There are a lot of things that will happen between now and when we see the Dallas Cowboys play another football game. As far as the NFL world is concerned there will be things like free agency and the NFL Draft. Looking at it from the top of the sports world we will also see The Masters, baseball return, the NBA playoffs, NHL playoffs, and the beginning of the Olympics.
In a sports offseason with those things as checkpoints, another important one that signals football is close to returning is when the annual season of Hard Knocks kicks off.
Hard Knocks is a production of NFL Films and HBO that chronicles an NFL team during their training camp experience. The Dallas Cowboys are no stranger to these types of documentaries as they have been on Hard Knocks before and had their 2017 season profiled on Amazon’s All or Nothing.
Could the Dallas Cowboys wind up on this season of Hard Knocks?
While the television show is often enjoyed by football fans everywhere, NFL teams don’t exactly love being on Hard Knocks. It isn’t fun to have a fly on the wall for all of the time that you are trying to implement the thoughts and strategies that you believe are going to help you win a championship.
As a result of teams’ reluctance the NFL has implemented rules as to who is exempt from the show. Teams that are coming off of a playoff berth within the last two seasons, were on the show in previous decade, or that are entering a season with a new head coach are all excused from being required to participate.
The last time that the Cowboys made the playoffs was 2018 which means that they have gone two years since doing so. 2021 will mark the second, not first, season under Mike McCarthy and the last season in which the Cowboys were on Hard Knocks was 2008. NFL Media’s Dan Hanzus did that math himself and has America’s Team as the top candidate to potentially appear on the show this fall:
Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re probably thinking: The Cowboys already get far too much shine in the national spotlight for a team that’s been absent from the Super Bowl for a quarter century and counting. But here’s a newsflash: The Cowboys sell. The consistent prime-time love and endless talk show segments dedicated to the various dramas unfolding at Jerrah World? They don’t exist out of sympathy to the fan base or a deep and abiding love for the underrated works of Jay Novacek . No, the Cowboys move the needle from a business standpoint and NFL Films and HBO want as many people to watch their show as possible. My guess is the Cowboys have a standing invite to be the subject of Hard Knocks. But as we saw with the Pittsburgh Steelers last year, we don’t always get the most appealing of the “mandated” candidates. If the Cowboys are indeed the team in August, it will likely be because the Jones family wants it.
And if the Cowboys are the team? Well, there’s no dearth of quality storylines to unpack. Dak Prescott looking for a new contract and coming back from an ankle injury, the suddenly unsure place of Ezekiel Elliott in the team’s future, an electric trio of wide receivers in Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb, and intrigue on the sidelines with Mike McCarthy in win-or-else mode after last year’s 5-11 campaign. Some people might complain if “America’s Team” is on premium cable come August, but they’ll be watching it anyway.
It is worth mentioning that the Cowboys are set to appear in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game this season so putting them on Hard Knocks could potentially be an opportunity for the NFL to showcase some of the action associated with the enshrinement (however it is going to happen with last year’s larger-than-normal class alongside this year’s). That would certainly be interesting for the viewer, but it would like be something that Mike McCarthy would not be a huge fan of.
Remember that when the Cowboys held their annual blue and white scrimmage last year (which was streamed online for people everywhere to see) that Mike McCarthy had jersey numbers taken off of each and every player. McCarthy would attribute the secrecy to “competitive advantage and disadvantage” as other teams could theoretically have watched, studied, and analyzed the Cowboys’ practice, being on cable television for an hour five weeks in a row is hardly something that I imagine he would be pumped about doing.
As Hanzus notes, just because a team fits the mold to appear on Hard Knocks does not automatically mean that it will happen, but this is the Dallas Cowboys that we are talking about. They aren’t exactly the first people to say no to this kind of thing.
Getting to see the Cowboys up close and personal would certainly be interesting for all of us and people associated with the team that want to see the brand continue to grow. However, it is fair to consider the negative side effects from a football standpoint.
Do you think the Cowboys will be this year’s Hard Knocks team?