HBO’s Hard Knocks, the NFL Training Camp documentary show which launched it’s debut season in 2001 with the Baltimore Ravens as the featured team, has selected the Cleveland Browns to be the featured team for the 2018 series of episodes, skipping Baltimore for this season. While the increased coverage of Hard Knocks is a joy to fans of football, many coaches do not like the distractions and changes the filming schedule brings to camp routines.
The Ravens were usually not candidates for the show in years past, following the implementation of guidelines by the NFL in 2013 that dictate the following “excuses” that can allow a team to refuse the series:
- Team has already appeared in last 10 years on the show
- Team has a 1st-year head coach
- Team has been in the playoffs either of last two seasons
With the Ravens last playoff appearance coming in 2014, the team was eligible to be a participant starting with the 2017 offseason (The Tampa Bay Buccanears were chosen in 2017). The other candidates for 2018 were the Browns, the Los Angeles Chargers, the Washington Redskins, the Denver Broncos, and the San Francisco 49ers.
The choice of the Browns makes some sense, given the intrigue around Baker Mayfield as the surprise #1 overall pick in the draft, the offseason additions of Tyrod Taylor and Jarvis Landry on the offensive side, the hire of John Dorsey as new GM, and a returning head coach who has only 1 win in the last two seasons. Cleveland may be a “boring” team when it comes to success in the past decade, but they have had one of the most exciting offseasons in the NFL. On defensive, the Browns even made a number of moves, getting CBs like Denzel Ward and Damarious Randall to help rebuild, along with a change in the offensive coaching staff by getting former Steelers OC Todd Haley.
The team that I had expected to be the favorite was the San Francisco 49ers, given 2017’s hype with rookie GM John Lynch and then the eventual trade that landed Jimmy Garappolo, who was sensational in his final games in 2017 and earned himself a rich contract on just those games alone. Not to mention, after Richard Sherman was cut by the Seahawks, he immediately rolled up to Santa Clara and accepted the first offer from a divisional rival of the Seahawks, looking to play against the team that cut him twice a year. The Ravens likely gained some momentum in the last stages of the selection process, give their 2018 draft class, which featured an electric college playmaker in Lamar Jackson being selected, along with the drama that entails from a played up media image of a QB controversy where the team’s starter is “giving the cold shoulder” to his future potential replacement. However, in the end, Cleveland is the team who won out and got the pick. So hey, Cleveland just doubled their win total from the past two years! (Sorry, I just had to…)
If one is to believe that John Harbaugh’s tenure is tied to the playoffs, then the Ravens should not be candidates in 2019. Either they will have made the playoffs, or perhaps we will have a 1st year head coach in 2019. In either case, the Ravens have the misfortune, or luxury, of not having to accommodate the Hard Knocks film crew this season at camp. That honor goes to Cleveland…