The Amazon/NFL Films “All or Nothing” series on the Eagles’ 2019 season takes a look inside what went wrong for a team that went to training camp aiming to dominate the NFC but ended its year with backup quarterback Josh McCown crouched in a Lincoln Financial Field hallway, shedding tears of frustration, exhaustion, and pain from a badly torn hamstring.
I found the later episodes of the eight-part series, which will be available to stream Friday on Amazon Prime, to be the most poignant. That’s when the Eagles fought their way through an absurd list of injuries, plus the uproar engendered by their 5-7 start, to a four-game winning streak and a playoff berth — only to have Carson Wentz’s first-quarter concussion in that wild-card playoff loss to Seattle apply the coup de grace to their ravaged championship hopes.
Watching the first episode, I had to remind myself that NFL Films needed to set the scene for a national audience. I doubt a lot of Eagles fans will be thrilled to extensively rehash how 2018 ended, or are eager to relisten to a lot of talk-radio hype from the 2019 offseason about how great everything was looking.
Speaking of talk-radio hype, let’s get right to my main quibble with the series. There is some great stuff in here, especially scenes deriving from the extraordinary entree that defensive end Brandon Graham allows the project. Cameras even film his family opening gifts on Christmas morning, the Grahams wearing matching pajamas. But if this series was all you knew about the team, you would think Eagles fans experienced the season and their team almost exclusively through the lens (or funhouse mirror) of sports talk radio.
Jon Hamm is the credited narrator. I think Angelo Cataldi and his brethren should have gotten equal billing. Every game aftermath, every issue that arises, is framed by often-outraged WIP radio voices. I guess this injects drama into what could be dry topics. There is one reference to a podcast, but I had no idea who a few members of the geek chorus might be.
The fifth season of “All or Nothing” portrays a world in which the written word — online or in print — has ceased to exist. I wasn’t expecting Hamm to read stories to us, but an occasional shot of a banner headline or a tabloid back page has always been a staple of this genre. I guess we’ve reached the point where the people creating such projects don’t know what headlines or back pages are.
Yes, that’s a boomerish observation, but really, social media posts fare little better than newspapers in this series. Everything revolves around overheated talk-radio dialogue.
Profanities are not bleeped out. Hoo boy, are they not bleeped out. The big profanity, the four-syllable one, is employed extensively.
It’s obvious that NFL Films received a lot more cooperation from some subjects than others.
Graham is the star of the series, and fans who might have been puzzled over why he is considered so crucial to the defense, despite stats that often aren’t superstar-ish, will get their answers here.
Graham’s relentless, tough-minded brio — the drive that propelled him to strip Tom Brady at that crucial Super Bowl moment — charts a course through the roughest parts of the season. Graham prods, cajoles, and drags teammates along with him.
Malcolm Jenkins comes off as just as tough, and more cerebral, but Graham’s raspy chuckle is the soundtrack to the season.
Carson Wentz has his moments. The quarterback’s addresses to teammates are heartfelt, but the camera doesn’t follow him to his home, or inside his marriage, the way it does with Graham. I liked it when Wentz jokingly challenged Fletcher Cox to get past him one-on-one, during a practice lull. Wentz then dived to the ground and explained to Cox, who stood, puzzled: “I was cutting you!”
Likewise, coach Doug Pederson is most often heard during beginning-of-the-week auditorium addresses to the team, which aren’t terribly revealing.
Salty defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz seems not to exist; he might as well be a reporter. (Apparently, this was Schwartz’s choice.) But on a ride in general manager Howie Roseman’s SUV, we learn why Roseman opted for tinted windows. (Before he got them he was sitting in traffic, unable to escape a fan’s hearty “Hey Howie! F— you!”)
The shots of the city, often from bridges or drones, are gorgeous. And NFL Films certainly doesn’t ignore the fans, though it might go overboard on the blue-collar bit — we see barbers, firefighters (no Danny Watkins), Mummers, Italian Market vendors, Reading Terminal Market vendors and construction workers. Apparently no Eagles fans work in offices.
A barber, lamenting the failures of the Eagles’ defensive personnel against the Vikings, declares in Episode 4 that “they couldn’t stop water from runnin’ if they had a plastic bag.”
Here are some key moments, episode by episode: