The question of which team will be selected for this year’s preseason Hard Knocks appears to be getting an answer, and it’s a logical one. As per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, a NFL source says the New York Jets are “bracing” to be forced to do the show.
The Jets are bracing for an involuntary Hard Knocks assignment. https://t.co/ZgMxbBsY6b
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) June 26, 2023
The Jets are one of four teams this year that meet the criteria for the league to tell them they have be on the HBO/NFL Films series. Those criteria are not having a new head coach, not reaching a playoff berth in the past two seasons, and not being on the show in the past decade. The other such teams are the Chicago Bears, New Orleans Saints, and Washington Commanders. As with the Jets, Bears and Saints figures have both also said publicly they don’t want to do the show, while the Commanders reportedly would be willing if selected. And the NFL even expanded that search beyond the forceable teams to see if there were other takers, with Florio saying during a radio appearance earlier this month that “NFL Films wants volunteers, not hostages.” But now, it looks like they may wind up picking a hostage instead, as Florio wrote Monday:
Per a league source, the Jets are bracing for the preseason Hard Knocks assignment, despite making known publicly (and privately) their lack of interest in serving as the focal point of this year’s show.
…The Jets, Saints, and Bears have made it clear that they don’t want to do it this year. The Commanders, we’re told, would do it, if assigned . (We’re also told the league prefers to wait until after the sale of the team is finalized, and that the Commanders could be this year’s in-season option.)
The league had commenced talking to some of the other 28 teams, hopeful to find a volunteer. The Lions were approached about a second straight appearance. They declined.
As argued here previously, forcing the Jets to be on Hard Knocks seems very logical for the league. There’s massive nationwide interest in them following their trade for Aaron Rodgers, and in terms of local interest, they’re in the No. 1 media market in the country (and even though that’s split with fans of the Giants and fans of other teams, there are a lot of Jets’ fans). Rodgers would be a fascinating figure to get regularly on the Hard Knocks cameras, considering his propensity for saying just about anything.
Yes, it’s understandable why NFL Films prefers teams that volunteer. In particular, a team eager to participate may offer more access, and access has posed challenges for the show at times. But getting a team to volunteer for Hard Knocks appears to often be easier said than done.
Many coaches in particular are leery of Hard Knocks. And even teams that say they “volunteer” may not be all that eager about it. On that front, it’s worth keeping in mind that the pick most years comes from the small list of teams that can be forced, not the overall population of NFL teams. And the only listed actual “volunteer” so far is the Commanders, and as Florio notes, they may be picked for the in-season show (which does not currently have a forcing criteria).
So, with all that in mind, it would seem to make sense for the league to tell the Jets they’ve been chosen for this special mission. Of course, that would be somewhat unusual. Yes, there have been various levels (often minimal) of team eagerness to participate in the past, but it’s rare to see a team whose key figures like head coach Robert Saleh have been so vocally against Hard Knocks (“I know there are several teams who would love for Hard Knocks to be in their building. We are not one of them.”) selected. And it’s understandable why that often doesn’t happen; NFL Films and the NFL prefer teams’ full cooperation, and even if that cooperation is somewhat grudging and limited, it seems better for the league, the team, and the show if that tension is kept behind closed doors. In this case, though, there seem to be so many people who would be interested in a Jets Hard Knocks (and there also seem to be so few other options without forcing) that telling the team to do it appears to make a good bit of sense.