The NFL could have a tough time finding a team for “Hard Knocks” this year, and that’s because HALF of the teams eligible to be on the show don’t seem to have any interest in being on the show and that might be one big reason why it’s taken so long for the league to pick a team.
The NFL calendar has now hit June and the league still hasn’t made an announcement about which team will be getting the “Hard Knocks” treatment this year. Last year, the announcement of the team was made in March.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the “Hard Knocks” formula, a team doesn’t have to be on the show if ANY of the three rules below applies to them:
- They have a first-year head coach in place.
- They have a playoff berth in the past two seasons.
- They have appeared on “Hard Knocks” in the past 10 years.
For instance, the Broncos don’t have to be on the show in 2023 because they’ll have a new head coach. The Patriots won’t have to be on the show because they’ve made the playoffs at least once in the past two seasons and the Cowboys won’t have to be on the show because they’ve appeared on “Hard Knocks” in the past 10 years.
When we factor in those three rules and apply them to everyone, we’re left with just four teams that the NFL can force to be on “Hard Knocks” this year:
- New York Jets
- Chicago Bears
- New Orleans Saints
- Washington Commanders
The obvious choice here would seem to be the Jets, who are now one of the most fascinating teams in the NFL thanks to the addition of Aaron Rodgers. However, I wouldn’t go betting anything on the Jets getting picked because they don’t seem too excited at the idea of landing on “Hard Knocks.”
Jets special teams captain Justin Hardee wants nothing to do with the show, which he believes would be a distraction.
Jets owner Woody Johnson and head coach Robert Saleh were both asked this offseason how they felt about being on “Hard Knocks” and they both sidestepped the question.
“I’ll leave that one alone,” Saleh said at the NFL’s annual league meeting in March, via ESPN.com.
As for Johnson, he gave a very noncommittal answer.
“Whether we do it this year, I think we’d have to take a hard look,” Johnson said, via the New York Post.
That might sound like Johnson is on the fence, but if he were in favor of doing the show, he’d likely just say that. For instance, back in 2012, he made it clear that the team was open to being on “Hard Knocks” (they didn’t end up getting picked that year, though).
The Jets previously appeared on Hard Knocks in 2010, which is mostly remembered for Rex Ryan telling his team to go eat a “God d— snack.”
As for Johnson and Saleh, if you want to be on the show, you’d just say that you wanted to be on the show when you got asked about it. If you don’t want to be on the show, then you would sidestep the question or just say you don’t want to be on the show, which is the route that Bears chairman George McCaskey took.
McCaskey made it clear at the league meeting that he would be glad to see any team on the show this year, except for the Bears.
“We feel there are a number of teams that have compelling stories to tell on ‘Hard Knocks,'” McCaskey said at the owners meeting said, via The Athletic. “Thirty-one others.”
On the Commanders’ end, Washington’s Jeremy Reaves, who was a special teams All-Pro in 2022, doesn’t sound very interested in doing the show.
One thing working in Reaves’ favor is that the NFL might shy away from putting the spotlight on Washington right now. The team is going through a lot of drama related to Dan Snyder and although he’s in the process of selling the team, he still technically owns them and the league likely wouldn’t want to put Snyder under the spotlight as the Commanders transition to a new ownership.
Even if the Jets, Commanders and Bears don’t want to be on “Hard Knocks,” that doesn’t mean they won’t be picked. The NFL can force one of the four eligible teams to be on the show. The Raiders didn’t want to do the show in 2019, but the NFL picked them anyway. On the other hand, the Jets, Commanders and Bears could be off the hook if a team volunteers to be on the show. The Rams and Chargers did the show together in 2020 even though they weren’t on the list of eligible teams.
With only four eligible teams this year, the Jets, Commanders and Bears will be hoping that someone else volunteers or that the NFL ends up picking the Saints. New Orleans could actually be a fascinating choice with the addition of Derek Carr, plus, the Saints have never been on the show.
The show generally starts filming at the start of training camp, so the NFL will want to pick someone soon. However, don’t look for the league to rush things. In 2019, the “Hard Knocks” wasn’t announced until June 11 when the Raiders got picked. In 2021, the NFL waited until July 2 to announce the “Hard Knocks” team that year, which ended up being the Cowboys.
Basically, this means that you can likely expect to hear an announcement on who the “Hard Knocks” team will be at some point in the next four weeks and don’t be surprised if that announcement is sooner rather than later.