Ok I know what you are thinking: The NFL regular season is over, and the playoffs are just getting underway. So why in the world are we talking about Hard Knocks? Well, the answer is quite simple: It is a great show and with the regular season complete, we now know which teams are candidates for the 2017 installment of the hit HBO show.
To start things off, let me lay out the criteria of what makes a team eligible for the show. Technically, any team can volunteer to appear on Hard Knocks, the show that takes you inside an NFL team’s training camp before each season. But no one really wants to volunteer to have cameras all over the place during their camp, so it is almost a given that one of the teams that fit the criteria will appear. The criteria consists of the following: not appearing in the playoffs either of the last two seasons, not having a head coach in his first season with the club and not being on the show in the last 10 years.
So after we sort through all 32 NFL teams, we are left with a list of eight teams who could be forced to appear on Hard Knocks 2017. Those eight teams are the Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles.
Now some of these teams could exempt themselves if they decide to make a coaching change. The Saints may be shopping Sean Payton this offseason, which could make them the most likely team to get themselves off the list. John Fox of the Bears and Chuck Pagano of the Colts were both considered to be on the hot seat, so it cannot be completely ruled out that they are locked in just yet. But with that said, all these clubs are still on the list, so let’s run through each club and see if they are worth being on Hard Knocks 2017.
The Baltimore Ravens are simply one of those clubs that have very few things that scream “exciting”. Joe Flacco seems like a very down Earth, normal guy. Steve Smith is retiring, meaning his antics would not be a part of the show. The most interesting player on the roster is probably Terrell Suggs, but after dealing with a few injury plagued seasons, he is no lock to be back if the club wants to save some money.
The bottom-line here is there has to be a better option out there. The people at HBO will likely take a look at the Ravens roster and coaching staff and decide to pass.
The Bears could be an under the radar club for Hard Knocks next season. They will likely have a fresh rookie quarterback in the fold, and a competition at the position is a given. Jay Cutler may or may not be back, but if he is, it would certainly make for some entertaining segments. Alshon Jeffery is set to be a free agent, and his departure could leave the team without a true star to build around. Although Jordon Howard broke out this year, and could very easily find himself at the center of the show.
When all is said and done, the Bears have too many questions at the moment to know what to expect. There is certainly some potential here for entertaining television. Being in a big market city like Chicago could lead to HBO to give them an extra look as well. But as we go further down the list, there are likely to be better options.
Now, this could be interesting. With a ton of great draft picks, a Hard Knocks centered around the 1-15 Cleveland Browns could certainly put the spotlight on a handful of big-name rookies. Now they do not have any true big name stars to build around at the moment, so one would question whether they have enough star power. With all the incoming rookies they will have, I think there will be plenty of story line to make this work.
This could be one of the more intriguing options. It would give us a look a some of the young, upcoming stars of the league. While some may groan about a 1-15 team getting the nod, I would be perfectly ok with it. Coach Hue Jackson already has some experience with the show, from his time with the Cincinnati Bengals, so that could give the Browns the leg up if HBO felt he was one of the better parts of the Bengals edition.
The Titans have a handful of players who could certainly bring the star power. Quarterback Marcus Mariota would be an instant draw. He is currently recovering from a fractured fibula suffered late in the season, so he is sure to enter 2017 with some serious fire. He will want to put the injury behind him, and would easily become the focal point of the show. And of course, we cannot forget DeMarco Murray, who revived his career with the Titans this year after a wasted season in Philly. Pair him with some of the teams intriguing wide receivers and defensive players, and the Titans could be a fun watch.
The Titans emerged as a potential threat in the seasons to come, so getting an inside look into their camp could be fun. Add in the background of the Music City and there is some potential for some fun off the field type of scenes if the Titans end up on the show.
When you hear Indianapolis Colts, the name Andrew Luck immediately comes to mind. From the interviews I have seen with Luck, he strikes me as an easy going, fun type of guy. One that would fit right into the spotlight of Hard Knocks. Luck alone would make the Colts a worthy pick, but he is not the only reason. We would be able to relive the moment when Vontae Davis asked to call his Grandma back when the Dolphins were on the show (If I remember correctly, that is from when he was dealt to Indy). The trio of TY Hilton, Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett could make for fun off the field snippets as well. Finally, we have Frank Gore, if he returns, who would provide the veteran of the bunch.
Jim Irsay would probably get involved as well, which is not exactly a positive in this writer’s eyes. So that is the reason why I am not totally behind the Colts as my number one choice. But outside of that, the team has plenty of good stories to tell. Count them as one of the clubs near the top of the list.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jameis Winston jokes galore! There is no denying the main reason I would want to see the Bucs on Hard Knocks is so we could get a crab leg joke or two. Winston would clearly be the main player on the show, and his colorful past would certainly play into it. Mike Evans also represents a star-studded player who would be a fun watch. But outside of those two, there is not much else that would get me excited to see Tampa Bay be the selection.
There simply are too many better options out there. Like the Ravens, I would feel let down if the Bucs were HBO’s selection. As much as I would love to see Mike Evans crack a crab leg joke, it simply is not worth it when all things are considered.
New Orleans Saints
When I first looked at the Saints, I did not think there would be too much to excite me. But they do have a handful of names who could certainly be considered draws. Obviously, Drew Brees is the big name who will bring plenty of interest. We would get some shots of Brees and his son, who was made famous when he wore those big headphones after the Saints won the Super Bowl. Sean Payton would certainly be a focal point if he remained with the club, as you never know what he is going to say or do. Finally, like the Colts, the Saints have plenty of talented wide receivers who could be fun to watch. And like the Titans, the backdrop would certainly fit into the story, as we could see some players on the town in New Orleans.
My best guess says Payton will no longer be with the club and the Saints will become exempt. But if he remains, there is potential here. They would not be my first choice, but they are a team I would not complain about if they were chosen.
Hands down my top choice for the show in 2017. For starters, Carson Wentz will be entering his second season following a promising rookie campaign. He seems like a fun guy off the field, and we would certainly get shots of him out hunting in the woods. Add in the potential return of someone like DeSean Jackson, or the signing of someone like Alshon Jeffery. Any addition would join a group of players who offer some intrigue at the position. The running back position will have plenty of competition.
The team has plenty of young and upcoming players who could be big names within a few years. This could be their time to shine before truly breaking out. Here is to hoping we get an inside look at training camp with the Philadelphia Eagles when Hard Knocks rolls around in 2017!
So who would you like to see on Hard Knocks in 2017? Tell us in the comments!