Hard Knocks Bears Saints Nov 5, 2023; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) is tackled by Chicago Bears cornerback Tyrique Stevenson (29) and safety Duron Harmon (37) at the 1 yard line during the first half at the Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

For a decade, selection rules for the NFL’s Hard Knocks on HBO have been cut and dry. However, after a tumultuous process in securing a team for last season’s edition of the show, NFL Media is proposing several changes to owners.

Since 2013, the NFL has been able to force a team to appear on the show if it doesn’t meet any of these three criteria: the team has appeared on Hard Knocks in the last ten seasons, the team has a new head coach, or the team has appeared in the NFL Playoffs in either of the last two seasons.

Those criteria have dramatically shrunk the pool of teams that can be forced to appear, with the New York Jets eventually forced into the 2023 edition over only three other eligible teams.

Changes to that criteria proposed by NFL Media will be voted on by owners on Tuesday, per the Sports Business Journal. Under the new criteria, the “previous participation” window will be sliced from ten years down to eight. While the new coach stipulation remains intact, the exception for playoff teams would be completely removed, instead replaced by a stipulation that a team can be exempt from the offseason Hard Knocks if it participates in the in-season version either this season or next season.

Additionally, the in-season version of Hard Knocks would reportedly now focus on all four teams in one division, rather than a single team.

Under the old criteria, the pool for Hard Knocks in 2024 would be extremely short. Eight teams would be bounced right off the bat for having a new coach. 18 teams were removed for making the playoffs in either of the last two seasons. Three more have appeared on Hard Knocks over the last decade (including a pair of in-season participants), leaving just three teams eligible: the Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos, and New Orleans Saints.

But if the new criteria comes into play, Hard Knocks would have a whole lot more teams to choose from. The eight teams with a new coach still would be ineligible, as would the teams who have participated in the last eight years (eight more teams, excluding two with a new coach). That would leave sixteen teams, or half the league, eligible for Hard Knocks this summer. including perennial playoff teams like the Bills, Chiefs, Eagles, Ravens, and Steelers.

With all that being said, we don’t know whether or not the owners will approve the new criteria. Despite all the public complaints by the Jets and Bears, no other team stepped up to volunteer. Would the league’s owners really be keen on expanding the pool of teams that can be forced to appear when none of them wanted to step up on their own accord last summer?

[Sports Business Journal]

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.