The Atlanta Falcons have premiered on HBO's Hard Knocks, the NFL's flagship reality program. Each year, Hard Knocks follows a team through training camp, giving fans a close look at all the gruelling practices, the uphill battle rookies face in making the cut and the progression of the team as a whole.
While the fans enjoy it though, many teams oppose the show, as they view the cameras following the team around as a distraction. The NFL doesn't force teams to be on the show; usually teams will volunteer. The teams that volunteer are typically teams needing some attention and exposure, whether it be because they're trying to excite an apathetic fan base or have simply been bad for so long that they're irrelevant. You won't see the league's model franchises like the New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers or the Denver Broncos lining up for a spot on the show.
The Falcons are somewhere in between the model franchise and the teams in turmoil. Getting to one of those extremes would be ideal for reality tv. The Falcons don't quite generate the buzz the average fan would want. The fans either want to see how an elite franchise prepares for a season, or they want complete chaos for their own entertainment. Here are the five teams fans want to see on Hard Knocks.
5 Philadelphia Eagles
Not only do the Philadelphia Eagles have history on their side for intrigue, but they play in a rough market, and they have one of the most interesting coaches in the league in Chip Kelly.
Kelly's fast-paced tempo would be ideal for reality television, as what we see in Kelly's offence is a reflection on him as a head coach. How interesting would it be to see how fast a Chip Kelly-run practice goes?
What Kelly has also brought to Philadelphia is a strict, no junk-food policy in the team's camp. Last year, it was revealed that Kelly had overhauled the Eagles' cafeteria menu. Kelly took out Taco Tuesdays and Fast Food Fridays. In came lean proteins and personalized smoothies, with the contents adjusted for each player's needs.
How intriguing would it be to follow 300-pound NFL players having to adhere to such a strict diet? Very.
However there is a reason for Kelly's madness. If his team has to play at such a high tempo, they need to be at peak performance level. Perhaps that extra taco or cheeseburger would slow them down in the fourth quarter.
The Eagles have always struggled to reach the upper echelon of franchises, but Kelly's coaching style could very well be the start of a trend in younger head coaches if his methods work in Philly. It goes well with the new-age feel that reality television brings.
4 Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers have fallen off the map since their Super Bowl XLV loss to the Green Bay Packers. They're stuck in mediocrity, but this franchise has too much history and success to overlook. Mike Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger have too much pedigree to ignore. They're winners and watching how an organization with so much historical success is run is interesting television. Think of the equivalents in other sports; the Yankees, Lakers, Celtics, Canadiens, etc...
The Steelers have the most Super Bowls with six and they've done things a certain way for the longest time under the ownership of the Rooney family. It'd be great to get a glimpse of what exactly is the 'Steeler way'. Let us go behind the Steel Curtain.
It would also be great to see how Mike Tomlin practices defending on special teams.
3 Oakland Raiders
We told you we wanted chaos!
How fun would it be for television viewers to dive into the Black Hole for a few weeks and follow the evil Oakland Raiders on HBO television? If the late Al Davis was still alive, the Raiders would likely be no.1 on this list.
It would be something if HBO's producers made it a priority to follow the Raiders' cheerleaders. No, not for the reason you're thinking, but for the purpose of getting their feelings on the fact that they haven't been paid by law, and in a class action suit, cited deplorable working conditions.
On the football operations side, it would help if head coach Dennis Allen was a little more animated and if Matt Schaub wasn't the Raiders' current starting quarterback. On the other hand, there is also Derek Carr, the Raiders' rookie second-round pick, who is trying to avoid what his older brother David went through; never quite living up to his billing. It'd be an interesting story to follow a quarterback whose older brother was also in the league and maybe we'd see the two brothers together, perhaps David even passing on some advice to Derek.
Either way, it's an organization with a ton of history, a lot of intrigue, and the fact they haven't made the playoffs since their run to Super Bowl XXXVII may work in their favour for reality television. Training camp could look like the first 20 minutes of a typical sports movie.
It'd be interesting to see how Mark Davis runs things, in comparison to his late father and how the team deals with the unstable circumstances, where it seems they could be moved out of Oakland in any given year.
2 New England Patriots
Here, we get the other extreme; the NFL's most consistent franchise of the last decade, one that has the strongest connection in the NFL; the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady factor. Just how does this team remain a contender every season, despite all the turnover we've seen in recent years?
What goes on behind the great wall of Foxborough, that metaphoric barrier that exists between the team and the media. How does Belichick turn all of those unknown players and/or aging veterans into productive players? How does he run his practices? What kind of instructions does he give players on how to handle the media? How does he deal with players who stray from the Patriot way?
The other perspective is that of Tom Brady. How is he so successful? How does he command his troops on the field? How does he consistently get the best out of his teammates? How is he helping rookie Jimmy Garoppolo and fourth-year player Ryan Mallett, who has waited in the wings for a starting opportunity? Would we see Gisele on the program?
These are all questions we'd love to have answered, but there's no way the Patriots would ever volunteer to be on Hard Knocks. The NFL would have to force them to do it, which would be hard as well, given owner Robert Kraft's pull in the league.
1 Dallas Cowboys
How have fans been deprived of this for so long? America's Team, the NFL's most valued franchise, has yet to be featured on Hard Knocks.
The Dallas Cowboys have everything you want out of reality television; brand recognition, rich history, soap-opera like events, plenty of interesting characters and most of all, they're the biggest attention seekers in the NFL. They always find a way to make news, despite the fact the team hasn't accomplished anything of importance in nearly 20 years.
It starts at the top with Jerry Jones. He has long been chastised for meddling too much in the team's football operations, refusing to hire a general manager and leave his team in the hands of those who know how to build a winner in today's NFL. Someone who grasps the concept of a salary cap and what positions are the most important to build on.
Just how much does Jones interfere when Jason Garrett is running a practice, putting a game plan together or trying to make roster decisions? Does Garrett have that presence you want out of a head coach?
Finally we get to Tony Romo, the man who has the toughest job of any player in the league; playing under the microscope of the Cowboys' fan base. It's a fan base starved for the success the team used to enjoy and has lost the most sleep with the team's three consecutive 8-8 seasons, always teasing playoffs, but never taking the next step. The Cowboys always find a way to beat themselves and make every loss as dramatic as possible. Is it all a conspiracy to constantly get the Week 17 Sunday Night finale?
Well, if you have no emotional stake in the outcome of Cowboys games, you're saying to them, never change! It's just too entertaining to watch. They should get the spotlight they crave so much, and it should come in the form of Hard Knocks. If they want so much attention, let's give it to them. Don't take their line of garbage that they don't want to do it because it will be a distraction. They cause many distractions themselves. You know you want this, Jerry Jones.
Whether you love or hate the Cowboys, the fact that they're the most polarizing team in the NFL is exactly the reason why they should be featured on HBO so prominently every week of training camp. Television needs to evoke emotion out of the viewer and no team would accomplish that more so than the Dallas Cowboys.