Despite the team’s objections, the NFL makes the decision “Hard Knocks” fans have been clamoring for – Jon Gruden, Mike Mayock, Mark Davis, Antonio Brown, Derek Carr, etc. will be front and center this August. Winnipeg, here we come! Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com:
What is supposed to be their final training camp as the Oakland Raiders before next year’s planned move to Las Vegas will be documented like never before, as the team announced Tuesday that it will star in HBO’s reality series “Hard Knocks” come August.
While owner Mark Davis and coach Jon Gruden have aired their displeasure at the notion of cameras peering into their privacy — Davis jokingly told ESPN in March that he would rather fire Gruden than subject the team to the voyeuristic show — both put up resigned faces.
“Everybody wants to be a Raider,” Davis said in a team-issued news release. “Now they’ll find out what it takes to become one.”
Earlier Tuesday, at the start of a three-day mandatory minicamp attended by everyone on the roster, Gruden was highlighting his three first-round draft picks in defensive end Clelin Ferrell, running back Josh Jacobs and safety Johnathan Abram.
“Who knows? Maybe ‘Hard Knocks’ will come and cover that,” Gruden said through a grimace. “That’d be awesome, wouldn’t it?
“We are trying to worry about this team, this week. We’ve got a lot of adversity we’re facing right now with this team. We got a lot of distractions. I think we are playing in three countries. We’ve got about two months without a home game. We are in a process of moving. And we are going to try like crazy to keep all of our best players as we head to Las Vegas.”
The Raiders could provide the HBO show with a treasure trove of storylines: From polarizing receiver Antonio Brown, who was acquired from the Pittsburgh Steelers, to middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who was voted the dirtiest player in the game a few years ago while with the Cincinnati Bengals, to left guard Richie Incognito, whose list of run-ins with teammates and the authorities is as long as his list of on-field accolades, to quarterback Derek Carr, who is entering what many see as a make-or-break season, to undrafted rookie defensive tackle Ronald Ollie, who already had a star turn in 2016 on Netflix’s “Last Chance U.”
“It’s a hard knock life for us,” Brown tweeted, before adding: “Get your popcorn ready.”
Quarterback Derek Carr responded by tweeting: “Yes sirrrrr brodie!!!”
As Gruden noted, the Raiders are in a lame-duck transition year. They are leaving Oakland for the second time, having called Los Angeles home from 1982 through 1995. Gruden is already a TV star from his nine years in ESPN’s Monday Night Football booth, and general manager Mike Mayock spent 14 years as an analyst for NFL Network.
All the show is missing is Marshawn Lynch, who was not re-signed by Oakland.
The other candidates for “Hard Knocks” this year were the San Francisco 49ers, New York Giants, Detroit Lions and Washington.
Redskins coach Jay Gruden lobbied for the show to chronicle his older brother’s team in May.
“If they were smart, they would go to Oakland,” Jay Gruden said. “What an entertainment value that would be: Antonio Brown, Jon Gruden, Paul Guenther, Vontaze Burfict, [Richie] Incognito. You’d be crazy not to go to Oakland. You can do us next year.”
HBO’s cameras will get a peek at two days of joint practices with the NFC champion Los Angeles Rams in Napa. The Raiders and Rams will scrimmage on Aug. 7 and Aug. 8 before opening the exhibition season against each other on Aug. 10 at the Oakland Coliseum, a source told ESPN.
The new “Hard Knocks” season premieres Aug. 6.
‘Hard Knocks’ History
13 editions of the series: 2001-02, 2007-10, 2012-18
Combined record: 98-109-1 (.474 win pct)
Past three teams missed the playoffs: 2018 Browns, 2017 Buccaneers, 2016 Rams
Last to make playoffs: 2015 Texans went 9-7 but lost wild card
Only two teams won a playoff game that season: 2010 Jets (won two, lost AFC Championship Game) and 2001 Ravens (won one, lost AFC divisional)
Most wins in a season: 11 by 2010 Jets and 2013 Bengals (finished 11-5)
Fewest wins in a season: Four by 2016 Rams and 2007 Chiefs (finished 4-12)
Total playoff teams: Five: 2015 Texans, 2013 Bengals, 2010 Jets, 2009 Bengals and 2001 Ravens
Teams to appear twice: Bengals (2009, 2013) and Cowboys (2002, 2008)
“Hard Knocks” expert Dan Hanzus of NFL.com is ecstatic:
1) The Raiders were the best choice of the five “Hard Knocks” eligible teams. The Raiders, along with the Redskins, Lions, 49ers and Giants were the five teams that could be selected for “Hard Knocks” without their consent. The Silver and Black offer the most potential for entertaining TV. “If they were smart, they would go to Oakland,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said last month. “What an entertainment value that would be: Antonio Brown, Jon Gruden, Paul Guenther, Vontaze Burfict, [Richie] Incognito. You’d be crazy not to go to Oakland. You can do us next year.” The younger Gruden was obviously tweaking big brother through the media, but he ain’t wrong. Speaking of which …
2) Jon Gruden and “Hard Knocks” were made for each other. It’s fair to say most people who follow the sport have viewed Gruden’s return to coaching with suspicion after a decade in the broadcast booth. Had he been gone too long? Could he adapt to the modern game? Was he given too much power? There wasn’t much to take out of his first year in charge, as Gruden stripped the Raiders down to spare parts, but 2019 will be a true indicator of whether the coach has a once-proud organization on the right track. Gruden’s trademark intensity will be catnip for “Hard Knocks” cameras, who will undoubtedly make him the center of attention in the same way Rex Ryan stole the show during the Jets’ 2010 star turn — still the docuseries’ high-water mark. One thing you won’t see: An internal power struggle like we witnessed last year between then-Browns coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley. This is Gruden’s show all the way.
3) QB1, please step under the microscope. Are Gruden and Derek Carr built to last? Last season, the pair had a few heated sideline exchanges caught on camera over the course of a lost season, but both sides insist their relationship is solid. The Raiders seemingly flirted with the idea of replacing Carr in the offseason, working out Kyler Murray before the draft and publicizing it on the team’s social media. But the Raiders stuck with their guy, and Carr will enter 2019 as the unquestioned starter. “Hard Knocks” should give us an inside look at the relationship between Carr and Gruden, long known to be a chronic QB needler. Add some late-summer heat and things could get spicy.
4) Hello there, Antonio Brown. The Raiders upgraded their offense in a huge way when they traded for Brown, one of the most productive wide receivers in the history of the sport. Brown is a stud, but he’s also an unpredictable guy who apparently changed as a person as he ascended from complementary player to superstar playmaker. “Hard Knocks” will angle to spend time with Brown, starting with his always ostentatious camp arrival. How long before we get our first summer practice skirmish between Brown and Burfict, the former Bengals linebacker who concussed Brown in a playoff game (a hit that led to a suspension for Burfict) a few years back? Let’s set the over under at 1.5 episodes in. Yes, I’m sticking to that even though they’ve both shot down talk of lingering beef.
5) Richie Incognito gets his opportunity. Well, two actually. The Raiders signed Incognito to a one-year deal last month, giving the veteran guard a shot at jumpstarting his career after a year out of the game. For Incognito, it also presents the opportunity to engage in some image rehab. Incognito is probably best known as the face of the Dolphins’ ugly bullying scandal in 2013, and there were multiple signs of trouble during his year out of football. In May 2018, he was taken into custody for psychiatric evaluation after an altercation at a Florida gym. He pleaded guilty in April to disorderly conduct charges stemming from two separate August 2018 incidents, per ESPN. “Hard Knocks” will want to dig into his story. We’ll find out how interested Incognito is in having it told.
6) The Move. You may have heard that the Raiders are relocating to Vegas in the next year or so. It will be interesting to see how thoroughly “Hard Knocks” hits this angle. Personally, I’d prefer we don’t get the obligatory segment where front office officials travel to Vegas to check in on the progress of new stadium construction — but this feels like something the Raiders will want to promote. I’d much rather “Hard Knocks” focus on the loyal Bay Area fans who have stuck with a team they know is leaving them. That’s a special kind of loyalty no fan should have to deal with.