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The 2018 NFL regular season has come to a close, which means it’s time to focus on the most important question of the offseason. No, we’re not talking about where Le’Veon Bell will sign, we’re talking about which team will be on HBO’s “Hard Knocks.”
ProFootball Talk’s Michael David Smith has already done the work and figured out the five teams that can’t refuse to be on the program next year. Those five teams are the San Francisco 49ers, New York Giants, Detroit Lions, Washington Redskins and Oakland Raiders. While another team can volunteer to be on the program, that’s unlikely to happen.
Of those five teams, the best choice is obvious. The Raiders need to be on “Hard Knocks” next season.
There are a number of reasons — some serious, some less so — this needs to happen. Allow us to lay some of them out for you right now.
• Jon Gruden: The energetic, emotive coach has the personality to carry the program, and has plenty of experience working with television cameras.
• Mike Mayock: The newly hired general manager comes straight from the NFL Network, and has a big task ahead of him. The Raiders have three first-round picks in 2019.
• Potential for stars: Those three first-round picks provide the team with a couple chances to draft some stars of tomorrow. Fans could get their first looks at the future of the NFL on “Hard Knocks.”
• The team is moving: Follow along as the Raiders get used to their temporary home, which could be in London, while they prep to make their permanent move to Las Vegas.
• Raiders fans: Raiders fans are among the most passionate in the NFL. You know you want to see how some Oakland superfans will deal with their team leaving the city.
• Marshawn Lynch: He may no longer be with the team, but you can’t have a “Hard Knocks” season about the Raiders that doesn’t involve Lynch in some way.
• Nathan Peterman: The 24-year-old signed a future contract with the team Tuesday, giving him a chance to compete with the club during the offseason. Maybe some screen time will help humanize Peterman, who has mostly been a punching bag among fans since entering the league.
• “This guy:” Who doesn’t want to hear Gruden coin new phrases every week? This is the man who once excitedly said, “That’s why I call this guy the big cheese” in reference to Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley. Gruden also loudly exclaimed, “Happy Birthday, Wildcat” while in the broadcast booth. The world needs more Jon Gruden sayings.
In the interest of fairness, we will now list the negatives.
See, we couldn’t even think of any.
OK, fine, there are a few reasons why this might not work. You’ll notice we didn’t mention many players in the positive section. The Raiders don’t really have many recognizable stars. HBO can follow Derek Carr around, but there might not be anyone else on the team known by casual fans.
While the move could be a selling point, it could also detract from the show. If the team is spending time in London, that could make the Raiders a pretty expensive endeavor for HBO. It’s also worth noting that “Hard Knocks” has done a relocation storyline before. It was a major part of the Los Angeles Rams season, which was arguably the worst “Hard Knocks” season. The Rams were average and forgettable that year, which was fitting considering they were coached by Jeff Fisher.
You could also make the case for many of the other teams in the running. The Giants have a star in Saquon Barkley, and could be dealing with a quarterback controversy involving Eli Manning. The 49ers will be everyone’s sleeper team with Jimmy Garoppolo coming back. Washington has Alex Smith coming back from a gruesome injury and everyone — including the team’s fans — loves to hate the front office. The Lions could be a complete disaster everyone loves to hate watch. And you know Bill Belichick disciple Matt Patricia would hate having cameras around the team 24/7.
The truth is, we’re going to watch the next season of “Hard Knocks” no matter what team is on it. But there’s only one team in that group that would make us demand HBO release a Blu Ray so we can pore over hours of deleted scenes and director’s commentary.
Do the right thing, NFL. Pick the Oakland Raiders for “Hard Knocks.”
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