In 2016, Goff was the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft by the Los Angeles Rams and battled Case Keenum in training camp to be the starting quarterback while Mannion was third string. Goff was heavily featured during the camp on “Hard Knocks,” HBO’s annual NFL reality series, and Mannion got his share of air time.
In one episode, Goff offered Mannion a payment if he could hit the goalpost crossbar with a pass from the 10-yard on the far left side, making it about a 25-yard throw.
“We don’t gamble in professional sports, though, but 100 bucks,” Goff said.
After checking that he wouldn’t owe Goff anything if he missed, Mannion drilled the crossbar on his one try.
“In the NFL, even a third-string quarterback like Sean Mannion can put on a show,” “Hard Knocks” narrator Live Schreiber said of the throw.
“I didn’t make him pay it,” Mannion said with a laugh. “I didn’t wager my own money, so I felt like it was a one-sided bet, and bragging rights was enough.”
On Tuesday night, this summer’s “Hard Knocks” debuted on HBO featuring the Detroit Lions, and Goff is back in front of the cameras. He is in his second season with the Lions after being traded from the Rams.
“It would be cool to see how (Goff is) doing in camp,” Mannion said of the series, which consists of one-hour shows over five straight Tuesdays through Sept. 6.
Mannion is one of a number of Vikings players and coaches who have appeared on “Hard Knocks.” Head coach Kevin O’Connell has been on the show both as a player (as a New York Jets quarterback in 2010) and coach (as Rams offensive coordinator in 2020). The 2020 series combined the training camps of the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers.
“They do a great job of it,” O’Connell said. “It’s amazing the amount of content they get without really feeling like they’re all over you every day. … Every NFL team, all 32, have great stories to tell. … I know people around the league are watching throughout training camp, and I think it’s a special thing.”
Does that mean O’Connell might have interest one day in the Vikings being featured on “Hard Knocks?” Since the series debuted in 2001 (although it did not run from 2003-06 and in 2011), the Vikings are one of 16 NFL teams that have not been selected.
“I can’t imagine that at this point, with what we’re trying to get done every day, but you never say never, and that would be an organizational decision,” O’Connell said.
It’s possible, though, the Vikings might not have a choice at some point to have probing cameras come to Minnesota. Since teams usually don’t volunteer for the series, the NFL has established criteria that maintains a candidate cannot refuse being picked.
If a team has missed the playoffs two straight years and doesn’t have a new head coach, it is fair game. So if the Vikings, who already have missed the postseason two straight years, don’t make it in 2022 and O’Connell remains the coach, they would become a potentially attractive option for 2023.
“We don’t need any extra incentive (to make the playoffs), but I guess if we’re looking for more, that would be a reason,” Mannion said with a laugh.
Actually, Mannion said it wasn’t all that bad being on “Hard Knocks.” But he said it takes some time for players to adjust to the scrutiny from the NFL Films crew.
“It’s a little abnormal,” he said. “There’s just about everything being documented. It’s a great show and it’s great for the NFL, but it takes some getting used to. They have like robotic cameras in your meeting rooms and microphones on the table, so if you’re in there and suddenly start talking about the NBA or whatever song you like, the robotic camera starts moving toward you, so that’s a little weird.”
Mannion said he was miked up several times, and he had no say in the matter. He recalled putting on his shoulder pads and finding a small microphone attached.
“If you’re miked up and you don’t tell your teammates that you’re miked up, it’s a big fine,” Mannion said of an agreement players had not to secretly pick up any audio.
Other current Vikings who have played for teams that were on “Hard Knocks” are long snapper Andrew DePaola, who was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a portion of the 2017 filming and with the Oakland Raiders in 2019; tight end Johnny Mundt and wide receiver Trishton Jackson, with the Rams in 2020, and defensive lineman T.J. Smith, with the Chargers in 2020. Also, offensive lineman Chris Reed was with the Indianapolis Colts in 2021 when HBO debuted an in-season version of “Hard Knocks.”
Mannion said he watched “Hard Knocks” regularly when he was at Oregon State from 2011-14 because he wanted to learn about life in the NFL. But he said he didn’t tune in when the Rams were on in 2016 because there was no need to “relive” training camp.
DePaola, though, said he did watch some of the Raiders episodes in 2019.
“I thought they were really well done,” he said. “It’s kind of amazing how little time they have to put out the final product because they do four, five or six straight days of filming and they put a show out for that Tuesday night.”
DePaola wouldn’t have minded being featured on the series. Then again, he is a long snapper.
“They never followed me around, unfortunately,” he said. “They were just worried about the guys with the big personalities and the bigger-name personalities.”