HBO’s Hard Knocks premieres tonight, and the Indianapolis Colts will regret allowing cameras behind the curtain of their operation.
This is the first time the Colts have been featured on Hard Knocks and also the first time HBO has profiled a team in the midst of the regular season. All other behind the scenes looks at NFL franchises have come during training camp.
The Colts are looking forward to exposing their high character athletes to the world as they serve as goodwill ambassadors throughout central Indiana. There will be visits to Riley’s Children’s Hospital and Peyton Manning‘s Children’s Hospital too. We can assume that Colts will be shown serving Thanksgiving dinners to the homeless. The Colts are rightly proud of their community outreach efforts and the willingness of their players to take part.
That is not why people watch Hard Knocks though. Football fans want to see into the back rooms and operational crevices where they are normally not allowed. That is the fascinating aspect of the show. HBO is aware of that, so they will skulk around with cameras rolling in the hopes that they will catch someone in a moment of raw and dramatic honesty.
It’s happened before. Here are three instances of the the kind of drama fans love and franchises hope never to have exposed:
- In 2012, Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin revealed a lack of comfort as a leader that made his short tenure in south Florida a fait accompli. We knew he would be fired two years before the Dolphins brass finally realized what we learned because of the show.
- When Cleveland Browns general manager convened a “family hug” for coach Hue Jackson and a position coach during the 2018 Hard Knocks, I told my wife Jackson would not survive the season – he was a goner after week eight. It was also clear Dorsey was a bad fit. He was fired after the 2019 season. And don’t get me started on what a profane fool defensive coordinator Gregg Williams appeared to be. This was no surprise as we had seen his act during the 2016 Hard Knocks visit to Rams camp.
- In 2019, it was clear that Oakland Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown was a little more than quirky as we learned that he virtually destroyed his feet with an ill-advised regimen of cryotherapy, and that Jon Gruden is an egomaniacal jock sniffer.
There are two potential outcomes for teams participating in Hard Knocks. The best is that no one watches. That means no one humiliated themselves or their employer on camera. The other is that a combination of idiocy and foolishness drives ratings and internal changes – meaning terminations. The Colts do not care for drama, so I believe the most likely scenario is that everyone behaves roughly as we would expect. Here is a look at the cast:
- Frank Reich will be a paternal presence, similar to Ward Cleaver on the old Leave It to Beaver show. He will not swear or reveal anything remotely off-brand.
- Chris Ballard will be alternately angry and thrilled. He will wear his heart on his sleeve and be very contrite and empathetic when releasing a player. Ballard is an honest guy, so if they is going to be anything interesting revealed, he will be the guy to do it.
- Jim Irsay will sing a Bob Dylan song. My guess is that fans will be surprised at how present and utterly competent he is as the team owner.
- Carson Wentz will be a prayerful tough guy thrilled over the birth of his daughter.
- The rest of the team will be what they are – honest, decent, supportive, and boring. They will not fight for air time or cause any kind of disturbance. Ballard takes very seriously drafting and signing earnest people, and they will appear to be that – because that is who they are.
Interest in this season of Hard Knocks will be driven by the novelty of seeing the Colts prepare and compete during a regular season on the brink of playoff elimination. We will look for hints of dissatisfaction among players, and a side of Reich that likely does not exist. None will be forthcoming.
The longer the Colts are in the hunt, the better. And if they become the seventh team in NFL history to make the postseason after starting a season 0-3, we will have some fun learning why and how it was done.
My money is on this season being totally empty of chaos and drama, but filled with plenty of feel good generosity and messages about Kicking the Stigma.
Here is a little preview. Enjoy.