Could ‘Hard Knocks’ help New England?


At yesterday’s press conference to announce that HBO’s Hard Knocks cameras would be set on the Jets, GM Mike Tannenbaum joked that, “I’ve already heard it, Bill (Parcells) is rolling over.” Pretty much the same sentiment as two years ago, when the Cowboys signed up and some saw it as the final cleansing of the Parcells Era in Dallas.

You could certainly argue that two years ago, it fueled a circus atmosphere around a combustible mix of Cowboys players at their camp in SoCal. Then again, the Bengals had the HBO folks around their camp last year, and went from 4-11-1 to a division title in 2009.

It’s not hard to guess that Bill Belichick probably wouldn’t (make that definitely wouldn’t) allow his camp to be infiltrated by all this hoopla. But as a guy who looks for every edge he can find, it there a way to benefit from a rival engaging in it?

“Do I think Bill Belichick will be watching us?” Tannebaum asked, per Pro Football Talk’s Gregg Rosenthal (who I may or may not have misidentified as Mike Florio yesterday).  “If I was
working for Bill, these are the types of projects he’d have me doing.”

Coach Rex Ryan (who was around the cameras with the Ravens back in 2001) added, with a sly smile: “I think, you know — I trust, you know, let’s just throw a guy out
there — anybody. Bill Belichick. Let’s just throw him out
there. He’s going to do his due
diligence. He’s going to do his work, anyway. He’s going to have a huge
opinion on our players, one way or the other.”

All this might be a laughing matter now. But it might not be in the long run.

I honestly don’t think the Patriots will glean much valuable info
off the broadcasts. But it still could help New England, in weakening
an opponent. We mentioned the Cowboys appearance in 2008. I saw
first-hand what that camp was like, and what Dallas’ 2009 camp was
like, in the sterile Alamodome. And I wrote about the difference right here.

No less an authority than a team captain said there was a big one.

“I was never OK with it. Never,” linebacker Bradie James told me in August after the 2009 camp concluded, when it was asserted that the players were fine with the extravaganza that 2008 camp became. “You had characters. We play football. This is not soap-opera central. Training camp’s important and when you have people still worried about being individuals, you never come together.


“That’s what the cameras did, we became part of the show. This year, we’ve been able to focus on football. It’s been nothing but football. Every day’s Groundhog Day.”

The New York Daily News’ Rich Cimini touched on this in a blog post this morning:

Finally, my two cents: I don’t think “Hard Knocks” will hurt the Jets’ ability to win football games, but I don’t think it will help, either. The worst thing that can happen? The HBO cameras uncover a morsel of information — or perhaps a Ryan comment — that fuels a tabloid frenzy. You know, another Channing Crowder-type remark or maybe a shot at Bill Belichick. Other than that, I don’t think this will become the demise of the Jets.

But, on another level, it’s somewhat troubling. Though it’s not the team’s intention, the outside perception is that the Jets are putting show biz ahead of football. For a team that hasn’t won anything in four decades, that could be a red flag. Remember, nothing fills seats better than a winning football team. Maybe the Jets can have it all, I don’t know, but they’re clearly going down a different path than ever before. That press conference yesterday was — how can I put this gently? — surreal. Cheerleaders at a press conference? Leon Hess has to be rolling over in his grave.

In the end, this probably all boils down to the individual team. The Cowboys handled it poorly. The Bengals handled it well.

We’ll see what the Jets do.

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