If you love sports television as much as we love sports television, you’d admit there could not possibly be a better marriage than the Oakland Raiders and HBO’s “Hard Knocks.”
The NFL and network have announced this match made in heaven for the upcoming season and frankly we can’t wait for it to break the huddle. There is so much about this confluence of strong personalities and combustible situations that makes us smile. It’s going to be appointment television at its most entertaining.
Apparently, neither Raiders coach Job Gruden or owner Mark Davis appears particularly happy about this impending invasion of privacy. But the football fan understands the potential of a show that promises to lift the vail from Gruden’s expressive mug and lets the world see what he’s really like in team-construction mode.
Let’s face it, Gruden was a much better television analyst than he is an NFL coach and there were few segments more educational on ESPN than his quarterback camps where he interviewed and broke down the top signal-callers in the college game.
We can barely wait to see Gruden standing in front of his team, his Chucky alter ego kicking into gear as he stares down the room in an attempt to get his point across.
“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.”
Gruden is already starting to panic about it. Earlier this week during his team’s mandatory mini-camp he was riffing about his three first-round picks when a thought balloon rose.
“Who knows? Maybe ‘Hard Knocks’ will come and cover that,” Gruden said through a grimace. “That’d be awesome, wouldn’t it?
Oh man, wouldn’t it!
Just for fun, ESPN broke down some interesting numbers that tell the tale of the 13-year history of “Hard Knocks. Here’s a couple Raiders fans might be interested in:
The combined record of previous teams in their calendar years of appearance is 98-109-1 (.474) and no team since the 2015 Houston Texans made the postseason. The last three stars – the 2016 Rams, 2017 Buccaneers and 2018 Browns – all missed the playoffs.
Only the 2010 Jets and 2001 Ravens even won a playoff game during their ensuing season and only five – adding the 2013 Bengals, 2009 Bengals and 2015 Texans – even made the playoffs.
No wonder Gruden is already fretting.
“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,” he said. “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.”
Gruden is not the only character that will demand attention. Just image the clown show that will be receiver Antonio Brown, who was acquired in the offseason from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Brown’s egomaniacal personality is already off-the-charts and having a camera constantly in his face will only serve to further stoke it
“It’s a hard knock life for us,” Brown tweeted. “Get your popcorn ready.”
Another star of the show will be general manager Mike Mayock. The dude is a football geek, unquestionably one of the big stars of the NFL Network during his 14 years there as an analyst and draft guru. His interactions with Gruden, staff and players will certainly be widely entertaining.
According to HBO, the San Francisco 49ers, Washington Redskins, Detroit Lions and New York Giants were also under consideration for this season.
In May, no doubt in the effort to discourage the NFL from looking his way, Redskins coach Jay Gruden said he thought his brother’s team was the perfect subject.
“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.”
What Jay Gruden forgot to mention was Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. Carr and Jon Gruden had their moments last season and we all know how tough the coach is on his QBs. That give-and-take could produce a few memorably bleeping lines.
Another potential subject could be offensive lineman Richie Incognito, the controversial, always-in-trouble, veteran guard. The guy’s a rampant bully and has undergone well-publicized psychological evaluations over the years. What’s his current state of mind?
“Last time [Incognito] strapped it on, he was one of the best. We need to solidify that position [left guard],” Jon Gruden said. “That was a sore spot last year, we played four different left guards and it hurt us. Hopefully, Richie finds his stride like he had a couple years ago because when he’s right, he’s one of the best in football.”
According to the network, the new season will premier on Aug. 6. We will be watching.