A hearty thanks to old friend Will Brinson, who reminds us that we now have a roster of Hard Knocks eligible teams.
Yes, you can get excited about the tournament that ends with Super Bowl LI. I will focus on a premium cable series that won't air a first-run episode for eight months.
As fans of the ground-breaking documentary series are surely aware, NFL owners passed a resolution in 2013 stating that teams can avoid mandatory inclusion on Hard Knocks if they fall under any of three exemptions: 1) They have a first-year head coach in place; 2) They have a playoff berth in the past two seasons; 3) They have appeared on Hard Knocks in the past 10 years.
Let's break it down:
Teams that will have a new head coach in place»49ers
Teams that have had a playoff berth in the last two seasons»Raiders
Teams that have appeared on "Hard Knocks" in the last 10 years» Chiefs (2007)
» Cowboys (2008)
» Bengals (2009)
» Jets (2010)
» Dolphins (2012)
» Bengals (2013)
» Falcons (2014)
» Texans (2015)
» Rams (2016)
So who does that leave us? Under the league parameters, 24 teams are eliminated from mandatory inclusion. It leaves us a group of eight: Bears, Buccaneers, Browns, Colts, Eagles, Ravens, Saints and Titans.
Our initial reaction: It feels like Hard Knocks has been doing a devil's dance with the Browns for years now, and the built-in storylines: Year 2 of Hue, the well-worn but still compelling Factory Of Sadness back story and the No. 1 overall pick all lay a nice foundation.
Then again, HBO and NFL Films might prefer to document a team with more immediate promise than a Cleveland franchise in the midst of yet another hyper-rebuild. The Season 11 study of the Rams gave us juice-deficient access what appeared to be a clearly mediocre (and as it turned out, much worse) Jeff Fisher team.
A perhaps more appeasing option that I will endorse: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a young team on the upswing with a charismatic franchise quarterback at the center of it all. The Bucs could also use the publicity that Hard Knocks brings. It feels like a win-win for both sides.
One final reminder: Any team can volunteer to be on Hard Knocks. So while there's a good chance the team comes from this pool of eight, it is not definite. OK, you can get back to your precious playoffs now.