It’s official: there will be an NFL team from Florida featured in the 2012 edition of “Hard Knocks.”
Unfortunately for the Jaguars – and fortunately, for virtually everybody else – it’s not the Jaguars.
Instead, HBO Sports and NFL Films will be taking their talents from South Beach, as the Miami Dolphins have agreed to let the “Hard Knocks” crew roll cameras at their training facility in Davie, FL this year. Dolphins training camp will likely start in the final weekend of July. The first episode of the Dolphin-flavored “Hard Knocks” is set to bow Tuesday, August 7, with the season scheduled to conclude on September 4, the eve of the “kickoff game” of the 2012 NFL season between the Dallas Cowboys and the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
The Miami Dolphins will be the fifth AFC franchise to be featured on “Hard Knocks.” The Cowboys, who have made two appearances, are the lone NFC team to be on the program. The show was idle for four years between 2003 and 2006, and the 2011 edition was canceled due to the lockout.
The Dolphins will follow their division rival New York Jets on the succession of teams appearing on “Hard Knocks.” After rampant speculation that the Jets would appear on the show for a second consecutive season – speculation fueled by the fact that owner Woody Johnson showed interest in returning to the show – the team ultimately withdrew consideration for being featured on the 2012 version, citing concentration on a new offensive scheme drawn up by their new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano – who was the head coach of the Dolphins until late last year.
So what does it tell you that a Miami Dolphins team, which ranked 22nd in total yards and 23rd in passing yards in a 2011 campaign in which their top quarterback barely missed breaking the 2,500-yard plateau, and with a rookie head coach in Joe Philbin (whose rap sheet suggests he’s far from a rookie) would be an appealable choice for “Hard Knocks” in 2012? It tells you that the Dolphins are far more appealable than the Jacksonville Jaguars, who ranked dead last in both of the aforementioned categories last year.
You recall the Jaguars were the most vocal franchise jockeying for inclusion in HBO’s “Hard Knocks” games this year. Yet all the while, HBO has rebuffed their advances, opting for a team in a larger market, as opposed to a team in the Jaguars that regularly has had home games blacked out due to low ticket sales. Yet even the Dolphins – whose home sellout streak of over 100 games dates back to the Dan Marino and Oronde Gadsden team of 1998 that played at Pro Player Stadium – were flirting with potential blackouts of their own last season, only to open up the war chest and end up purchasing the remaining unsold tickets, guaranteeing the games could at least be seen locally in Miami.
And when rumors of your possible relocation to Los Angeles are spontaneously brewing, that also doesn’t bode well for a club hoping to be featured on “Hard Knocks” (though they more or less won’t be going anywhere until we elect a 46th President).
Currently, the most recognizable face of the franchise, Maurice Jones-Drew, has skipped organized team activities in Jacksonville, and while it’s not the first time that’s happened, he’s reportedly unhappy that he has not received a contract extension. Which means MoJo might hold out. If you thought the idea of the Jaguars on “Hard Knocks” was far-fetched, watching “Hard Knocks” with the Jaguars minus Maurice Jones-Drew would be like watching “Perfect Strangers” without Balki. (In fact, it might be just like watching “Perfect Strangers.”)
And, oh yeah, they were ranked 32nd of 32 teams in two yardage categories.
No surprise why, when the Jaguars were pining to be on “Hard Knocks,” HBO covered their ears and screamed, “La-la-la, I can’t hear you, la-la-la, I’m not listening.”
At least they weren’t listening to the Jaguars. Even after teams like the Broncos and the Falcons and even the Jets spurned the show, they were determined to find a suitor by Friday. By comparison, when the Jets were announced as the team in the previous edition of “Hard Knocks,” it was in the final week of March 2010.
Easter, Memorial Day and “The Hunger Games” weren’t going to wait for a team other than the Jaguars to agree to be featured on “Hard Knocks” in 2012.
Should we feel sorry for the Jaguars and their fans, who in spite of their fervent attempt to invite HBO cameras into their training camp, were left standing at the altar? Absolutely.
But at the same time, should we vilify HBO for ignoring the Jaguars in order to make a good business decision for the network, “Hard Knocks” and the NFL?
As Balki might say: Of course not, don’t be ridiculous.