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'Hard Knocks' Episode 3 recap: Ryan Mallett gets bad news

These things rarely transpire how you imagine.

NFL teams protect their in-house business the way the United States government guards nuclear launch codes beneath the Pentagon. The only way you ever know how this business works is if you're in the business. The omertà is strong with the Shield.

The exception to this rule comes in those precious five weeks of Hard Knocks each summer. Take the final minutes of Tuesday's episode for instance: Texans coach Bill O'Brien gathers his quarterbacks in a private room and announces that Brian Hoyer has beaten out Ryan Mallett for the starting job in Week 1. In the movies or TV, the announcement would prompt Mallett to jump to his feet, shout expletives at his coach, then drop Hoyer with an F5 for crushing his football dreams and sleeping with his girlfriend.

This is not how things go in real life.

In reality, O'Brien does all the talking. He explains that there isn't much of a difference between the two passers, but Hoyer has simply been more consistent -- in games, in practice and in the meeting rooms. There is no arguing with O'Brien, no back and forth dialogue about whether the second-year coach is making a mistake by going with the guy who posted a 50.4 passer rating and a sub-50 percent completion percentage in his final four starts in Cleveland.

It's just a boss delivering a decision to two of his reports. It's really not that different than how a promotion would be handled in your office.

"We're not going to go eight games of not being very good," O'Brien explains to Mallett before turning to Hoyer.

"You need to be really ready to go. Not trying to put heat on you, just telling you you got to get after it every day."

The message has been delivered. In hours, perhaps minutes, news of the decision will spread into the locker room. Not long after that, an NFL insider -- in this case, our own Rap Sheet -- will break it on Twitter. O'Brien stands up and leaves the room, off to handle his next task in a day filled with them.

Consider it a reminder that running a football team is a business. Life is not like Ballers, and that's a good thing. Ballers is bad.

Elsewhere ...

» It took five minutes into the third episode, but we got our first player cut. The damned was rookie defensive end Jasper Coleman, who was cut to make way for veteran defensive back Quintin Demps. It feels like Hard Knocks is moving away from what was once a dominant narrative device in the series. (This might not be entirely their decision.)

»Hard Knocks has confirmed what we already assumed: J.J. Watt kicks everybody's ass in practice. Here is how Texans defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni describes practice film of a particularly nasty Watt goal-line tackle that forced a fumble and led to a turnover: "This is excellent. That angle and running like that is excellent. That's excellent. That's excellent. That's excellent. This sh-- will win us a game." Watt stares at the screen emotionless, almost detached. This is not your average teacher's pet.

Speaking of Watt, we counted 18 consecutive catches by Justin James on a Juggs machine firing footballs at a high rate of speed from less than five feet away. For a team lacking offensive firepower, is it really crazy to wonder why he doesn't have a bigger role on the other side of the ball? Don't say he needs rest: T-800s don't need rest.

»Uzoma Nwachukwu goes by the nickname "E.Z." despite the fact that there is no "E" in his name. This appears to bother some of his teammates, especially wide receiver Cecil Shorts, who appears to feel betrayed. "I'm done calling you E.Z. by the way cuz, I'm done," a stone-faced Shorts tells Nwachukwu on the sideline during one practice. "I don't know what I'm gonna call you, but I'm done callin' you E.Z. There's not an 'E' in your name. You've been lying to me since April 20."

Uzoma is Dick Whitman. E.Z. is Don Draper.

»"Is there water on space?" -- Uzoma "E.Z." Nwachukwu to NASA official

»"Hello to you brothers, my name is E.Z. I got a couple questions. I loved Pluto as a planet. What happened there?" -- Uzoma "E.Z." Nwachukwu to actual men in space

» Sign That You Don't Love Your Backfield, No. 328: You ask your cornerback/special teams ace to become a running back, seemingly on a whim. (See: Charles James II).

»Brian Cushing put on a show as everybody's favorite bully in Episode 2. On Tuesday, we got to watch him vomit for 20 straight seconds, then marvel at the amount of bile he left on the turf. On the plus side, I now know the lowest rung on the ladder for a NFL staff member: Dissolving a pile of linebacker discharge with one of those green Gatorade water bottles.

» Being an NFL superstar has its perks. While Ryan Mallett has to sleep on the floor next to the uniform closet, J.J. Watt gets his own king-sized bed tucked in the back of the very same room. As I wrote last week, one of my goals this season is to discern whether Watt is actually liked by his teammates. I can't imagine the bed goes over well.

» Want a sleeper Hard Knocks MVP candidate for 2015? How about assistant strength coach Sean Hayes, who absolutely slayed with a spot-on Ric Flair impression in a team meeting. This comes two weeks after Hayes wowed America with a uncanny "Macho Man" Randy Savage impression. If he sticks a Hulk Hogan landing in the finale, it's going to be tough to deny him the strap.

» Always a ballsy move to mock the head coach during Rookie Skit night. High risk, high reward move right there. Luckily for Khari Lee, he delivered the goods.

» "Ooooh, oooh, bang, bang! Chicken and shrimp!" I have a new favorite thing in the world to say and I have running back Chris Polk to thank for it.

» I've always wondered how the conversation went when a random player approaches a huge star during pregame warmups. The brief interaction between Charles James II and Peyton Manning was educational and hilarious. "I just want to come over and shake your hand," a clearly nervous James begins. "You're a f-----' legend man."

» I don't know if it's possible to root against O'Brien after watching a private moment at home with his 13-year-old son, Jack, who suffers from a rare neurological disorder called lissencephaly. It's a powerful, heart wrenching peek at a birthday celebration for a boy who has beat the odds by making it this far. Powerful, affecting stuff, especially if you're a parent.

» Our updated Hard Knocks, Season 10 playlist, which now -- almost impossibly -- includes the 1986 Kenny Loggins hit "Playing With The Boys", made famous in the sexually charged volleyball scene from Top Gun. Appropriately, it soundtracks a montage of action from Swennis, a disturbing locker room game invented by several Texans players.

HBO will air an encore presentation of Episode 3 on Wednesday at 11 p.m. ET. Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @DanHanzus.

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