Fans love "Hard Knocks." The NFL loves "Hard Knocks."
That equation was enough for league owners to pass a rule stating that one team will be featured on the award-winning HBO series for training camp.
The NFL will ask franchises for volunteers, and in true dictatorial fashion, if one does not volunteer, one will be volunteered for them. Of course, not all 32 teams will be eligible from the pool every year.
Teams that are exempt to policy, can say no Hard Knocks: Teams with new coaches, teams that have made the playoffs the two years running.
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) October 8, 2013
(We'll call that last stipulation the "Robert Kraft clause" until further notice.)
Of course, this diminishes the pool quite a bit. Let's say this rule was in place prior to this season ...
— Josh Zerkle (@JoshZerkle) October 8, 2013
Something to think about, anyway.
The rule was passed at the NFL's Fall Meeting, which is going on through Wednesday this week in Washington D.C., where league business is being discussed. The popular HBO show clearly is among the more interesting topics that have arisen during the meeting, and it is about as intimate (and, when James Harrison is involved, colorful) a look at the NFL as fans can get.
One problem: Most teams hate it. We're not talking about the marketing folks, or even many owners who seek to broaden their exposure, marketability and popularity. We mostly mean coaches, and even some players. The NFL is as media-exposed now as it ever has been, and the fact that the owners passed this vote backs that up firmly.
But the last thing most coaches want is a film crew up in their grills during what they deem to be one of the most vital points of the football spectrum: training camp, when rosters shrink, pressure rises and players are carved and molded into battle-ready performers. Or worse yet: When one of their players gets in trouble off the field (see Ochocinco, Chad, 2012).
Coaches also, by nature, are the most suspicious, guarded and untrusting people you'll ever meet. With "Hard Knocks" cameras rolling 24-7, everything is out there on display: coaching methods, offensive and defensive designs, coaches discussing strategy and player evaluation — how the sausage is made, and in this case, it makes for fascinating TV. But coaches don't always want to peel back the curtain on their baby like that.
Frankly, we love it. We also could see why coaches don't. But this doesn't mean that you're necessarily going to get Bill Belichick: The Reality Show anytime soon. At least not until the New England Patriots miss the playoffs two years running, by which time Belichick likely will be out on a boat marlin fishing with Jimmy Johnson.