September 30, 2023

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The Sports Fanatics

NFL having trouble finding ‘Hard Knocks’ team for 2023: One franchise already turned down invite, per report

The NFL could have a tough time finding a team for “Hard Knocks” this year, and that’s because the four teams eligible to be on the show this year don’t seem to have any interest in being on the show, which is likely the big reason why it’s taken so long for the league to pick a team. 

The NFL calendar has now hit June and the league still hasn’t made an announcement about which team will be getting the “Hard Knocks” treatment this year. Last year, the announcement of the team was made in March with the Lions getting picked. 

According to the Detroit News, the NFL has had such a tough time finding a team that the league actually asked the Lions to return for 2023, but Detroit said no, which leaves the league right back at square one with four eligible teams that want nothing to do with the show. 

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the “Hard Knocks” formula, a team doesn’t have to be on the show if ANY of the three rules below applies to them:

  1. They have a first-year head coach in place. 
  2. They have a playoff berth in the past two seasons. 
  3. They have appeared on “Hard Knocks” in the past 10 years.

For instance, the Broncos don’t have to be on the show in 2023 because they’ll have a new head coach. The Patriots won’t have to be on the show because they’ve made the playoffs at least once in the past two seasons and the Cowboys won’t have to be on the show because they’ve appeared on “Hard Knocks” in the past 10 years. 

When we factor in those three rules and apply them to everyone, we’re left with just four teams that the NFL can force to be on “Hard Knocks” this year: 

The obvious choice here would seem to be the Jets, who are now one of the most fascinating teams in the NFL thanks to the addition of Aaron Rodgers. However, I wouldn’t go betting anything on the Jets getting picked because they don’t seem too excited at the idea of landing on “Hard Knocks.” Just ask coach Robert Saleh about that. 

“I know there are several teams that would love ‘Hard Knocks’ to be in their building,” Saleh said Friday, via SI.com. “We’re just not one of them.”

It’s also probably worth noting that Jets special teams captain Justin Hardee wants nothing to do with the show, which he believes would be a distraction. 

Also, let’s not forget that Jets owner Woody Johnson gave a very noncommittal answer when he was asked about the possibility of doing “Hard Knocks” at the annual league meeting in March. 

“Whether we do it this year, I think we’d have to take a hard look,” Johnson said, via the New York Post

That might sound like Johnson is on the fence, but if he were in favor of doing the show, he’d likely just say that. For instance, back in 2012, he made it clear that the team was open to being on “Hard Knocks” (they didn’t end up getting picked that year, though). 

The Jets previously appeared on “Hard Knocks” in 2010, which is mostly remembered for Rex Ryan telling his team to go eat a “God d— snack.”

Another coach who seems adamantly against being on the show is Dennis Allen. 

The Saints coach gave a pretty clear answer on June 6 when he was asked how he would feel if his team gets picked for the show. 

“I wouldn’t like it because I just want to focus on our football team and getting better, and any distractions are exactly that, distractions that keep you, ultimately, from reaching your goal,” Allen said, via PFT

So it looks like the Saints and Jets are out. How about the Bears then? It’s look like they’re also out. 

At the annual league meeting, Bears chairman George McCaskey made it clear that he would be glad to see any team on the show this year, except for the Bears. 

“We feel there are a number of teams that have compelling stories to tell on ‘Hard Knocks,'” McCaskey said at the owners meeting said, via The Athletic. “Thirty-one others.”

On the Commanders’ end, Washington’s Jeremy Reaves, who was a special teams All-Pro in 2022, doesn’t sound very interested in doing the show. 

It also seems like Ron Rivera would like to stay far away from the show. The Commanders hasn’t been asked about doing ‘Hard Knocks’ this year, but he did say in 2021 that he would have no interest in doing the show after doing Amazon’s “All or Nothing” while coaching the Panthers in 2018

One thing working in Rivera’s favor is that the NFL might shy away from putting the spotlight on Washington right now. The team is going through a lot of drama related to Dan Snyder and although he’s in the process of selling the team, he still technically owns them and the league likely wouldn’t want to put Snyder under the spotlight as the Commanders transition to a new ownership. 

Even if the Jets, Commanders, Saints and Bears don’t want to be on “Hard Knocks,” that doesn’t mean they won’t be picked. The NFL can force one of the four eligible teams to be on the show. The Raiders didn’t want to do the show in 2019, but the NFL picked them anyway. On the other hand, the four candidates for this season could be off the hook if a team volunteers to be on the show. The Rams and Chargers did the show together in 2020 even though they weren’t on the list of eligible teams. 

With only four eligible teams this year, the NFL is going to have to hope one of the teams has a change of heart or that another team volunteers. The league could also point to the Commanders and basically say, “If we get your sale finalized, we’re putting you on the show and we don’t want to hear any complaints.”

The show generally starts filming at the start of training camp, so the NFL will want to pick someone soon. However, the league doesn’t necessarily have to rush its pick. In 2019, the “Hard Knocks” team wasn’t announced until June 11 when the Raiders got picked. In 2021, the NFL waited until July 2 to announce the “Hard Knocks” team that year, which ended up being the Cowboys. 

Basically, this means that you can likely expect to hear an announcement on who the “Hard Knocks” team will be at some point in the next three weeks and don’t be surprised if that announcement is sooner rather than later.