard Knocks pulls off with Jerry Jones in the latest episode.

The shortest episode of Hard Knocks yet (is HBO running out of things that the Cowboys will let them show?) ends with the $6.5 billion franchise’s owner making the rounds at the Jerry Jones Classic named after him that pits two high school football teams against each other at The Star’s Ford Center stadium. The event is sponsored by Whataburger, which leads Jones to make another fast food play (see the McGriddle from episode one).

“Dave, about how many trips a week to do make to Whataburger for me?” Jones asks a Cowboys’ employee. “Say at least five times,” the staffer shoots back.

This prompts Jones to explain how he never heats up his Whataburger either. Even if it has been sitting in the bag for 90 minutes. “I’d rather have it that way than warmed up,” Jones enthusiastically details. “I don’t warm it up. I like the original flavor coming out the sack.”

Who knew that unheated original flavor Whataburger is a thing?

Then again, if this 78-year-old billionaire is really eating Whataburger five times a week and pouring salt on his $3 McGriddles, a lot of people probably need to reconsider their diet. Who’s arguing with Jerry? Jack Easterby probably heats up his Whataburger.

Amari Cooper’s Unexpected Flex

Still, life’s not all about Whataburger. Sometimes it’s about having a coin with your face on it (another Jerry Jones Classic revelation). Or making your teammate look foolish. Both Micah Parsons, the irrepressible rookie from Penn State, and Amari Cooper, who’d largely been a ghost on Hard Knocks to this point, pull off that feat. In very different ways.

Micah Parsons Hard Knocks Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys rookie Micah Parsons is already a Hard Knocks darling. For good reason.

Parsons absolutely destroys fellow linebacker Leighton Vander Esch in Connect 4. It’s like watching a toddler trying to playing a grand master in chess. The whole contrast between Parsons and Vander Esch has been one of the most fascinating things from this Hard Knocks season. And Vander Esch is not exactly winning friends and influencing people. Or making anyone marvel over the benefits of a Boise State education.

Then again, Parsons’ competitiveness could overshadow anyone.

So could Amari Cooper’s. For most of this Hard Knocks season, the Cowboys’ most proven weapon has been in the shadows. By choice. Cooper has not invited the NFL Films crew to his house — or brought his family onto the show. But in the penultimate episode, Cooper completely takes over a practice — and stars by doing what he does best. He just keeps catching passes.

If this 78-year-old billionaire is really eating Whataburger five times a week and pouring salt on his $3 McGriddles, a lot of people probably need to reconsider their diet.

Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs makes the mistake of telling Dak Prescott that he’s going to hold Cooper catch-less in practice. Prescott makes sure Cooper hears this and. . . well, the rest is Diggs being taken to touchdown school.

“Man, Dak got me riled up,” Cooper marvels afterward. “I usually don’t talk to people like that.”

Diggs is left with nothing to say.

That is a state that Ezekiel Elliott never seems to be in. The Cowboys tailback’s boundless enthusiasm and wonder about everything is one of the real revelations of the series. Elliott is always excited.

“That boy is smooth like butter,” Elliott coos after Jacksonville Jaguars rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence lights up the Cowboys’ backups for a couple of touchdowns in the last preseason game. The Cowboys’ $90 million man cheers for reserve tailback JaQuan Hardy with the utter commitment of a super fan. Elliott even races everyone to the locker room at halftime with the joy of an elementary schooler at recess.

Of course, Hard Knocks being Hard Knocks, we also get way more of Ben DiNucci than necessary. By the time the episode airs, Cowboys fans already know that DiNucci has been cut. (He’s then re-signed to the practice squad, along with Hardy.) Which makes watching Ben DiNucci sail passes and then berate himself over it in the episode more than a little redundant.

There is a limit to how much third string quarterback drama anyone needs. Unlike Whataburger.

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