Four NFL teams are eligible to be featured in the upcoming season of HBO’s Hard Knocks, based on the following selection criteria:
- They don’t have a first-year head coach.
- They haven’t made the playoffs in two straight seasons.
- They haven’t been on Hard Knocks over the last decade.
The teams that meet the criteria to be selected for the training camp series are the Chicago Bears, New Orleans Saints, New York Jets, and Washington Commanders. And the teams that stand out as the most appealing options are the Bears and Jets.
The Jets are the biggest story in the NFL right now as they try to acquire quarterback Aaron Rodgers from the Green Bay Packers. Like it or not, Rodgers coverage sells. We’ve also never seen him in a non-Packers uniform or in a big market. If Rodgers indeed ends up in New York, HBO and NFL Films would surely drool at the opportunity to land the Jets on Hard Knocks.
The Bears had the worst record in the NFL in 2022, but they were actually very fun to watch due to dual-threat quarterback Justin Fields. That record also led to Chicago having the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, which was traded earlier this month to the Carolina Panthers for a haul that includes the No. 9 overall pick and star wide receiver D.J. Moore. The Bears are loaded with draft capital going forward and have the league’s most cap space. It’s a huge year for Fields, and it will be year two for general manager Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus. They check a ton of boxes for the ideal Hard Knocks format, especially as a big market and historic franchise.
But the Bears have made it clear in the past that they do not want to be on Hard Knocks, and that stance has not changed.
Speaking to the media on Tuesday at the NFL league meeting in Phoenix, Bears chairman George McCaskey was asked if the organization would like to be on Hard Knocks.
According to ESPN’s Courtney Cronin and The Athletic’s Kevin Fishbain, McCaskey said that “there are a number of teams that have compelling stories to tell on Hard Knocks.”
The media then asked him if the Bears are included among those teams.
McCaskey replied, “31 others.”
Couple of notes from our availability with Bears chairman/CEO George McCaskey
-On whether the Bears would like to be on Hard Knocks: "There are a number of teams that have compelling stories to tell on Hard Knocks."
That are not the Bears?
— Courtney Cronin (@CourtneyRCronin) March 29, 2023
No surprise, but the Bears are not interested in being on "Hard Knocks." They are one of the teams eligible to be forced to do it in 2023.
George McCaskey: "We feel there are a number of teams that have compelling stories to tell on Hard Knocks."
— Kevin Fishbain (@kfishbain) March 29, 2023
It was thought that the organization might be more willing to welcome such media opportunities with a new president and CEO in place, former Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren.
Additionally, the idea that Hard Knocks is a debilitating distraction for teams took a hit with head coach Dan Campbell and the Detroit Lions embracing the coverage last year en route to a surprising nine-win season (and if the Lions want to volunteer to do Hard Knocks again this year, we’d approve of that).
Hard Knocks is a great way for a bad team to sell their franchise, management, coaches, players, facility, etc. to prospective free agents. The Lions generated a ton of good PR from their appearance last season. Any team that fears exposure is living in the past.
— Lester A. Wiltfong Jr. (@wiltfongjr) March 29, 2023
Hard Knocks debuted in 2001 and the Bears have never been on it (or, they’ve avoided it). Maybe the NFL will “force” the Bears to be on Hard Knocks for the first time this year, but the McCaskeys seem determined to do everything in their power to guide the league and HBO in a different direction.