Year after year it seems HBO struggles to find a willing participant for their critically acclaimed show, Hard Knocks. Hard Knocks is a documentary series that follows an NFL franchise as they move through training camp and the preseason. Typically focusing on a few players (both established and fringe players).
Sometimes the show has been entertaining (Cincinnati Bengals) and other times it’s been as fun as watching QVC (Miami Dolphins). The show isn’t automatically a hit but requires the right production team, the right NFL team, the right players to profile, and right kind of environment. It brings attention to the goings-on of the front office and provides a glimpse of how difficult building a roster can be. It also provides a face, heart, and soul of those fringe players, walking so desperately close to losing their dream.
HBO Hard Knocks is good for the league and good for the owners. It builds a buzz and, in turn, builds revenue for ownership. If it were just up to the owners, every team would be profiled every year.
But then there are the coaches and GMs…
Most NFL coaches despise the idea of cameras in their locker rooms. They hate the idea of everyone seeing practice, watching their techniques, and watching their players. Coaches are paranoid individuals who are convinced Hard Knocks gives their competition an advantage.
General Mangers are no different. GMs don’t want all of America looking over their shoulders second guessing their decisions. How would you like a camera looking over your shoulder at work? Imagine now the benefit of hindsight and you can see why it’s especially disliked.
The League Mandate
Owners are ultimately in charge but they don’t want to step on their coaching staff’s toes. Owners hold coaches and GMs to very high standards and expect immediate results. They know they have to let their coaching staff do things their way.
This has resulted in HBO struggling to find willing participants in recent years. The solution is a passive aggressive owner/league mandate circumventing the will of the coaches, while also avoiding direct blame on the specific owner. In other words, the league empowered itself to force participation in the show. To make the mandate a bit more digestible, they issued a set of exemptions. According to deadspin the exemptions are:
- If a team made the playoffs in either of the past 2 seasons they are exempt
- If the team has a new head coach they are exempt
- If the team has been on Hard Knocks in the past 10 years they are exempt
Deadspin and their readers also cracked the code on which teams do not meet any of three exemptions. Those teams are:
Any of those above teams can be forced to participate in Hard Knocks in 2014. The Cowboys meet the exemption status because they have previously participated in the Hard Knocks series in 2008 (and before that in 2001). That doesn’t mean the Cowboys can’t be on Hard Knocks. It just means the NFL cannot make them be on Hard Knocks.
Two teams on this list stick out as particularly interesting: the Chicago Bears and the Pittsburg Steelers. Both teams are talented and have many interesting players to choose from. Both are storied franchises that could make the playoffs in 2014. Both franchises may never be on this “available” list again.
What are you hoping for? Who would excite you?