Hard Knocks: Are the Browns Up Next?

Kate Arhar
Cleveland Browns Reporter


By Kate Arhar // @ClvlndK8

As football fans, we’ve all seen the HBO series “Hard Knocks,” or at least heard about it. An announcement should be coming soon on which team has been “volunteered” to share a behind-the-scenes look at their preseason operation. While this show definitely has it’s share of drama – player cuts, closed-door coaches in conversation – it also lightens the mood with the hilarious Rookie Talent Shows.

I have to think the Cleveland Browns, with all their woes and newly drafted quarterback Baker Mayfield, are at the top of HBO’s “Wish List” as to which team will be featured. As a reporter, I’d love to see all the things that are normally beyond my access. As a fan, I have this perception of a “Hard Knocks Curse” that make me wary of having the Browns be chosen.

The Basics: NFL Films has a multi-year deal with HBO to provide a team each season for the show. What began with the Baltimore Ravens in 2001 and continued through 2017 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, this series has done a lot to make household names out of players like Danny Amendola and coaches like Mike Zimmer. (I think the guy working the “Bleep” button worked a ton of overtime that year!)

Teams are asked to Volunteer to be on the show and then the NFL selects one. If no one volunteers, a team is selected. There are, however, three ways to be exempt from the selection:

  1. Team has been on the show in the past ten years.
  2. A head coaching change during the off-season (First-year head coach)
  3. Team was in the playoffs in either of the two preceding years.

Clearly, the Browns don’t meet any of those exemptions. Frankly, it’s been the only bright spot regarding all of their coaching turnovers in the past few years. Not to be down on the Browns, there are five other teams that cannot claim an exemption either: San Francisco, Baltimore, Denver, Los Angeles Chargers and Washington.

The History: 2001 Baltimore Ravens: coming off their Super Bowl Championship, this was the perfect way for HBO to get a new series launched. The Dallas Cowboys followed them in 2002, with a mediocre 5-11 season.

For reasons unknown to me, the show was not produced again until 2007 with the Kansas City Chiefs. They were 9-7 for the 2006 season and made the playoffs. However, their 2007 season ended with a dismal 4-12 record and is probably what lead to my perception of the “Hard Knocks Curse.”

In looking at the numbers, it really hasn’t been all bad for the teams involved. The Cincinnati Bengals have been on twice (2009, 2013) and went to the playoffs after both runs. The New York Jets (2010) and the Houston Texans (2015) also made the playoffs after their seasons.

However,  Dallas (2002, 2008), Miami (2012), Atlanta (2014), Los Angeles Rams (2016) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2017)  all had sub-par follow-up years. To say it simply: Five teams made playoffs, Seven teams didn’t. So I guess I have to give up on that idea.

So perhaps my reluctance just stems from my history with the Browns. There have been so many things that have gone wrong over the years that the 0-16 blasphemy that was 2017 just ends up being icing on a very bitter cake.

If I was sure that being on the show would lead to good things for the Browns, that being in the spotlight wouldn’t distract the players and coaches from the goal of winning games, if it wouldn’t add to yet another national joke at our expense, I’d be all for it. What better way to show the country that Cleveland rocks?

But I’m a realist and perhaps a bit cynical. I’m concerned that the bad far outweighs any good to be gained in this situation. For now, I’ll cross my fingers and hope that another team – the 49ers for example – would make a better story and get the nod.

And if it does end up being here in Cleveland, well, I’ll cross that goal line when I get to it.


Talk Browns with Kate on Twitter // @ClvlndK8 

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