Jon Gruden Dec 30, 2018; Kansas City, MO, USA; Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden observes the national anthem before the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Teams with new head coaches don’t have to take part in HBO’s Hard Knocks. Ditto for teams that have been to the playoffs in either of the last two seasons, and for those featured on the hit program in the last decade.

This year, that means that five teams — the Detroit Lions, New York Giants, Oakland Raiders, San Francisco 49ers and Washington Redskins — can essentially be forced by the NFL to participate. Here’s how we rank those candidates in terms of their potential for intrigue and/or entertainment.

5. Detroit Lions

Why it would be good: Matt Patricia is sort of interesting and Matthew Stafford’s career would be a hot topic. They’re also a down-and-out franchise looking to recapture long-lost magic, which is a nice poetic theme.

Why it would be bad: The show already used up a lot of its “Team that never wins is finally trying to win” content on the Browns last year, and they’re far more compelling than the Lions. There really isn’t much sex appeal with the Lions, who aren’t on the verge of anything special.

4. New York Giants

Why it would be good: Odell Beckham Jr., Saquon Barkley, inevitable drama surrounding Eli Manning, and plenty of outspoken players.

Why it would be bad: Pat Shurmur is a rice cake and Beckham could be traded before training camp arrives

3. Washington Redskins

Why it would be good: There’s always a level of drama surrounding the train-wreck Redskins, starting with their Mr. Burns-level owner. Redskins players have made a habit of calling out their bosses of late, and you wonder if everything’s about to boil over in D.C. Plus, quarterback Alex Smith is trying to save his career after suffering a significant leg injury in November.

Why it would be bad: There’s no Robert Griffin III, there’s no DeSean Jackson, Jay Gruden is pretty bland, and Daniel Snyder would probably hide. This would be good for hate-watching but don’t expect to be uplifted.

2. San Francisco 49ers

Why it would be good: Jimmy Garoppolo is looking to bounce back from a torn ACL, Richard Sherman remains on the roster and that John Lynch-Kyle Shanahan regime is facing a make-or-break year. The 49ers are a potential breakout team with a large following. Oh, and they just might have a new receiver like Antonio Brown or Odell Beckham Jr.

Why it would be bad: The 49ers seem rather unified, and there isn’t much drama there. Shanahan has a good grip on the team, which is good for them but bad for reality television. It might have been a different story had they not released Reuben Foster in November.

1. Oakland Raiders

Why it would be good: Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden together? This would immediately be one of the most fascinating and hyped seasons yet. Their general manager and coach both literally came from the TV world, the team has two first-round picks in April, and they’re trying to get past laughingstock status. On top of all that, we still have no idea where they’ll be playing in 2019.

Why it would be bad: Unfortunately, if this is bad for anyone, it’ll be bad for the NFL. Does the league really want to shed extra light on the mess in Oakland as the team prepares to go full nomad prior to a move to Las Vegas? In other words, there’s almost no way they’ll pick the Raiders. We’ll just have to hope Oakland volunteers. Do it, Mark Davis!

About Brad Gagnon

Brad Gagnon has been passionate about both sports and mass media since he was in diapers -- a passion that won't die until he's in them again. Based in Toronto, he's worked as a national NFL blog editor at, a producer and writer at theScore Television Network and a host, reporter and play-by-play voice at Rogers TV. His work has also appeared at, Deadspin,, The Guardian, The Hockey News and elsewhere at Comeback Media, but his day gig has him covering the NFL nationally for Bleacher Report.