NFL should pull the plug on Hard Knocks

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There arguably was a time when Hard Knocks had some degree of usefulness to the NFL team that made itself the centerpiece of the training camp reality series. Arguably, that time has come and gone.

Hard Knocks debuted in 2001, years before social media became a thing and the various teams began pumping exclusive! video via their websites and apps. The best argument for doing the show — to enhance national awareness of a team — isn’t nearly as strong as it once was, especially since doing the show never really correlated to establishing a national following.

Meanwhile, the best arguments against doing the show have only gotten stronger, with each example of strategic secrets (like snaps counts), embarrassing moments (like Antonio Cromartie not knowing the names of his children), and flat-out dysfunction (like Hue Jackson vs. Todd Haley last year) proving the point that there’s nothing to be gained and plenty to be lost by accepting the Hard Knocks assignment.

But the league collectively likes collecting the checks from HBO, so the league continues to sanction the show. This year, the formula that narrows the field of teams that can be squeezed to do it has yet to prompt a team to accept the assignment willingly. Indeed, it seems as if none of them (Raiders, Giants, Lions, 49ers, Washington) want to do it, at all.

So why not just get rid of it? Although the tension would become far more compelling if a team was forced to do it against the organization’s wishes and if the team brought that attitude to every interaction with the cameras (like James Harrison did in 2013 with the Bengals), the league seems to be reluctant to make a team submit against its will, hopeful instead that someone eventually will take one for the greater good.

This could be the year that doesn’t happen. Teams have enough to worry about at training camp without having to participate in the weekly effort to craft a one-hour show from countless hours of footage. Even with the apparent ability to veto anything that would make the team look bad, the team has to both spot it in real time and be willing to push HBO and NFL Films to drop otherwise compelling scenes (like Hue vs. Haley) onto the cutting-room floor.

It’s just not worth it, for any team. It’s a distraction with no upside and all downside.

Look at this this way: If there were any real benefit to serving as the subject of Hard Knocks, teams would be lining up to do it. Instead, teams line up to not do it.

And that should tell us all we need to know about whether the league should keep doing it.

60 responses to “NFL should pull the plug on Hard Knocks

  1. Keep Hard Knocks. It’s a highlight of dead summer programming. It’s one of the few things I actually look forward to watching live other than live sports.

  2. I am of two minds- on the one hand, I still enjoy watching it for some reason. On the other, it seems to be an unfair burden on a team that is trying to rebuild (and given the rules of how teams are chosen it is almost always this type of team).

    How about they flip the script and force a team that either won or played in the Super Bowl do it? Those organizations, it would be assumed, are operating at a much higher level and would be less likely to be harmed.

  3. Well, you know, its an entertaining show that fans like — isn’t the goal of the NFL to entertain its fans?

  4. The NFL wants to be a year-round product. Hard Knocks is a key component of that. I don’t see it going anywhere.

  5. The simple fact that every team decidedly wants to NOT do the show is the very reason the show must go on. We the fans deserve to know the truth.

  6. I’ve never watched it. I wouldn’t care to watch it unless it was my team – and I don’t want my team at a disadvantage and less likely to win a super bowl because of it – so there you have it.

  7. Get rid of the show.
    If anything it should start a trend of minimizing a teams forced interactions with the media.
    A media, I might add, that feels entitled to anything and everything that a team, coaches, players are doing that could advance media careers, inflate media egos, and generate content aka profits for the media.

  8. Sounds like the teams need more compensation to make it worthwhile. This could be an outlet for perennially bad teams to achieve some notariety. Basic free market rules indicate raising the compensation to a level where a team sees value.

  9. I love Hard Knocks its one of my favorite shows. Very well produced and it allows me to see players in a more personable way. I think the positives far outweigh the negatives.

  10. Who cares about what the teams want? We, the fans, are being served well by the show. They ought to be able to endure the minor inconvenience of having some camera crews around for 6 weeks as one of the trade-offs for collecting their exorbitant salaries.

  11. TheDPR says:
    Never watched it. Wouldn’t watch it even if it was my team on it. Won’t miss it.

    In the words of Taggert, from Blazing Saddles, “DITTO”.

  12. The league office = the owners. If it was up to the teams, the combine would be something that happens completely behind closed doors. The league, and more importantly the owners that tell the league what to do care more about making money than what the coaches and players want.

    I like the idea of the Super Bowl winner having to do it. Or the team with the worst record having to do it. Or any team that has a player suspended for PED’s on the list for teams having to do it; if you have more than one player suspended you have to do it. If you have a player (or owner, GM, etc) suspended under the personal conduct policy you go on the list.

    There are many things the league could think of to deter teams from doing ‘illegal’ activities that would force them into Hard Knocks or put them on the list for it.

  13. Baker Mayfield got plenty of airtime last year he wouldn’t have normally wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.

    Fans also get an inside look of how different training camps work. Can’t believe you would advocate LESS ACCESS that gets fans engaged with a sport.

  14. I really like the idea mentioned a few times in these comments that the Super Bowl winner should have to do Hard Knocks.

  15. “Look at this this way: If there were any real benefit to serving as the subject of Hard Knocks, teams would be lining up to do it. Instead, teams line up to not do it.”
    ____________________-

    Odd statement coming from somebody in the media. Should teams be able to skip press conferences, too? Because NOBODY likes doing those, either. As a fan, why do I care if some teams are trying to avoid the show? That’s not my problem.

  16. Even with the dysfunction in Cleveland, last year’s Hard Knocks still kind of made me like the team. Hue was obviously on his way out anyways, and I’m rooting for them a little more now than I would be if I hadn’t seen the show. Hard Knocks also just makes me appreciate the game and the work/preparation that goes into it.

  17. Fair enough, but if you pull the plug with teams on the field- put a few cameras in the NFL executive offices and let’s get some insight on Godells work day. I got a feeling it’ll be hours of him staring at the Penske file.

  18. Never watched a single episode. The idea of watching low end players get cut for my personal entertainment does nothing for me.

  19. I’ve never watched but I don’t think a serious football fan would waste time tuning in either. It just seems like forcing someone to do something against their will is unethical. Decent people don’t like it.

  20. I’ve tried to watch it a few times, and despite of how much I love the NFL, I just can’t get into that show. Not sure why. I feel like should like it, but I really don’t.

  21. Each year, have a lottery pick from the teams that secured the first 4 picks of the draft. If teams hate it so much, maybe they won’t tank their season for better draft picks. Maybe the worst teams will try if they don’t want people to watch them being fools the next season.

  22. harrisonhits2 says:
    May 30, 2019 at 11:42 am
    Never watched a single episode. The idea of watching low end players get cut for my personal entertainment does nothing for me.

    ———————————–

    Well that covers about 30 minutes of the 5 hours.

  23. Keep it, but let the team that does it carry 3-5 more guys on their roster through the 2nd preseason game.

  24. It’s too bad that a lot of the teams that would be interesting to see are exempt. I’d really to see just what is going on in Pittsburgh with the way they seem to be falling apart internally. And, of course, watching how Coach Belichick masterfully puts together a team in New England would be great viewing.

  25. Maybe in the minority here, but I’d love to see the Browns on Hard Knocks again. The complete 180 this team has done from last year to this year would be interesting to document in a sequel.

  26. bbb82 says:
    May 30, 2019 at 11:39 am
    I really like the idea mentioned a few times in these comments that the Super Bowl winner should have to do Hard Knocks.
    _______________________________

    Watching the Patriots the first year would be interesting, but the 2nd, 3rd, 4th years etc would be a bit repetitive.

  27. We “Love” Hard Knocks! – The NFL is “Entertainment” folks! – People take the NFL too Serious. Hey, its Entertainment like the Kardashians …lol – Baker Mayfield was Great last year on Hard Knocks. – I hope we see the “Raiders” this year. – The NFL “Never” changes. The Patriots play in a Weak Division every year, Cowboys keep buying land and developing The Star. The NFL will do anything to make it in Los Angeles. It goes on and on. – Its All Entertainment, Baby, Al Davis!

  28. I would love to see the Patriots do it….we might get insight on how creative they really are

  29. Folks, the NFL is an “entertainment” outfit, not a sports league, according to the NFL. to me it is no longer sports, but simply entertainment, and rigged that way. I think it’s odd that Gronk just happened to “trip or slip” as he was trying to tackle Kenyan Drake in that Miami miracle week 14 game last year….as if the NFL was saying, “Let the Dolphins win that one and we’ll let you Patriots win a 6th Super Bowl” Maybe if they had the Pats or Steelers or some perennial playoff team on Hard Knocks they show would be more “entertaining”! Do it,NFL!

  30. Hard Knocks is fun to watch/. Some season are better than others. Interesting some teams have never been on hard Knocks. You’d think the NFL/HBO would go after those teams, like New England, Pittsburgh, Green Bay, Seattle.

  31. deborahlagarde says:
    May 30, 2019 at 12:25 pm
    Folks, the NFL is an “entertainment” outfit, not a sports league, according to the NFL. to me it is no longer sports, but simply entertainment, and rigged that way. I think it’s odd that Gronk just happened to “trip or slip” as he was trying to tackle Kenyan Drake in that Miami miracle week 14 game last year….as if the NFL was saying, “Let the Dolphins win that one and we’ll let you Patriots win a 6th Super Bowl” Maybe if they had the Pats or Steelers or some perennial playoff team on Hard Knocks they show would be more “entertaining”! Do it,NFL!

    Agreed, and why hasn’t new england played any international games? Seems like they get preferential treatment over most of the league.

  32. I remember when kansas city was on hard knocks. Dwayne Bowe refused to take advise from Tony Gonzalez on how to catch the ball.

  33. The reason Hard Knocks should exist is because it’s entertaining. When it’s not, it shouldn’t exist anymore. Some seasons have been more interesting than others, but overall it’s a great series.

  34. They need to do a NFL version of The Real World. Pick a few divas from different teams and have them live together for a few weeks.

  35. Wow
    Lots of things in the world more interesting and entertaining that doctored video from training camp.
    Get a life people. Seriously.

  36. First off…you write this article from he perspective of teams, not fans. There’s a lot of value in Hard Knocks for fans. Maybe less so for teams, but I disagree that there isn’t value. The Browns used it last year to drum up interest in a largely moribund franchise. It worked. The Raiders could – and should – be doing the same thing this year. The peek behind the curtain into the inner workings of an organization serve as a way to give hope to that franchises fan base.

  37. It’s all about opinions and mine is it’s the single stupidest show of all time. Cut it !

  38. Keep the show but get rid of the idiotic rule that playoff teams don’t have to be on the show. Right now Hard Knocks is a PUNISHMENT for teams that don’t make the playoffs. You claim the teams hate the show, but there a number of reason$ to keep this $how and none of them are complaining about the increased cap and revenue$.

  39. I only watched the one year my team (Browns) was on and not that closely frankly. Missed the last couple episodes. It was interesting watching MY team but I can’t imagine wanting to watch another team. It’s a pretty dull show. But then, I don’t watch much TV at all aside from some sports because it all feels like such a waste of time.

  40. I love Hard Knocks especially last season. I don’t remember any dysfunction between Hugh Jackson and Todd Haley, just regular meeting stuff. Now Todd Haley blowing a gasket at Greg Williams to the point they looked like they were going to fight was must watch TV. I’d pay to watch two old out of shape hot heads duke it out. Also the Todd Haley/Corey Coleman incident, or the Todd Haley and Jarvis Landry incident and the…. well Todd Haley and everyone. It was four weeks of Todd Haley making people hate him.

  41. Who watches this anyways? Any team what is competitive does not want their process on TV. So only bottom dwellers need apply. Get rid of it.

  42. So soon as it could be the Raidere on there and Gruden showing his system the Media, knowing Hard Knocks will destroy the fake narrative regarding the Raiders/Gruden… Wants Hard Knocks canceled….. That says it all.

  43. The NFL is entertainment, and this is a great form of it. Hard Knocks is a fun, well edited show, and a crossover program that both my wife and I enjoy (she watches zero NFL during the season).

    Worried about who to pick? Simple – have a lottery, select every team, and then put them in a list. Each team will be featured once every 32 years based on said drawing. Done.

  44. Maybe I am showing my age, but Hard Knocks is a lot like the old NFL Films only without Sabol and John Facenda narrating. If any Coach would agree with this premise it would be Rams Head Coach George Allen. But that guy was pretty paranoid to begin with.

    I see nothing wrong with Hard Knocks so long as my team is not one of the contending teams to be chosen.

    But even then, I would gladly watch as the Offseason is a cruel season. Any coverage of my team is appreciated as I am living in an out of market area and am forced to watch Sheattle news. Well not exactly forced. I turn it to another channel or turn the TV off altogether. Go 9ers!

  45. just because you dont like a segment from a rival network doesnt mean the show should go. lots of fans love it and its actually pretty intriguing. it shows you the human element behind the game up close and personal. you realize that a guy being cut isnt just another guy, that he has a family as well. it shows you how hard it really is for a coach to release a guy. i like the show personally.

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