The Browns didn’t want to do Hard Knocks. And now they’re doing it, happily. Or at least as happily as possible under the circumstances.
“We have been asked multiple times about being featured on Hard Knocks, and we really felt like it was our turn this year and the timing was right,” owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam said in a statement. “We want to be great partners in this league, and we also recognize Hard Knocks gives fans a special opportunity to learn more about our team and players. Organizationally, we are confident about where we are headed, but we have a lot of work to do in order for this franchise to earn the respect of our fans on the field. We understand winning is ultimately most important to our fans. We’re looking forward to partnering with HBO and NFL Films to show how our team is working hard at training camp to prepare for the 2018 season.”
The entire situation invites speculation as to what kind of deal was struck to get the Browns to do it. Will Cleveland/Canton get the 2020 draft? (The 2019 draft reportedly is earmarked for Nashville.) Will the Browns get something else that they’ve been trying to get behind the scenes?
Plenty of teams simply don’t want to do Hard Knocks, and the NFL surely doesn’t want to create the impression that any team is being forced to do it (although a truly involuntary participant would make the series a lot more compelling). So teams that agree to do it without kicking and screaming likely are getting something for their trouble.
If not, then they’re just suckers.
The question now becomes whether those who subscribe to HBO will be suckers when it comes to spending time in August watch the training-camp travails of a team that has won only one game in two seasons. Maybe there’s a rubbernecking effect that will get people to watch how a team that can’t do anything right tries to get its preseason ducks in a row. Maybe fans will want to see whether No. 1 overall draft pick Baker Mayfield looks the part.
Regardless of the team’s motivation for submitting or the audience’s motivation for watching, remember that the subject of Hard Knocks always has final say over what gets televised. So unless the same incompetence that has fueled 1-31 has infected every level of the organization, chances are that the final product will look a lot less like an objective tour of the Factory of Sadness and more like an infomercial edited by the Chamber of Commerce.