Ranking the 10 Best ‘Hard Knocks’ Seasons of All Time: Revisiting Memorable Characters and Moments

Hard Knocks has been a staple among NFL fans over the years. We look at the best seasons and memories the series has provided us.

While we are a few months away from seeing NFL action on Sundays, the latest announcement that the Chicago Bears will be this year’s subject of Hard Knocks signals how close we are to the season’s start.

The Bears have an intriguing team with many different storylines to follow, but they have a tough task of living up to the best seasons and moments the series has provided us. We look at the 10 best seasons of Hard Knocks, and the moments that made them so great.

10 Best Hard Knocks Seasons of All Time

From superstars letting their personalities shine to coaches giving us an inside look at what it takes to lead a franchise, Hard Knocks has been on the cutting edge of access regarding professional sports.

The show is going into its 23rd season, and throughout the years, some seasons have captivated audiences while others have fallen flat. We look at the 10 best seasons Hard Knocks has offered us.

10) 2020 Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers

Coming in at No. 10 is a unique situation: a COVID-19-affected season combined with the first time Hard Knocks featured two teams at once.

The Los Angeles Rams and Chargers gave NFL fans an inside look at a time when people were looking for — and probably needed — a distraction. From the protocols to the uniquely different way the teams were allowed to interact, this season of Hard Knocks gave us a perspective that was unlike any other we’ve ever seen.

A year unlike any other was captured by the Hard Knocks cameras, a season so bizarre that years from now you may not believe it if you didn’t live it.

9) 2009 Cincinnati Bengals

Anytime Chad Johnson is involved, you know you’re in for a show. In 2009 the Cincinnati Bengals were the subject of Hard Knocks, and Johnson — then going by Chad Ochocinco — did not disappoint in the spotlight.

From 85’s crazy antics to Marvin Lewis trying to get his team ready among a cast of characters, the 2009 Hard Knocks season was must-watch television.

8) 2021 Dallas Cowboys

Any time the Dallas Cowboys are involved, it will draw attention. Such was the case in 2021 when Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and others took center stage.

From a young and confident Micah Parsons trying to prove himself to owner Jerry Jones putting way too much salt on his McGriddle, the Dallas Cowboys once again proved that America’s Team, if nothing else, can put on a good show.

7) 2019 Oakland Raiders

Former NFL head coach Jon Gruden was a personality in his own right. However, after putting him in front of cameras while being the head coach of an Oakland Raiders that included Antonio Brown, you just knew there would be some quality moments.

From everything that went on with Brown’s drama to Gruden’s uniqueness through the turmoil, it was up there with some of the best unscripted television sports has ever seen.

6) 2008 Dallas Cowboys

This is the second time the Cowboys appeared on our list, but this time it was 13 years earlier with a team featuring players like Terrell Owens and Adam “Pacman” Jones. A talented Cowboys team loaded with potential and big personalities, it misses out on our top five but is one of the better seasons the show has ever produced.

Add in the fact the head coach was none other than Bill Parcells, who is known for being one of the toughest coaches in NFL history, and the juxtaposition between the players and coaching staff was something to behold.

5) 2018 Cleveland Browns

The 2018 season is a classic for Hard Knocks, but for the Cleveland Browns, it may have been for the wrong reasons. With Hue Jackson as the head coach, fans got a look into a staff and front office struggling to find success … and some of the reasons why came to light on the big screen.

Mixed in between were some hilarious moments from offensive line coach Bob Wylie, QB Baker Mayfield, and others; this season provided us with a little bit of everything in terms of entertainment value.

4) 2015 Houston Texans

This season may have provided some of the most memorable moments out of all the Hard Knocks seasons. With the battle between DeAndre Hopkins and DeAngelo Hall being the highlight, you can’t forget about the moments LB Brian Cushing gave us as well.

The back and forth between Hopkins and Hall and how it all unfolded in real-time is as real of a look at an NFL practice or mindset as a fan has ever received. With moments provided by those previously mentioned, J.J. Watt, and others, it set up one of the best seasons the series has ever produced.

3) 2001 Baltimore Ravens

When talking about Hard Knocks, it’s hard not to throw in the original season among the best. The 2001 Baltimore Ravens, led by LB Ray Lewis, took on a tough personality like their leader had.

When Hard Knocks debuted, there was nothing close to this seen before. Add in the fact you had some of the game’s greatest players and personalities, and it opened up the eyes of NFL fans.

KEEP READING: Bears Selected for Hard Knocks: 3 Reasons It’ll Be Must-See TV

The result changed how the NFL was viewed forever — and for that, it had to be in our top three.

2) 2022 Detroit Lions

For some years it seemed as if interest in the series was weening a bit, as teams and coaches began to get more tight-lipped and held stronger on the access they granted.

With the series at a crossroads, Dan Campbell and his Detroit Lions were the boost it yearned for to get back in fans’ minds. Campbell’s personality shined and won the NFL world over; coupled with superstar players, a young coaching staff, and a “Why not us?” attitude, the Detroit Lions in 2022 was exactly what Hard Knocks needed.

It was raw, real, and captivating again for the first time in years. For that, the 2022 Lions belong among the best seasons this show has ever provided.

1) 2010 New York Jets

At the top of the list reigning supreme is the 2010 New York Jets, led by head coach Rex Ryan. Ryan and his family have always been big personalities, and Hard Knocks gave us all a look at what that looks like inside the walls of an NFL facility.

Watching general manager Mike Tannenbaum release players gave us a true look at what it feels and looks like to see your dream of playing in the NFL end. Conversely, there was the ultimate high of seeing team-building strategy work with the game’s very best.

From iconic one-liners to classic on-field battles and everything in between, the 2010 Jets’ season of Hard Knocks provided everything we could want as viewers.

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