“What’s the worst that could happen?” That’s what I think when I think about watching the Cleveland Browns on HBO’s Hard Knocks.
That’s not the greatest justification for choosing to do anything, but this isn’t real life. These are the Cleveland Browns and they don’t live in the regular world, let alone the regular business world. The NFL is its own crazy place. How else could they justify moving a Cleveland “home” game to London? So it goes with the NFL’s long-running documentary television series on HBO, Hard Knocks.
It’s not just a TV show. Hard Knocks is weaved into the fabric of the league. There are rules about whether or not your team can be forced to appear on the show. As it turns out in this NFL version of The Hunger Games, if there’s no volunteer, one team meeting a certain set of conditions can be forced to appear. PFT figured it out, and the Browns are one of eight teams that can be forced. The Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts, Philadelphia Eagles, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New Orleans Saints, and the Browns all qualify. None of the aforementioned teams have been on Hard Knocks in the last 10 years. None of those teams have made the playoffs in the last two years. It appears that none of those teams will have a new head coach.
The Browns shouldn’t wait to be forced, however. Just do it. What’s the worst that could happen? They have a head coach in Hue Jackson who presumably won’t embarrass them. In fact, he’s a guy who would play very well in front of the camera. He has the ear of his players and he’s a genuine person that likely won’t have cameras catching too many eye rolls as he’s talking to them. He was also the running backs coach for the Bengals when they were on the show in 2013 so should know what to expect. Heck, he was even a star.
None have had quite the standout performance of Cincinnati running backs coach Hue Jackson. While I didn’t quite notice him blowing kisses to anyone on the sideline this week, Jackson was in rare, impressive form during the program’s first half. He was smack-talking players, giving motivational speeches that were better characterized as dress-downs, and generally looking happy to be showing off his coaching skill set on television. …
Jackson has probably emerged as the man you most want to have an adult beverage or six with if given the chance. His intricate football knowledge—it’s amazing he’s not running an offense somewhere—and force of personality would make it worth picking his brain.
I’m guessing this wouldn’t have been the case with Pat Shurmur or Eric Mangini.
The Browns have focused hard on ridding the team of bad characters, and it seems to have worked thus far. Johnny Manziel is gone. Justin Gilbert and his road rage dip-spit tossing are in Pittsburgh. Armonty Bryant was waived in expedient fashion amidst a drug arrest and a PED suspension. Even the sorest sore spots on the Browns right now have the potential to be feel-good stories on television.
We’d get an up close and personal view of Cam Erving fighting for his football-playing life. I dare you to tell me you don’t hope that RG3 sticks around so we can see what kinds of things he says and how his teammates react to him. An in-depth side plot of getting to know Joe Thomas and Joe Haden behind the scenes and off the field would be exceptional. None of this is to mention the brand new draft picks that the Browns will be welcoming to the team this training camp or if the Browns get to keep Terrelle Pryor and/or Jamie Collins.
If ever there was a season to be on Hard Knocks it would be this one. I trust this coach to be on the show and I think the roster is as good as it’s ever been… you know, from the standpoint of not embarrassing us on television.