The Kansas City Chiefs have released a new docuseries, and Jacob Harris will review each entry. Today is a look at episode one, “Be Great.”
How much you’ll enjoy The Franchise, the Kansas City Chiefs’ new docuseries that will apparently chronicle the action behind-the-scenes of the team all season long, depends entirely on what you want out of it.
If you’re looking for something akin to HBO’s Hark Knocks or even the episode of the NFL Network’s A Football Life that chronicled Bill Belichick’s 2009 season, you’ll likely be disappointed. While teams have some say over what does and doesn’t make the cut on those series, The Franchise is produced in-house by the Chiefs’ 65 Toss Power Trap Productions. You have to know going in that you’re getting a product likely sanitized of any difficult or uncomfortable topics.
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The first episode of the series, “Be Great”, indeed sets that tone from the jump. After a quick recap of the AFC Championship heartbreak against the New England Patriots, the focus immediately turns to next season, with Andy Reid in his office imparting the importance of culture. “Culture is what you make, and how you grow it. So that’s what we’re doing.”
It’s a nice sound bite, and I’m sure it hits just the right note for most Chiefs fans. While it’s certainly true that Reid has a unique talent for cultivating a positive locker room culture, the sentiment does ring a bit hollow in the midst of an offseason where the team is under more of a microscope than ever regarding who they chose to bring into their organization.
But, in what is something of a constant for the debut episode, we’re quickly onto something else. It’s the first of a few Patrick Mahomes victory laps, with footage of his highlights and clips of him practicing at the Pro Bowl. The Chiefs have certainly earned a victory lap or two after proving how right they were to draft Mahomes, but as a way to introduce this new series, it’s at least a tad exhausting. Not only because these are highlights we’ve already seen hundreds of times over, but because spending so much time on celebrating last season runs contrary to the episode’s established tone of moving onto next season and finding ways to grow.
Interestingly, while briefly covering the 2019 Senior Bowl, we see a clip of Jon Gruden talking about how much work the Oakland Raiders need to do to compete with the Chiefs. It’s interesting because they include him mentioning Tyreek Hill as one of the biggest reasons they need to improve. In an offseason where the Chiefs have mostly avoided so much as a mention of Hill in their social media hype for the upcoming season, it’s curious they didn’t cut around Gruden’s mention of him. It was the only time Hill was directly mentioned in the episode. Perhaps it means nothing. Though one could say it points to Kansas City feeling like, one way or another, Hill will be a Chief for the 2019 season.
The Senior Bowl does capture the episode’s highlight, as we get a glimpse inside the Chiefs’ Draft Room while Brett Veach and his team of scouts watch film from game. Included in the group is actor/comedian and K.C. native Eric Stonestreet, who delivers the episode’s best moment, when he surprises Veach with his knowledge of the players they’re watching. They cut away from the exchange too soon, but it’s little organic moments like this I hope the series unearths more of as the season progresses.
The rest of the episode hits some of the big offseason moments in a series of mostly short sound bites: the hiring of Steve Spagnuolo, the signing of Tyrann Mathieu, and Mahomes’ photo shoot for Madden 20. The Spagnuolo and Mathieu stories deserve a lot more focus than they get here. With so much time before the season starts, they could have done a deeper dive into everything behind the scenes that led to them becoming Chiefs. Instead they’re smashed into the middle of this debut episode, and we only get to scratch the surface.
In fact, that’s mostly the problem with “Be Great”; it only skims each subject. I expect future episodes to dive deeper, especially once the season rolls around and there’s the opportunity to see players and coaches in more candid moments. This debut episode tries to cram so much of the offseason into 28 minutes that it ends up feeling more like a sizzle reel hype video of information Chiefs fans already know than it does anything of substance. Which is fine, but certainly not equal to the way it’s presented by the team; an “All Access” docuseries.
65 Toss Power Trap Productions has always been among the best in the league, and arguably all of sports, at what they do. They know how to shoot football in all its facets. Their style isn’t quite as poetic as NFL Films, but they know how to beautifully capture a moment. Some of the better sequences of the episode are the more cinematic shots of the team coming out of the tunnel or taking the field narrated by one of Mahomes’ pregame speeches. There’s an obvious formula there, but it works, and if combined with behind-the-curtain material of substance, could grow into something that gives fans more than just an extended hype video.
The episode ends with the 101 Awards, as Mahomes is given the AFC Offensive Player of the Year Award. Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy is on stage with Mahomes, and recalls how dumbfounded the sideline was when Mahomes used the left-handed throw he’d been toying around with in practice in a live game. As the episode closes, Bieniemy comments about Mahomes’ new trophy, “This thing is heavy.” Mahomes chuckles in response. If there was ever a way to sum up Patrick Mahomes in three seconds, that might be it.
Episode Grade: C
The Franchise airs Wednesdays @ 6PM CT on FOX Sports Midwest and FOX Sports Kansas City, as well as streaming on Facebook Watch and YouTube. You can also see it at the Chiefs official site.