It is that time of year once again when the announcement of which NFL team will be the featured squad in HBO Sports: HARD KNOCKS is about due. From mid-March to mid-May each year the team is chosen and as fans know there are certain criteria that make a team eligible. The eligible teams have been known since the end of play in early 2023 of course, but exactly which team gets the scrutiny during training camp is yet unknown, until any day now.
The only teams who meet the qualifications in 2023 are the Chicago Bears, the New Orleans Saints, the Washington Commanders, and the New York Jets. That is because these four teams have had a consistent coach for a number of seasons, have not seen the playoffs in the past two seasons, and have not appeared on the HBO series over the past 10 years. So, does anyone want to make a guess?
So, we know the sports scene is great at ranking teams and athletes, right? Well, believe it or not, there is a ranking of these four teams based on their entertainment potential. Yeah, it comes straight from the NFL.com. It falls out like this, according to Branden Walker:
# 1 – the New York Jets: As NFL.com states, “The Jets were very much in the playoff hunt for most of last season, even without stellar quarterback play. Now, though, four-time MVP Aaron Rodgers is set to take the reins clad in Gotham Green, surrounded by a healthy, youthful and talented squad, including both 2022 Rookies of the Year (Garrett Wilson on offense and Sauce Gardner on defense). There are plenty of personalities to go around here.”
# 2 – the Chicago Bears: The site assessed the team this way, “General manager Ryan Poles traded the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft to the Panthers in exchange for a jaw-dropping haul, including two first-round picks and receiver D.J. Moore, who should help rising star quarterback Justin Fields. That was the first domino to fall — the second was Poles signing Tremaine Edmunds, Nate Davis and T.J. Edwards. What a way for Poles to continue to make a name for himself in his second year on the job. It would be worth getting an intimate look at how this rebuild continues to unfold.”
# 3 – the New Orleans Saints: Journalist Brendan Walker goes on to say, “The Saints signed Derek Carr as a Mardi Gras splash, making him the best quarterback in the NFC South overnight. I’d be shocked if Carr wasn’t the major focus of a Hard Knocks season featuring the Saints. It would be interesting to see how he settles into his new home, with Dennis Allen, who was his first NFL head coach back in 2014, after his high-profile breakup with the Raiders. A receiving corps that includes Michael Thomas, Chris Olave and Juwan Johnson would be very fun to watch.”
# 4 – the Washington Commanders: NFL.com noted, “Here’s another rebuilding team that could end up being the most drama-producing (for you thrill-seekers), depending on how things play out this offseason. The Commanders are in a transition period, even beyond the fact that ownership might change hands. the continued journey of Brian Robinson, who made an inspiring return to the field last season despite suffering multiple gunshot wounds in an August incident, to Jeremy Reaves, whose emotional reaction to hearing from head coach Ron Rivera that he’d earned Pro Bowl made me want to follow his story more. The Commanders have question marks all over, but maybe Hard Knocks could answer them in 2023.”
Keep in mind that this is just a ranking and comments from one journalist writing for the NFL, but it sets up nicely the choice the organization must make. HBO’s cameras will go anywhere it needs to go to capture the action, the drama, the emotion that is American professional football. So, do you want to handle Rodger’s not-for-everyone personality and see him in camp or sidestep the Jets for now so that they can be featured in HARD KNOCKS IN SEASON instead? Or do you want a team labeled more as an “underdog” to rise up to the occasion? We await the ruling on the field. HARD KNOCKS 2023.