January is here, which means the National Football League’s 12 best teams will now battle it out for a chance at a trip to Atlanta for Super Bowl 53. But while we prepare for the postseason, it’s time to start speculating which team will be spotlighted on HBO’s Hard Knocks next season.
Since 2000, HBO and NFL Films have teamed up to create the reality sports documentary, providing fans with an extensive behind-the-scenes look at how a team operates, taking viewers through the rigors of training camp and up to the opening of the regular season. As expected, almost all teams want nothing to do with the cameras and the preparation, however it’s not really up to them – it more depends on several criteria from the prior campaign. In 2013, the NFL gave itself the power to choose a team to participate, so long as the team wasn’t selected for the playoffs in either of the last two seasons, it has a first-year head coach or it has been on the cable program in the last 10 years.
Only two teams have been chosen twice – the Cincinnati Bengals and Dallas Cowboys.
The Cleveland Browns were the most recent victim, as audiences were given an inside look at how head coach Hue Jackson bizarrely fronted the team and how Bob Wylie’s stomach jiggled when he yelled “set, hut.” But this year, there are only five teams that fit the aforementioned criteria in order to be featured on the series – the Detroit Lions, Oakland Raiders, New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers and Washington Redskins. The frontrunner at this point has to be the Raiders. The drama basically writes itself. With uncertainty swirling at this point as to whether or not the team played its last game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, the potential tension between coach Jon Gruden and quarterback Derek Carr and three first-round picks in the upcoming NFL Draft, those storylines seem like a slam dunk as to why the 4-12 team would be a ratings juggernaut.
While the other four teams might have some pieces that would be fascinating to see on Hard Knocks – take Giants’ running back Saquon Barkley, for example – the Redskins might just be enough of a dumpster fire to force the league’s hand in their choice for the series. Quarterback Alex Smith is coming off a gruesome Joe Theismann-like leg injury, owner Dan Snyder runs the front office like a three-ringed circus and don’t forget the topic of the team’s name, which would be discussed somewhere around a dozen times.
Of course, we aren’t going to know for months which team will be named, but no matter who is selected, we will definitely be tuned in for the ride – even if it’s a complete mess.