Ranking of the four NFL “Hard Knocks” candidates

In my 16 years of coverage of the Houston Texans, I’ve had four training camps that have been significantly remarkable in their own way. The 2017 and 2018 training camps, held at the Greenbriar in West Virginia, were unique and a very welcome break from the sweltering heat of Houston. Boot camp in 2020, during the pandemic, was just bizarre, with only ten of us in local media allowed to attend (along with daily COVID testing!).

Then there was 2015, the year HBO and NFL Films descended on the Methodist Training Center and gave us “Hard Knocks,” the 2015 edition of the award-winning HBO series, featuring the Houston Texans in Year 2 of Bill O’Brien Was. For a team that hadn’t made the playoffs in a couple seasons and had Brian Hoyer as their starting quarterback, that five-week explosion of relevance and content was fun!

Well, this season, like every other NFL season, a selection will be made soon as to which NFL team will be featured in “Hard Knocks,” unless a team steps up and volunteers, which is unlikely. . So, if an NFL team is approached to be on the show, they are permitted to decline, provided they meet at least ONE of the following criteria:

1. They have a first year head coach.2. They have secured a playoff berth for the past two seasons.3. They have appeared on Hard Knocks for the past 10 years.

Again, a team can volunteer to participate in the show, but the show comes with a figurative warning label that no team that was the subject has ever won the Super Bowl that season. The Texans, for what it’s worth, are exempt from making the show on two of the three criteria above: first-year head coach and recent show attendee. The playoffs? Well, that’s still a problem.

Here are the four teams that can be invited to do “Hard Knocks,” in order of how challenging each would be:

CHICAGO BEARSThe Bears have a pretty milquetoast head coach in Matt Eberflus and a rising third-year quarterback in Justin Fields. That’s all. I struggle to find compelling reasons to watch five weeks of Bears content, unless they bring back Mike Ditka.

SAINTS OF NEW ORLEANSLike the Bears, the Saints could reasonably bring Ditka back as a nostalgia act, but it won’t have to. Watching new quarterback Derek Carr and his weird and somewhat phony leadership style with his new teammates would be fun. Also, in five weeks, it would seem that there’s a good chance a greenhorn or two will be pulling some shenanigans in the French Quarter.

WASHINGTON COMMANDS The Commanders may undergo an ownership change soon, in the aftermath of allegations of a toxic workplace under current owner Daniel Snyder. Now that I think about it, the league probably would like to avoid doing anything major with this franchise. I’d be interested to see new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy put together an offense that doesn’t have Patrick Mahomes, like the one he coordinated in Kansas City.

NEW YORK JETSIf the Jets complete the trade of Aaron Rodgers this is a no-brainer, I have no idea if Rodgers would accept the attention or rage but I’m here for both. Also, watching backup quarterback Zach Wilson hit all the 40-50 year old Jet fans at training camp soon will be a sight to behold!

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