The beginning of football season (if we have one) means another installment of the HBO series Hard Knocks. This entertaining documentary follows an NFL team through their training camp.
We get to the see the anguish on the players' faces as they get cut, the unbridled joy as they are told to stick around and a host of comedy that not even the producers could have planned for.
If the NFL is going to pick another team, it's important that they get it right. What better way to thank the fans for sticking with them through the lockout and football uncertainty, than by giving them the gift of a dysfunctional NFL team.
So here are some suggestions for NFL teams we'd love to see on this year's installment of Hard Knocks.
It's the 800-pound elephant in the room. For all the planning that HBO is doing, there is a good chance there won't be a team to film at all. The NFL is very far apart on its labor talks, and it could be a while before the dust clears.
Even we have football next season, the Hard Knocks version could end up being a three-episode show that chronicles overweight athletes who are now hauling butt to get in shape because up until the day before the new CBA was reached, they were making eyes at Gladys, the night manager at Arby's.
So, in an effort to have a compelling show, why not try a UFL team like the Las Vegas Locomotives?
This team features...well, it's got...oh, hell, it's in Las Vegas! All they have to do is follow these players around at night, and the show will take care of itself.
This team works on a couple of levels. First, the 200 fans who show up for training camp would give each practice the feel of a real Jacksonville game.
Second, what better television than watching the horror that comes over Jack Del Rio's face as he realizes he's pinned his coaching life to the decision-making abilities of David Garrard.
I bet if we watch, we can actually document the demise of a well-respected coach and see him go through the process of being fired in his head, without him actually being fired.
I give this one the nod on one condition: Peyton Manning has to get the franchise tag and no new contract.
If that happens, than you can watch hilarity ensue. It will be uncomfortable to watch. Imagine you agree to give your friend the most money of anyone at your job.
Then you realize you either can't afford to or don't want to give him that much, so you give him way less (in terms of only a one-year deal) and then just hope he's cool with it.
Bonus option: You give him a really generous offer, and for some strange reason, he doesn't take it.
Then the only way that's better, is if they burn their first draft pick for a defensive player instead of more offensive line help. Then they are not only withholding the big money they said they'd give him, but now they are hanging him out to dry.
Or if we buy into the bonus option, then he's turning down big money and playing with a suspect offensive line.
Plus we'd get a whole series of Manning's frustrated, whining faces.
These guys are reportedly the frontrunner for the show, which makes sense to me. After all, we'll all be armed and ready to make LeGarrette Blount punching jokes.
I'm also going to place money on the Buccaneers picking up Tiki Barber if this happens. There is no way Tiki is going to sign anywhere else if he knows the cameras are going to be in Tampa Bay.
I'll bet that the story behind the scenes will be Barber constantly pitching HBO on projects that involve him.
"....Think about it. I'm a retired football player who owns a pet store. It's called 2 Pet Conversion."
"....I'm a retired football player in charge of a ladies fur coat shop. We'll call it "Fur-st and Ten."
"....My own talk show where I interview celebrities who really like me. We'll call it "The Barber Chair!. This is gold, guys...gold!"
Admittedly, this show would have been a lot funnier had Brad Childress stuck around, but with Favre not dead yet, there is always room for drama.
Clearly there will be the Tarvaris Jackson vs. Joe Webb battle for starting quarterback. You could see them have all kinds of interesting quarterback competitions.
"Who can hand off the ball better to Adrian Peterson?"
"Who can escape the pocket even when there is no pressure?"
"Who can take a sack better?"
"Who can deliver the line "I'm happy Brett's coming back to the team. He gives us a great chance to win. I mean, the guy's a Hall of Famer" better?"
Favre will show up like a ghost. Every time Jackson has a bad practice, Favre will appear in the locker room and start chucking passes to Percy Harvin...just to make it interesting.
The 49ers have everything you need for a top-notch TV show. They have the explosive personality in new head coach Jim Harbaugh.
They have the high stakes that the 49ers put on him when they paid him outrageously to coach the team.
They have the aging quarterback looking to redeem himself: Alex Smith.
And we all know that redemption only comes after seven or so years in the league and a stat line that is most comparable to Rex Grossman's, but with way less results.
And we have tension that will mount when the ownership figures out that their golden coach made his first order of business to hitch his wagon to the aforementioned Smith.
That's good TV.
This would have ranked lower on my priority list before the second half of the NFC Championship game. But the knee injury to Jay Cutler changed the game.
Now, since I live in Chicago I take a special interest in a Chicago Bears Hard Knocks.
First, you'd be assured to see a failing first round pick. The Bears will manage to take the only guy in the first round who has spend the last four years in rehab for a series of lower body injuries.
Second, you get to watch Lovie Smith make zero changes to his defense no matter how much their personnel calls for it.
Third, we might finally see Lovie Smith's timeout philosophy as it's explained to the team.
"Guys, I live by one rule. Always call a timeout in the first two minutes of each game. You never want to get to the end of the game with timeouts. Why not use them early and get them out of the way."
You'll also get a keen insight into his challenge flag philosophy:
"If you can't see conclusive evidence to overturn the ruling, then challenge it. They might see something you don't."
I could go on and on making heartless jokes about the Cardinals and their troubles, but I'm not going to.
As it stands right now the Cardinals quarterback depth chart(according to NFL.com) reads as follows.
What is funnier than that?
Over the last few seasons, the Bengals have demonstrated how to single-handedly cripple a franchise.
First, get a coach who underachieves year after year. Then, just as the window is open for him to leave, ask him to come back.
Second, get a quarterback who has been responsible for one quality season of football and continually give him the keys to the car never once wondering if he's maybe not the right guy for you.
Third, get one, then eventually two wide receivers who often seemed more concerned with who's watching them, than with how they are playing.
Fourth, make sure the rest of the team has more parole officers than it does agents and endorsements.
Fifth, make sure your draft picks are largely underwhelming.
Can you imagine what we would have learned if someone had been there to chronicle it?
The Bengals have to come back to Hard Knocks.
The fact that, to my knowledge, the Oakland Raiders have never been a part of Hard Knocks is insane.
I can't believe an HBO executive hasn't said the following:
"So you're telling me that we can follow around Al Davis as he runs one of the weirdest and craziest organizations in the NFL? The same one where Tom Cable punched out a guy and Bill Romanowski blinded someone. This is the same organization that drafted JaMarcus Russell and takes every problem child and locker room cancer in the league?"
"Where do we sign?"
Remember in Goodfellas when Henry Hill is riding high early? He's in his 20's. He has a beautiful wife, beautiful girlfriend, money, power, everything?
That was Mike Shanahan in Denver without the glitz and glamor.
Then he gets canned, much the way that Henry Hill goes to the can.
But when Henry Hill gets out he believes everything can be the same. He has a different income, but he thinks he's going to have the same success.
Shanahan thinks everything will be the same in Washington. He has the same power and the same control, but the NFL is changing. And his players are overpaid and underachieving in many respects.
So Shanahan just keeps pushing harder. He tells McNabb he's too fat (or too stupid) to grasp the offense. He may have been trying to motivate him, but it pushes McNabb away.
He tells Haynesworth that he's too out-of-shape to practice. He does so to show him that he's in control and that he has the upper-hand. But he doesn't because Albert makes too much money and doesn't care about anyone but himself.
Shanahan is an old school control freak. He's bound and determined to do things his way, and he works for a man who has a history of bringing in the wrong guys and the wrong coaches and allowing a beautiful disaster unfold.
Who wouldn't want to see that?