Hard Knocks is one of the best productions on television every year, and 2021 shall be no different. The HBO element makes things more raw — and more real — than regular network television. This year marks the series’ 16th season. This is the one show on television that hasn’t lost its luster after such a long run. Hard Knocks remains engaging because it follows a sport built on emotion — the NFL. So who gets the nod in 2021?
Who’s eligible for Hard Knocks in 2021?
Here are the top five team possibilities for the behind-the-scenes documentary.
There really cannot be a more clear favorite to host Hard Knocks than the Dallas Cowboys. For HBO, the ratings would soar if they featured “America’s Team” in the build-up to the 2021 NFL season. From a storyline point of view, there is enough to rival another famous Texas soap opera.
How does multi-million dollar quarterback Dak Prescott fare as he returns to the field after his injury? Is Mike McCarthy set up for a successful second stint as a head coach or heading back to the ranks of the unemployed? What does the Dallas defense look like under former Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn?
The stars of the show — whether viewers want them to be or not — would likely be the Jones family. Jerry Jones and his family will likely dominate the camera time as they did during All or Nothing in 2017. While the Jones’ can be exhausting at times, the Cowboys should make for enthralling television.
New York Giants
While the Cowboys would likely be the favorites for HBO, the New York Giants would certainly be a fun option as well. Joe Judge has built quite a reputation in terms of his character. His personality, combined with the insight we would likely get into the Mara family, could make this show a hit regardless of what we see from the other areas of the team.
Dave Gettleman is another figure who draws a lot of criticism for his methods. He could rival Judge for a starring role in what could be his final season in New York. In terms of the players, there is also a lot of intriguing stories.
Daniel Jones and Evan Engram are both looking at a potential last chance saloon in 2021, while Saquon Barkley returns from a nasty injury in 2020. Then there are the additions of Adoree’ Jackson and Kenny Golladay in free agency, who have both proven to be talented players in Tennessee and Detroit, respectively.
On top of all of that, there are the simply baffling stories surround the Giants’ 2021 NFL Draft first-round pick, Kadarius Toney. Toney has made the headlines plenty of times in his first few weeks in New York. Getting to see his antics on Hard Knocks could be the best story of them all.
Drew Lock might not end up being a franchise quarterback, but he’s a fiery and entertaining personality. He never shies away from a good celebration or rapping/dancing on the sidelines.
Oh, and the 2021 Broncos deserve consideration for Hard Knocks because they traded assets for Teddy Bridgewater. The best thing about a television series is, even if there’s no real quarterback controversy, the Hard Knocks team shouldn’t have an issue creating drama through clever editing.
Add the ever-entertaining Von Miller to the mix, and the HBO crew could get cooking. Additionally, it would be interesting to see how much exposure John Elway receives on the show, given his role within the organization and his legacy in the NFL. Not to mention third-round pick Quinn Meinerz is an absolute television star!
The situation in Arizona is certainly one that would make for an interesting Hard Knocks series. Kliff Kingsbury is facing a do-or-die type season, while decisions also have to be made on Kyler Murray following this season. Outside of those two, there is DeAndre Hopkins and potential guest appearances from Larry Fitzgerald that could make the show intriguing.
Of course, the addition of J.J. Watt should not be forgotten. As a man with a big personality and a big heart, Watt could steal the show as he plays outside of Houston for the first time in his career. The situation surrounding Chandler Jones, as well as the young linebacker duo of Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins, would also make for interesting stories.
There is a lot to like about the potential of the Carolina Panthers as the 2021 Hard Knocks team. Matt Rhule stole the show at times at the Senior Bowl with his personality. If he can put a similar performance in a Hard Knocks series, he could cement himself as a fan favorite.
Beyond Rhule, there is plenty to like about seeing the Panthers regularly in the coming weeks. The Sam Darnold trade raised eyebrows, and his settling period could determine the future of his career. There are also several talented players on both sides of the ball, and offensive coordinator Joe Brady is a favorite to be a head coach candidate in 2022. A strong on-camera performance from Brady could greatly increase his stock in the eyes of players and fans all over the league.
Hard Knocks 2021 Bonus Team
I couldn’t let this piece go without my plea for an otherwise ineligible team to volunteer as tribute for the 2021 season of Hard Knocks.
This could rival the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Trevor Lawrence doesn’t appear to be a beaming light of personality, but his pre-draft interview with Sports Illustrated was incredibly inciteful and honest. The Jaguars recently signed a 34-year-old Tim Tebow to play a position he’s never played before. They also hired controversial head coach Urban Meyer to run their football team.
Meyer then made his own controversial hiring of former Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle. That lasted about 35 hours. Doyle quickly resigned from the job he’d just taken.
If Shahid Khan wants to market this franchise, this is how he should do it. Volunteer the team to be the Hard Knocks star for 2021. It might just be a beautiful disaster.
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