With the 2016 regular season in our rearview mirror it's time to focus on ... the 2017 preseason. Actually, we're neck deep in playoff coverage, but it's never too early to start talking about the teams eligible for HBO's training camp series "Hard Knocks."
The NFL several years ago made a rule whereby it could compel teams to appear on the show. Teams are exempt from appearing if they just hired a new coach, made the playoffs in the previous two seasons or appeared on "Hard Knocks" in the previous 10 years.
That rules out 12 teams immediately: the Patriots, Chiefs, Steelers, Texans, Raiders, Dolphins, Cowboys, Falcons, Seahawks, Packers, Giants and Lions right off the bat for making the playoffs this season.
The Jets appeared on "Hard Knocks" in 2010.
That eliminates 24 teams, with gives us eight eligible teams who can be drafted to appear on "Hard Knocks" in 2017. They are the following:
- Cleveland Browns
- Baltimore Ravens
- Tennessee Titans
- Indianapolis Colts
- Philadelphia Eagles
- Chicago Bears
- New Orleans Saints
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Not all of the teams on this list are still guaranteed to be on this list by the end of the offseason. Or even the end of the week -- the Colts, for instance, have what Indianapolis Star beat writer Stephen Holder called a "deafening silence" coming from owner Jim Irsay about the future of coach Chuck Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson. Saints coach Sean Payton has been involved in tons of rumors about his future, namely the possibility he could end up with the Rams (or another club) via trade. John Fox with the Bears seems safe at this point, but, again, nothing is guaranteed.
The Browns have said Hue Jackson will be back and have never been on "Hard Knocks" and haven't been to the playoffs since 2002.
The Ravens would be fascinating for "Hard Knocks" because they haven't been eligible since 2005 (they appeared in 2001).
The Eagles would feature Carson Wentz, who could make for good story lines, what with his controversial mechanics. And his hunting.
In short, all of the eligible teams would be fun to watch. But they won't necessarily be the team you ultimately see on "Hard Knocks" -- remember that Miami appeared on the show despite having a first-year head coach.
These teams often make the decision to appear in order to give a glimpse inside the building and offer up a look at the philosophical way the franchise approaches building a roster and preparing for the season.