Die-hard NFL fans struggle this time of year, because football is dangerously close but yet still so very far away. Most teams are wrapping up OTA’s within the next several days, which means training camp is lurking in the distance. I’m sure there are millions of “fans” out there who don’t follow OTAs, training camp, or let alone any of the offseason. For the fans who love the offseason like myself, its time to start getting very excited, because with training camp comes… HARD KNOCKS. One of HBO’s greatest series they have ever created, yes I said it. The NFL is such an entertaining and special league, and Hard Knocks gives us a first-hand look at what these men go through on a daily basis. Training camp aint easy, and HBO does a superb job of showing how much blood, sweat, and tears go into making an NFL roster. Hard Knocks is the perfect mix of football, entertainment, emotion, and passion.
In my opinion, last season was tremendous. So many good story lines, some unreal characters on the Bengals roster, and pro-bowl talent every which way. It was all you can ask for and then some. Marvin Lewis & co. did what they needed to do for us to enjoy the show, but that was last year, time to move on to this year. Just incase people have forgotten or never even knew in the first place, the NFL has applied some rules to decide who HBO is allowed to make participate in Hard Knocks if no teams volunteer. If a team has a new headcoach, made the playoffs within the last two years, or has been on Hard Knocks before, they are safe. 8 teams do not fall under any of those categories, therefore if no NFL team accepts HBO’s offer, anyone of the 8 can be forced to partake. The Jags, Raiders, Steelers, Bills, Cardinals, Rams, Bears, and Giants make up the (not so) elite 8… Now, I know alot of you would want nothing more to see your favorite team on Hard Knocks, but you have to understand how the coaches, front office, and even veterans can see it as nothing but a distraction, therefore you have to respect teams turning down the offer. James Harrison was a total asshole to the cameras for most of training camp, and he explained why when he basically said ‘HBO doesnt deserve to see how hard we work, they havent done shit to get here’. Harrison isn’t the only player in the league who feels this way, and thats why Hard Knocks has become unappealing to some of the more old-school players. Regardless, HBO will find a team one way or another, and its going to be great entertainment.
Everyone was probably bummed to hear the news that the Browns turned down HBO’s offer, but I shouldn’t even have to tell you why that was a very very very smart move by that organization. So I’m going to assume that most NFL teams that have the offer to decline Hard Knocks will do so, and we will be watching one of the 8 teams listed above during training camp. Time to talk about the potential candidates.
Jacksonville Jaguars: I want to kick my own ass for what I’m about to say here, but the Jags interest me in what they could bring to the Knocks table. Gus Bradley is an energetic coach who knows how to win football games, just hasn’t done much of that yet in j-ville. Blake Bortles was picked 3rd overall to be the future of the franchise, and it is always interesting to see how big name rookies handle early pressure on and off the field. Justin Blackmon showed signs of brilliance last year, but he also has shown signs of mental retardation off the field, he’s no diva, but he is an interesting story. Posluszny is a beast, he doesn’t have too much around him, but he is a tackling machine and I think he would be the blue-collar hard worker the show needs. They have set out to go extreme home makeover on the franchise the past few years and this year is supposed to be the big change, could be cool to watch.
Oakland Raiders: Like the jags, another rookie QB who is supposed to eventually take over as the face of the franchise. On top of that we have tons of popular new faces coming over through free agency that know how to play some serious ball; Justin Tuck, Matt Schaub, James Jones, Lamarr Woodley, and Maurice-Jones Drew. So we have a serious QB battle to watch which is always entertaining. Some more than respected defensive vets in Charles Woodson, Woodley, and Tuck. Might be pretty cool to watch them mentor the 5th pick in the draft Khalil Mack. Besides Run DMC the raiders don’t have many “superstars”, which he still probably isn’t considered, but overall they have a talented roster and a young coach.
Pittsburgh Steelers: I personally think Mike Tomlin is one of the coolest coaches out there, I don’t think he would bring the Rex Ryan approach to the show but his personality would make people excited to watch each week. The Steelers have a VERY strong roster when it comes to Hard Knocks. They have two of the most recognizable names in the NFL (Roethlisberger and Polamalu). Two very productive receivers and one who you might know from shooting himself in pretty much the dick (Antonio Brown, Lance Moore, Plaxico). A couple young guys who have the potential to be studs as well (Le’Veon Bell, LaGarrette Blount, Jarvis Jones). I think the Roster along with the coaching staff and history of the franchise would make for very solid television. Also I can’t wait to see how fast Dri Archer’s actually is.
Buffalo Bills: I’ll tell you one thing that is a fact, there is no shortage of hype surrounding the bills this year. Brandon Spikes has gone as far as saying they are gonna shock the world. Newly ‘polished’ EJ Manuel is now surrounded with Sammy Watkins, CJ Spiller, Mike Williams, Fred Jackson, Robert Woods and Scott Chandler; training camp or not that is going to be a fun offense to watch. I think if the Bills got the show it would be a lot more on football and we would see a lot less non-football entertainment, but the show is supposed to be about the grind of training camp, and I think the Bills would make NFL fans very pleased if they get the show.
Arizona Cardinals: we would get the opportunity to witness one the the classiest men the league has ever seen go to work everyday, Larry Fitz. Richard Sherman can’t even talk shit to Larry because of the kind of guy he is. I truly believe Larry Fitz would be a good enough reason to enjoy the Cardinals on the show. Luckily for us, Arizona has an all time great roster when it comes to personalities. Darnell Dockett has destroyed twitter over the past few years, throw him in the locker room with Hard Knock Hall of Famer Antonio Cromartie and we are gonna have some serious laughs. In my eyes patrick peterson has the most potential in the league, I think he might be the best all around player in the game, and it would be sick to see him and the honey badger doing LSU thangs all over the place. Between the secondary, Larry Fitz, a vet QB (palmer), and Dockett, the Cards have to be high on your Hard Knock wish list.
St. Louis Rams: Please god no. I have absolutely nothing wrong with gay people, I fully support Michael Sam and I hope his journey ends well when all said and done, but we all know what will happen if the rams get the show. Its a shame because the defense has so many young studs and it would be cool to see how relentless those guys are day in and day out, but the Rams just can’t get the show. Regardless if they end up cutting Sam, it will be virtually impossible for HBO not to take advantage of the opportunity they have. Besides that, I think they boast a below average Hard Knock roster. I’d like to witness Bradford try to get things going first hand, but I’m gonna be the first one throwing chairs if the Rams get it.
Chicago Bears: Out of the eight teams, the Bears NEED to get the show, plain and simple. Jay Cutler is one of the coolest guys in the game, thats a fact, you are not allowed to argue with facts. Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey are now the undisputed best WR duo until proven otherwise, and B-Marsh has a very cool story to go along with him (look it up). Matt Forte is silently one of the best players in the league. Oh did I forget one of the most ridiculous guys in the world let alone the NFL? JARED ALLEN is a die hard hunting redneck who has a mullet most of the year. Charles Peanut Tillman is a fan favorite and watching him and Tim Jennings mentor first round pick Kyle Fuller would be very cool. They just missed the playoffs last year so we would be watching a team that knows how to things the right way (for the most part). I want the Bears, you should too.
New York Giants: For some reason I feel like Eli would be incredible on this show, so for that reason I can’t say I would rather watch the Michael Sam saga than the Giants, but it is pretty damn close. I know I’m biased when I say this (#phillystandup), but Tom Coughlin just makes me want to fall asleep. They do have a pretty good roster as far as Hard Knocks goes, but personally I wouldn’t want to see the g-men get the show. Have they won superbowls in recent years, sure, do they make for good television, I don’t want to find out. If they do get it, hopefully Victor Cruz and JPP can lead the way to spice things up, not to mention a very solid offseason minus Will Hill officially becoming a drug addict.
Potential Hard Knock Power Rankings: (out of the 8 that are eligible to get chosen)
1. Bears 2. Cardinals 3. Steelers 4. Bills 6. Jags 7. Giants 8. Rams