Distraction-averse coaches don't want Hard Knocks filmed during training camp. It's their special place. It's where fans shouldn't be allowed. In fact, fans shouldn't watch any NFL games at all. It ruins the sanctity of the sport.
But the unfortunate reality for Bill Belichek and other hyper-secretive coaching types is that Hard Knocks is fucking awesome. It may be the best reality show on TV—even if it does essentially hit the same marks year after year. There are the rookie intros. The rookie hazing. The trips home with the long-shot practice players, and the profiles of at least one colorful veteran. There, too, is the inherent drama of the four preseason games (always with illuminating on-the-field chatter between the athletes, refs, and coaches) and that agonizing final episode where you're forced to say goodbye to the victims of the last round of cuts. If HBO were to get rid of the show, I and many other football fans would be furious; or to speak in Hard Knocks vernacular: we'd look like James Harrison after 18 hours with a camera crew. Not even a subpar past two seasons can take away moments like this. Or this. The show is great.
Luckily, it doesn't seem to be going anywhere. The NFL announced today that it will begin accepting volunteers to be profiled on Hard Knocks next year, but if no team volunteers, then the league can just pick a subject. Teams that will have made the playoffs two years in a row are exempt. As are squads with new head coaches.
This is unquestionably a case of the NFL acting like a dictatorship and strong-arming its players. But it means more Hard Knocks so YEAHH. Drop that fucking hammer down, Roger Goodell.
What then would be the dream 2014 scenario? You have to pull the teams that have been profiled recently: The Bengals, Dolphins, and Jets. And the ones likely to make the playoffs for a second straight year: The Broncos, Seahawks, 49ers, Patriots, and Colts. And the franchises that currently hold onto their coaches like a dog and its rotting limb: The Panthers, Bucs, Jets, and Vikings.
That leaves, if you're picking a team for its intestingness rather than dominance, here are a few top contenders:
The Redskins: Provided they don't make the playoffs this year, the 'Skins would be a fascinating story. There's a comically villanious owner who functions as a bitchier, far less cool Jerry Jones. In other words, the classic heel.
There's the chance that this name change thing is going to continue to run hot, creating a heap of drama for the coaches, Washington media, and other powers-that-be next july. How will the players react? Who will trot out more Native Americans to support their cause?
And then there's RGIII, the most charismatic of the young crew of QBs, looking for a third-year comeback. A Hard Knocks would let us know, definitively, if Mike Shanahan actually forces Griffin to practice his scrambles on a Tough Mudder course. ("YOUR ACL IS WEAK, SON.")
Jacksonville Jaguars: I know, they're horrible. But that's kind of the point: How would Jacksonville act when their team's existence is on the line? London is a very real possibility, especially as the Wembley games keep growing in popularity. Would the franchise make one last effort to make it work in Florida? Or would we see a team collectively say "Screw it" and start mentally preparing for a future of tea times and bad teeth?
(Plus: Maybe this?)
Philadelphia Eagles: Chip Kelly. Michael Vick. Potential racial tension between Riley Cooper and 78% of his teammates. There's a smattering of material.