Executives at NFL headquarters in New York are not to be taken lightly, especially not the head honcho with the big head in the corner office.
Players are all too familiar with the pain and punishment that commissioner Roger Goodell can inflict; team officials get an unwelcome taste of his power on occasion, too. The best course of action for everyone involved is to avoid anything that brings unwanted attention to yourself or your organization.
You especially don’t want to do or say something that could be taken as a taunt at 345 Park Avenue. I’m looking at Washington general manager Scot McCloughan, who last week was asked about his team possibly appearing on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” in the future.
“No,” he told NBC Washington’s Carol Maloney, according to The Washington Post. “Never.”
Really? Never is a long time.
“No, no, no, no, no,” he said. “It’s tough enough as we go through the process of training camp, trying to get down to 75 [players], trying to get down to 53. It’s really hard. People don’t need to know our business.”
Don’t be surprised if the NFL considers that stance a dare. The other 31 franchises are subject to be featured on the award-winning training-camp documentary and Dan Snyder’s squad shouldn’t warrant an exception. Washington’s team business isn’t more special or sacred than, say, the Los Angeles Rams’ or Houston Texans’ affairs.
The Texas were featured on the series last year while the Rams get the treatment this year, beginning Tuesday when the six-week series premieres. The usual storylines include a couple of firsts, as previous editions never documented a franchise relocation or a No. 1 overall pick (quarterback Jared Goff).
Judging by a teaser entitled “Hard Knocks: I Am Football,” someone at HBO has a wry sense of humor or is blithely ignorant of recent events.
The preview is shot from the football’s perspective. There’s video of various Rams players at practice while the camera focuses on the ball, which provides the narration: “I’m in every statistic that matters … I feel every hard-earned drop of sweat shared in each day’s victories. And defeats. I’m in every snap, every throw, every catch.”
At that point, the video fades to black before the frame is engrossed by a severely deflated football magically filling with air. “At my core, I’m part vulcanized rubber, part cowhide,” it says. Then we get an extreme close-up of an inflation needle.
I think it was blazoned with a New England Patriots logo.
Speaking of logos, McCloughan’s certainty that HBO’s cameras will never film his team might be rooted in Washington’s emblem. The league has no problem sending the team to London for a game against Cincinnati, but could be reluctant to feature Washington in a six-week cable series that might highlight the controversial nickname.
If the NFL chooses other teams for “Hard Knocks,” that’s one thing. But Washington shouldn’t be allowed to make the decision for itself. Pickings could be slim if the show was dependent solely on volunteers.
The league knows that some teams take matters way too seriously to self-nominate themselves for a turn. That’s why owners in 2013 created rules for mandatory appearances on “Hard Knocks’ if no one willingly steps forward.
Any franchise can be appointed with the following exceptions: teams with a first-year head coach; team that reached the playoffs at least once in the last two seasons; and teams that were featured on the show in the previous 10 seasons.
Washington would’ve been among several teams eligible for compulsory participation this year if not for winning the NFC East last season. McCloughan bought himself two years of grace and can add another two years with each successive postseason trip.
Maybe THAT’s why he’s so confident, an unwavering belief that he can fashion a playoff team at least every other year.
Forced to make a choice, Washington fans likely would favor that scenario over HBO’s unfettered access at Richmond. But it doesn’t have to be an either/or situation.
McCloughan’s state secrets would remain safe with HBO. The producers aren’t interested in revealing information that gives opponents a competitive edge. They just want to make a good TV show, based on human drama and emotions more than X’s and O’s.
Rams players have received numerous talks about “Hard Knocks” from coach Jeff Fisher, who told them “it’s almost as if [the camera crews] disappear. It’s been an exciting process, it’s been fun,” Fisher told The Los Angeles Times. “The players are out here to help win games and to improve, not make a movie. They’re not actors, they’re players.”
And it’s great to see players in a different light, especially rookies fighting to grab hold and veterans fighting to hold on. We gain a better appreciation for their jobs and everything that goes into making an NFL roster.
Too bad McCloughan is so dead set against Washington fans enjoying that valuable perspective.
Here’s hoping team officials have a change of heart … or the NFL changes it for them.