One of the pertinent questions of every NFL offseason is which team will appear on HBO’s beloved training camp miniseries Hard Knocks. Now that the NFL has mandated that at least one team be able to appear for the program following established criteria, we know that HBO has certain options at their disposal unless a team volunteers. That happened last season when the Atlanta Falcons took the plunge.
According to a report from Pro Football Talk, a fellow NFC South team is preparing themselves to be the 2016 participant in the series. That would be Sean Payton, Drew Brees, and the New Orleans Saints:
Per a league source, the Saints are bracing for the possibility of the league tapping them on the shoulder and directing them to be the subject of the annual Hard Knocks series.
The Saints are one of seven teams that can be forced to do it, under criteria the league developed several years ago. Only teams that: (1) have a new coach; (2) have been to the postseason in either of the last two years; or (3) have served as the Hard Knocks subject within the last 10 years can say no. This year, the teams that can’t decline are the Saints, Bills, Bears, Jaguars, Raiders, Chargers, and Rams.
Sean Payton hasn’t always been the most forthcoming coach with the media, so the word “bracing” might be the best way to describe their attitude towards being selected for the series. However, the Saints would really be the perfect choice for Hard Knocks.
This is a franchise that has won a Super Bowl in the past decade and is coming off a couple of underperforming seasons with a star coach and quarterback under pressure to get back to their glory days. Payton was the subject of several trade rumors throughout the season until the Saints finally committed to him as their coach for the foreseeable future. Brees is (hopefully) going to get a new contract extension this offseason and at 36 still led the NFL in passing yards despite missing a game.
While Brees is still in his prime, this is a very young team that did everything to rebuild the team around him without publicly using the “r” word. Some of those moves didn’t work (cough… Brandon Browner… cough) but young players like Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead, and Stephone Anthony can be building blocks moving forward. That process is already continuing this offseason with the Saints expected to part ways with all-time leading wide receiver Marques Colston and all-pro guard Jahri Evans.
This is a huge offseason for the Saints. They’ve decided to give the Brees-Payton era one last roll of the dice. Right now, they seem like the perfect choice for this year’s Hard Knocks. We’re just sad that Rob Ryan isn’t still around for this.