The 5 o’clock club aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.
Teams are exempt from being forced to participate in three circumstances:
(1) they have appeared in the past ten years,
(2) they have a first-year head coach, or
(3) they reached the playoffs in either of the two preceding seasons.
Absent Jay Gruden getting sacked, the Redskins won’t have an exemption. But there’s always the question of watchability; the league and the producers want a show that people want to watch. In other words, while there are three reasons listed above that exempt a team from being selected, there need to be some positive reasons for a team to be selected.
Two years ago, the Rams had rookie Jared Goff coming to training camp, they were moving from St. Louis to LA, they had a talented roster, and they had Jeff Fisher. These were the ingredients for a successful production.
Why would anyone want to have HBO’s production team at the Redskins training camp?
1. The quarterback situation - Either the Redskins have Cousins or they don’t. Either way, it’s interesting for viewers. A first-round draft pick or a free agent signing could make for a good storyline. The only way this isn’t a positive factor for watchability is if the front office decides to roll with Colt McCoy.
2. Well known names with big personalities - Josh Norman and DJ Swearinger spring to mind here. An aging Vernon Davis might get some air time too.
3. Comeback stories - The highest profile story would likely be Chris Thompson, but the team is littered with injured players (including Trent Williams & Jonathan Allen) who could be featured in their attempt to come back. The nation could be introduced to Trent Murphy and Rob Kelley. Junior Gallette, if he’s in camp with the Skins, would be a great story to put on air.
4. Players looking to establish themselves - Perine, Matt Ioannidis, Josh Doctson and others could provide good fodder for Hard Knocks-style profiles.
5. A team that has playoff potential - Hard K-nocks is always looking for a team that has some playoff ‘buzz’. The Redskins limped to 8-8 this season, but when you remember that no team that made the playoffs following the ‘16 or ‘17 seasons can be forced to participate, and that the really lousy teams at the bottom of the league that fired coaches at the end of the season can’t be forced to participate, you realize that the group of teams that can be forced to participate are a motley crew of middle-of-the-pack teams. The league is looking for a team that has a roster that can be sold to the public as being competitive (see: 2017 Tampa Bay Buccaneers).
6. A coaching staff with big personalities - Jay Gruden has proven his TV appeal in past appearances with the Bengals. Jim Tomsula would probably be a natural focus of an episode or two. Hopefully, there’ll be a new special teams coordinator to talk about in camp as well.
7. The team name - Surely the HBO crew wouldn’t be able to resist putting up 15 minutes of story time devoted to the Redskins name?
8. An uncomfortable front office situation - HBO could reach back and talk about Scot, Bruce, Dan. Who knows? We may even have a new GM by the time training camp rolls around.
9. Legends hanging around - Joe Gibbs and Doug Williams are part of the organization and would surely get some camera time.
10. Washington & the NFC East are big TV markets - ratings.
Teams that have been on Hard Knocks in the past 10 years:
After you take out the playoff teams for this season & last season, the list is whittled down quite a bit:
I’d probably group these into tiers for watchability:
Highest viewer interest:
49ers - Garappollo, Shanahan, Lynch + high draft picks
Broncos - Elway, the QB situation, Vonn Miller, top ranked defense
Good viewer interest:
Chargers - Phillip Rivers, the relocation story, Joey Bosa
Bills - the Tyrod Taylor/QB situation, the owners, the small-market struggles of the Bills, legend = Jim Kelley at camp
Potentially problematic situations:
Bears - unlikely to be playoff-competitive in 2018, may have a new head coach
It’s becoming a given that Bears coach John Fox will be getting a pink slip after Sunday’s game against the Vikings. The bigger question is whether the terminations will extend above him on the organizational chart, and if so how high?
There has been little talk of G.M. Ryan Pace not surviving a purge of the coaching staff, presumably based on the notion that General Managers typically get to hire two head coaches. However,, Pace’s predecessor, Phil Emery, didn’t have that luxury; Emery hired Marc Trestman, and Emery was fired with Trestman.
Here’s something that could be a clue. Most of the non-playoff teams already have commenced the process of negotiating with practice-squad players the futures contracts that can be signed after the regular season ends. As one league source explained it to PFT, the Bears haven’t.
If Pace also goes, the next question is whether ownership will take things another level higher, moving on from long-time team president and CEO Ted Phillips.
Browns - could be a fascinating camp, but they may have a new head coach, and then there’s the playoff-candidate thing...
Colts - If Pagano isn’t gone at the end of the season, the Colts could jump right up into Tier 1 with the whole Andrew Luck saga, but Indianapolis feels like the second-biggest dumpster fire in the NFL behind the Browns at the moment. I’m guessing the league won’t want them on the air.
Cardinals - Arians may well retire at the end of this season, meaning that the Cards would be exempt based on having a 1st year head coach, but they also just featured in All or Nothing in 2016, which may be another reason for the league not to force them onto Hard Knocks.
As I see it, the Redskins are one of only five or six teams that are eligible to be forced onto Hard Knocks and who also offer a pretty watchable story line.
I’d place my bets this way:
Broncos - 30%
49ers - 25%
Chargers - 20%
Redskins - 10%
Bills - 10%
Colts - 5%
Which team do you think is most likely to be on Hard Knocks in 2018?
This poll is closed
Some other team (tell us who in the comments)