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Bears remain undeniable favorites for HBO's ‘Hard Knocks' offseason documentary despite Giants' inclusion

Bears remain undeniable favorites for HBO's ‘Hard Knocks' offseason documentary despite Giants' inclusion originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

HBO and NFL Films announced Wednesday they will release a new version of the notable offseason documentary "Hard Knocks" on July 2 with the Giants as the prime subject for the show.

No, this is not the notorious "offseason" version of the show. This series version aims to go behind the scenes with the Giants from the end of the 2023 regular season leading up to the summer.

That means the Bears --- who are undeniably the front-runner to be named the subject for the offseason version --- are still in the running to be selected.

NFL teams don't have to participate in the documentary, necessarily. Teams can decline to participate in the production, as they usually do. However, the NFL has rules to force a team to participate, even if they declined.

To force a team to participate, a team must meet these three criteria:

1) The team does not have a new head coach

2) The team has not made the playoffs in the previous two seasons

3) The team hasn't been on “Hard Knocks” in the past 10 years

Only three teams fit the bill this offseason: the Broncos, Saints and Bears. The Bears have been crystal clear in previous offseasons about their disinterest in participating. At the NFL owners meetings in Orlando in late March, Bears chairman George McCaskey reiterated the team's apathy.

“We’re told there is some interest in other teams being on the program and we welcome that interest,” McCaskey said.

MORE: Bears talk “Hard Knocks” eligibility at NFL owners meetings

It's hard to believe, barring a team volunteers to become the subject, that the league won't force the Bears to be the next subject of the offseason documentary. At this juncture, the Bears have built up one of the most intriguing storylines in the entire league.

Let's recap.

At the 2024 NFL Draft, the Bears capped off likely the final major highlight of their offseason, drafting quarterback Caleb Williams with the No. 1 pick and wide receiver Rome Odunze with the No. 9 pick.

Remember, some dare to hand Williams the stamp "generational talent." He's inarguably the most famous NFL draft prospect in recent memory. Williams is one of the first, major NIL (Name, Image and Likeness) athletes to turn professional, too. And he surpassed Caitlin Clark for the most jerseys sold for any draft pick in any sport ever.

Before their A+ first round in the draft, Ryan Poles and the Bears front office put together a stellar offseason in free agency and via trades.

Most notably, the Bears traded for Keenan Allen --- an intriguing storyline, as he was reportedly blindsided by the Chargers requesting he take a pay cut after they made it safely under the NFL's salary cap line. Allen headlines arguably the league's best pass-catching core including Odunze, DJ Moore and Cole Kmet.

Other notable signings include D'Andre Swift, Gerald Everett and Kevin Byard. Don't forget, too, that the Bears re-signed Pro Bowl cornerback Jaylon Johnson. And during the last trade deadline, the Bears traded for Montez Sweat from the rebuilding Commanders, also.

All of this comes after two chaotic seasons for the Bears. In 2022, they owned the league's worst record, giving them the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. They traded that pick for a haul of picks --- one that got them Williams with the Panthers' No. 1 pick --- and Moore.

In Week 18 of that season, the Texans overcame the Colts on a 4th & 20 hail mary from Davis Mills to Jordan Akins to give the Texans a 0.5-game edge over the Bears. Lovie Smith, former Bears head coach and then Texas head coach, was fired subsequently following the team's win.

Last season, the Bears got off to a 1-4 start. They inhaled painful losses to the Packers during opening week (38-20), the Buccaneers, the Chiefs (41-20 with Taylor Swift in attendance) and the Broncos (blew a 21-point lead at home).

The drama didn't stop there. Defensive coordinator Alan Williams unexpectedly resigned, leaving head coach Matt Eberflus out to dry; he took over defensive play-calling. The Bears also fired running backs coach David Walker after unorderly workplace behavior.

But on the back end, the Bears finished their season 5-1 with five straight home wins. Their defense slotted in the top five for scoring in the final few weeks of the season, ending the year on a strong note. For that, Eberflus secured his job as the team's head coach, despite the chaos.

Not everyone was safe, however. The Bears cut ties with Luke Getsy and several members of their offensive staff. They replaced Getsy with Seahawks offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, known best for his help rejuvenating Geno Smith's career. The Bears also hired Eric Washington as their defensive coordinator.

This is all to say, the Bears are inarguably the most captivating, intriguing storyline of the three teams eligible to be forced into "Hard Knocks," and maybe even the most intriguing story in the NFL.

Counter argument?

The Broncos have a case with the falling out of Russell Wilson, who they cut from the team this offseason. They traded for Zach Wilson, who was admittedly a major storyline in New York after failing to keep the Jets competitive after Aaron Rodgers tore his Achilles during the first week. And on Thursday, the Jets drafted Oregon's Bo Nix to join the quarterback competition.

As for the Saints, they hardly have a storyline after deciding to run things back with Derek Carr. They lost Michael Thomas this offseason, but hardly have much else going on in New Orleans.

If I were a betting man, I'd say the Bears are a virtual lock for the "Hard Knocks" offseason subject, unless a team surprises the league with a bid to volunteer as the subject. Or, if the NFL deems the NFC North a captivating subject for the division-wide in-season documentary, that could be their saving grace from the offseason form.

But, considering the unlikelihood of that happening, I'd say this summer poses to be a fun one to follow if you're a Bears, or a "Hard Knocks" fan.

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