The NFL “Hard Knocks” show is a lot more popular with the fans than the teams.
Many teams don’t like the idea of cameras being in their inner sanctums in camp. They sometimes act as if they were working on The Manhattan Project instead of putting together a football team.
And since NFL Films produces it, there is little chance a team will be embarrassed.
Still the NFL had to put together guidelines for teams that can’t turn down an invitation so they all can’t refuse.
If a team has a new coach, has been on the show in the last 10 years or has been in the playoffs the last two years, they can’t refuse to do the show.
This year that left only six teams eligible – the Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Chargers, Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins.
It was easy to eliminate the Chargers. The league doesn’t want to highlight the problems they are having winning fans in Los Angeles.
There were plusses and minuses to the other five teams, but the casual fans may be surprised the league picked the Browns, who are 1-31 the last two years and have been conducting a seminar on how not to run a franchise.
On top of that, new general manager John Dorsey – who put the Browns in the lottery by not firing coach Hue Jackson – publicly said he had no interest in appearing on the show and said nothing good could come of it.
The league picked the Browns anyway, and now it remains to be seen if a bad team can be a good show.
Even Dorsey did some damage control after the Browns were picked and said the fans would see how passionate the team is about winning even though they don’t do much of it.
It will be interesting to see what the ratings will be. Hard Knocks executives said the Browns are a good storyline as they attempt to bounce back from a winless season, and that fans root for an underdog.
Rooting for an underdog is one thing, rooting for a train wreck is another.
The Browns had two of the first four picks and were second-guessed for both of them. Reports are they were the only team in the top five that had Baker Mayfield the top quarterback. And they took a cornerback, Denzel Ward, over defensive end Bradley Chubb with the fourth pick.
On the first day OTAs were open to the media, Mayfield threw three picks and almost had two more picked off. Granted, OTA interceptions are meaningless, and two of the picks went off receivers’ hands, Still, it wasn’t exactly a fast start.
The quarterback position is likely to get a lot of attention as Mayfield tries to push Tyrod Taylor, who has already been named the starter.
The next question is how many fans will be watching.
It’s up to the Hard Knocks producers to try to make a horrible team look interesting.