Skip to Content

Quasi-Counterpoint: Let The Jets Actively Kill ‘Hard Knocks’

FLORHAM PARK, NEW JERSEY - JUNE 9: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers #8 of the New York Jets talks to reporters after the teams OTAs at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center on June 9, 2023 in Florham Park, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Comrade Magary's Tuesday screedlet about Hard Knocks was a 422-word hors d'oeuvre that nobody can sensibly reject, but his error was in wishing for the show to suffer a passive death due to the fact that it long ago morphed into just another sanitized NFL commercial controlled to the point of strangulation. In point of fact, Hard Knocks needs to be actively killed, and has needed it since at least the Raiders' year (2019) in which the league had the hottest and messiest version of a hot mess franchise and still turned the show into an HGTV one-off because Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock clamped the show into a bad infomercial that still didn't save the season or, eventually, their jobs.

Which is why the suggestions that this year's involuntary choice should be the New York Jets and that the Jets would actively resist being picked might be the camel that breaks the strawman's back. To have a series of shows in which general manager Joe Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh do nothing but push their palms into camera lenses, in which practices and the locker room are routinely closed, and in which the only player who cooperates is Aaron Rodgers but only if he can do an uninterrupted 17-hour DMT-fueled monologue inspired by the penetrating question, "Hi, Aaron, how are you?"—that could do it. 

Of course, the NFL does not back down to even a nation of people hurling their streaming devices out their upstairs windows SCTV-style. As long as the league is committed to making us watch football stuff every day of every week of the year, Hard Knocks will remain the awkward kids on the edge of the high school dance, trying without success to get someone to dance with them. Its last real triumphant act was the year the Browns under Hue Jackson did the show as a dark comedy, and after that teams switched back on the daily control mechanisms they are used to operating within, thus deflavorizing what little taste the show still had. If you can't make Antonio Brown into interesting TV fodder, you are oatmeal with a sour milk chaser.

But the Reluctant Jets might be our best chance to finally dig up and pulverize this fossil once and for all—not because we want people to be out of work, but because the work has long ago outlived its value. This is the natural result of years of sports organizations dealing with media: before too long, they get better at controlling media than we get at understanding sports. And nobody is better at that than the NFL, not even FIFA, just to name two organizations that cannot do enough evil to ever collapse under the weight of their own shamelessness.

We need the Jets to be obstructionist, to be diffident, to be borderline absent for any and all activities. We need Saleh to say in Episode 1, "Look, you have a job to do but we hate your job so much that we now hate you by extension, so you better strap in and face the fact that the next four weeks are going to be hell for you. If you ever get anything interesting, the person who gives it to you will be fired on the spot—unless of course it's Aaron."

With HBO's new leadership working to undo everything good it has ever done, we need it to realize that the NFL outgrew the network long ago in that urban squalor kind of way. Unless HBO would take on this task as an undercover investigation of a recalcitrant subject, with hidden cameras, drones, and yelling at players as they run to the parking lot, we hold out no hope for this show to ever be interesting again.

But it has to be actively murdered, not just a viewer at a time but with one swift crushing blow, and the Jets can do that with greater ease than they can win the AFC East. The all-in on Rodgers would be a grand Jet-like move, but the show to watch is in September when they actually play games, and Saleh and Douglas seem to understand this. One winning record and no playoffs since 2010 weighs more than teams think, and people often fall into the "We went from four wins to seven last year and we are poised for greatness" trap. Hard Knocks is for them just a pain in the arse, and we expect them to treat it as such. If they shrink before this relatively easy task, how are we to trust them when the season starts?

And if that isn't a lead-in to Why Your Team Sucks, we don't know what is.

Already a user?Log in

Welcome to Defector!

Sign up to read some more free blogs.

Or, click here to subscribe!

If you liked this blog, please share it! Your referrals help Defector reach new readers, and those new readers always get a few free blogs before encountering our paywall.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter