Over 17 seasons of training camp coverage, the HBO/NFL Films Hard Knocks behind-the-scenes series has become a key part of many NFL fans’ routines. Netflix’s Quarterback is much newer, with only one season so far, but its coverage of Patrick Mahomes, Kirk Cousins, and Marcus Mariota during the 2022 NFL season drew tremendous attention, and prompted executive producer Peyton Manning to confirm that a second season has been greenlit.
But Quarterback may now be running into a problem Hard Knocks has faced for some time. That would be NFL figures’ desire to avoid a media spotlight. With Hard Knocks, that led to the eventual “forcing rule” for teams that don’t meet exemption criteria (which was officially used with the Jets this year, but has been a factor even with some “volunteer” teams that didn’t meet exclusion criteria). And with Quarterback, following Chicago Bears’ pivot Justin Fields’ discussion Tuesday of declining an offer to be on it, Philadelphia Eagles’ QB Jalen Hurts and Washington Commanders’ QB Sam Howell also issued public “Thanks, but no thanks” comments Wednesday:
#Eagles QB Jalen Hurts said he turned down the opportunity to appear on Netflix’s QB docuseries — last year and this year.
— Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) July 26, 2023
Asked Sam Howell if he would consider getting filmed for "Quarterback" if Netflix asked.
He said he watched the show, but not for him this year. Learning the position/starting is the priority. Understandable.
— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) July 26, 2023
With football in general, there’s a huge culture of secrecy. That’s led to controversies such as SpyGate and WakeyLeaks, and discussion about active players as broadcasters, and even discussions around not-actually-shared information. So it’s understandable why players here might be even more reluctant to do a behind-the-scenes series than, say, golfers, tennis players, or F1 drivers (and there’s been some notable pushback with each of those series as well). But it’s unfortunate, especially given the reception Quarterback has received so far and the way it’s helped bolster Netflix’s overall sports documentary reputation.
And while we know that there will be a season two of Quarterback thanks to Manning’s comments, it’s unclear who will be on that, and if it will include any of the quarterbacks fans would particularly like to see. None of the ones who have turned it down so far are on AA’s Joe Lucia’s wish list, so there’s still hope they’ll land some good options. But if pivots keep turning this series down, the NFL may need to either move away from the series overall, or develop some form of “forcing” rule akin to what they have for Hard Knocks.
It’s notable that even the “forced” Jets have seemingly come around to granting some access to Hard Knocks (now that they’ve been made to). And many past teams who have met “forcing” criteria have at least publicly talked about being fine with that series. So even a little NFL pressure, even if it doesn’t come to a full “forcing” rule (and a full rule would be much trickier with individual players than with franchises), might go a long way, and might produce decent overall results. But we’ll see.