After peaking with the Jets, Hard Knocks has had a hell of a time finding teams to go under the documentary microscope for training camp. After a string of refusals the 2012 edition settled for the boring Dolphins, and though the Bengals stepped up this year, it was another forgettable season. But thanks to a new rule passed by NFL owners today, the most interesting teams may no longer have the option to say no.
Despite the bloom being off the rose a bit, Hard Knocks isn't going anywhere. The joint HBO/NFL Films production is fantastic advertising for the league, and even the uneventful seasons offer an unrivaled look behind the scenes. But the difficulties in finding teams willing to allow cameras into camp were apparently great enough that the NFL had to step in to ensure the show's future. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the league can now force teams to appear if there are no volunteers.
Some teams are exempt. The NFL can't force a franchise to go on the show if it
- Has made the playoffs in one of the previous two seasons
- Has a new head coach
- Has appeared on Hard Knocks within the last 10 years
It's just a backup plan, since there hasn't yet been a year where a team couldn't be found to "volunteer." (These past two seasons there have been plenty of whispers about teams being pressured, or at least strongly urged to go on the show.) But we're this much closer to Hard Knocks: Bill Belichick's Nightmare.