Are NFL Teams Successful After Hard Knocks?

gruden.brown_New York Post

For any of you not familiar with HBO’s Hard Knocks, it is an annual mini-series in which a camera crew follows a particular NFL team around during training camp and preseason. It is filmed and presented like a documentary, where the cameramen gather inside footage of genuine daily player and coach interactions.

There are mixed opinions from players and coaches on having Hard Knocks present at camp. Past stars in the show, like former Rams head coach Jeff Fisher, stated that you can’t even tell they are present or filming and claim you just get used to it. He also went on to say that if you don’t want something aired on the show, you can have that cut.

That is just from a head coach’s standpoint. Todd Haley who was OC for Browns in last year’s Hard Knocks said with the new team and staff, the cameras were not beneficial and if anything was associated with negative things. Haley lost his job mid-season.

There is also knocks on Hard Knocks for displaying personal dysfunction, embarrassing moments, strategies and secrets, and other private information leaks. Many people agree that there is absolutely no upside to having Hard Knocks.

Last year’s Hard Knocks was entertaining with the Browns. However, I think ‘Building the Browns’ which is a YouTube series created by the Browns puts Hard Knocks to shame. It is more well done, in-house, the team makes final cuts, and odds are they only will show positive stuff. After all, Hard Knocks gains its ratings from the drama and dysfunction.

Now let’s take a look at NFL team’s records before and after staring on the show:

2001 – Baltimore Ravens

2000 record: 12-4   2001 record: 10-6

The former Super Bowl champs faired well following the first-ever season of Hard Knocks. They regressed but ended up making the playoffs and to the second round, eventually falling to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

2002 – Dallas Cowboys

2001 record: 5-11   2002 record: 5-11

The Cowboys brought in the same record after having the show present. They had quarterbacks switching all year, head coaching drama, and did a whole lot of losing.

2007 – Kansas City Chiefs

2006 record: 9-7   2007 record: 4-12

Hard Knocks took a break for 6 years, finally returning with Kansas City and first year head coach Herm Edwards. Larry Johnson held out, while quarterback Trent Green was traded to Miami. They lost 9 straight to close the year.

2008 – Dallas Cowboys

2007 record: 13-3   2008 record: 9-7

After a historically great season for Dallas, Hard Knocks was set to return. Wade Phillips was brought in as a head coach and in his first year, they lost 3 out of their last 4 games, costing them the playoffs.

2009 – Cincinnati Bengals

2008 record: 4-11-1   2009 record: 10-6

This season of Hard Knocks brought in the best ratings to date and won 2 Emmys. The Bengals also were able to garner a ton of success. They made the playoffs for the first time since 2005 and went 6-0 in the division. Carson Palmer’s injury recovery story and Chad Ochocinco’s personality were each huge components to the success of the show and their performance translated in wins in 2009.

2010 – New York Jets

2009 record: 9-7   2010 record: 11-5

Rex Ryan was a star on Hard Knocks as his speeches are famous from it. Mark Sanchez was developing into a star and the infamous scene of Antonio Cromartie forgetting his kids’ names all contributed to another classic season of Hard Knocks. They beat the Patriots in the playoffs and made it to the AFC championship. 2010 was the last time the Jets made the playoffs.

2012 – Miami Dolphins

2011 record: 6-10   2012 record: 7-9

More drama was caught on camera in this season of Hard Knocks when Vontae Davis was told he was traded to the Colts. The Dolphins only won one more game the following year.

2013 – Cincinnati Bengals

2012 record: 10-6   2013 record: 11-5

2014 – Atlanta Falcons

2013 record: 4-12   2014 record: 6-10

The team was still extremely young and was plagued by injuries. It ultimately ended up being another losing season.

2015 – Houston Texans

2014 record: 9-7   2015 record: 9-7

Hard Knocks seemed to not affect the Texans too much as they won the same amount of games as the previous year. It was the first of back-to-back playoff appearances and division titles.

2016 – Los Angeles Rams

2015 record: 7-9   2016 record: 4-12

Jeff Fisher was infamous for being a not so great coach and the move to LA had made the Rams a prime candidate to star on the show. They went on to win 1 home game and 1 out of their last 9. Fisher was fired in Week 14 eventually leading to the hiring of Sean McVay. The Rams have been a contender since.

2017 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2016 record: 9-7   2017 record: 5-11

2018 – Cleveland Browns

2017 record: 0-16   2018 record: 7-8-1

The Browns were the laughing stock of the NFL and had only won 1 game in a 2-year span going into the 2018 season. Baker Mayfield, Jarvis Landry, Myles Garrett, and the Josh Gordon saga was almost a lock for great TV. The coaching drama stemming from Hue Jackson’s incompetence showed. They definitely improved, but it was about impossible to get worse. Hue Jackson lost his job mid-season as the Browns picked up heat with current head coach Freddie Kitchens calling the plays as interim OC.

2019 – Oakland Raiders

2018 record: 4-12   2019 record: TBD

This year’s Hard Knocks crew has been pretty entertaining so far with Jon Gruden still making the transition from analyst to head coach and Antonio Brown injuring his feet along with his helmet dilemma. We will see how the Raiders fare after starring on the show. History says it may not be great, especially when drama and dysfunction are evident.


There have only been 6 winning records out of the 14 teams who have starred on Hard Knocks. That statistic is enough to turn many teams off from the show, especially winning ones who would be considered a contender.

Also, only 6 out of the 14 teams improved their record from the previous year. At the end of the day, the numbers and video evidence is there. Hard Knocks probably isn’t the best move for your franchise if winning football is your goal. In the Raider’s case, Hard Knocks will probably be good for them with the move to Las Vegas in regards to generating fans and creating stars within the organization. It benefited the Rams in that regard.

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