Forcing the Bears Onto “Hard Knocks” Could Be a Win for HBO

The Broncos and Saints could also be coerced into participating in the series

Chicago Bears head coach Matt Eberflus.
Matt Eberflus is staying with the Bears, so Chicago could be on "Hard Knocks."
Quinn Harris/Getty

With the NFL’s annual post-regular season round of firings complete and veteran coaches including Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick now looking for employment, there are seven teams (nearly a quarter of the entire league) looking to fill the top spot on their coaching masthead.

As they are guaranteed to have a coach in their first year running things, the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Las Vegas Raiders, Los Angeles Chargers, Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans and Washington Commanders are all ineligible to be featured on the upcoming season of Hard Knocks on HBO. Per the agreed-upon rules governing the annual training camp documentary series, NFL teams are only required to appear if:

  • They don’t have a first-year head coach.
  • They didn’t make the playoffs in either of the last two years.
  • They haven’t appeared on Hard Knocks in the last 10 years.

Teams who have appeared on the in-season edition of the program (only the Colts, Cardinals and Dolphins to date) are also exempt from opening up their training camp to HBO’s cameras this summer, according to ProFootballTalk.

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Given all of those constraints, there are actually only three teams HBO and the NFL can force to do the 2024 season’s edition of Hard Knocks: the Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos and New Orleans Saints. It’s a fairly lean list as none of the three particularly move needle, but the Bears would probably be the obvious choice from an interest standpoint.

Winners of five of their last eight games, the Bears appeared to turn a bit of a corner over the second half of the season and have the opportunity to change the shape of their franchise this spring as Chicago holds the No. 1 pick (via Carolina) in April’s draft. The Bears, who already have third-year quarterback Justin Fields on their roster and under contract, will have plenty of options on draft night and are also projected to have loads of cap space to use in free agency. It’s possible that they’ll use the top selection to draft a successor for Fields and trade him for assets, but it’s also entirely on the table that Chicago will trade the pick and surround their QB with offensive weapons.

No matter what, it’s going to be franchise-altering choice, and having HBO’s cameras on-hand to film the aftermath seems like it would produce a fairly entertaining product. Seeing the behind-the-scenes dysfunction in Denver as Broncos coach Sean Payton tries to rid himself of QB Russell Wilson would also be must-see TV, but there’s a decent chance the former Seahawk will have already arrived in a new home by the time HBO starts rolling in August.

Things could change, but for now we say bring on the Bears.

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