There is No “Hard Knocks” Curse

Scrolling through Twitter I saw a “Moment” (still not sure what even qualifies as a moment) with tweets discussing a so called Hard Knocks Curse.

Look at that list, this is not a curse. This is water finding it’s level. The Madden curse exists because good players with high expectations are hurt or perform poorly in the year they appear on the cover. These were bad head coaches with awful teams and mostly low expectations. Obviously in the wake of the Hue Jackson and Todd Haley firings (lol Cleveland) yesterday, everyone was reminded of this iconic moment from earlier this season…

We all knew it wasn’t if, but when Hue would get the axe. What we didn’t know is that Todd would be hitting the unemployment line for the second time in a calendar year. Turns out the Browns are BAD. A tale as old as time, but still rings true to this day. Hard Knocks is a fantastic series, but can also work as a phenomenal propaganda machine spreading misinformation even more powerful than any Russian hacker or North Korean dictator. A few slow motion shots of a spiraling ball, a killer beat in the background, some fiery coach speak dubbed over top, and as a fan you’re ready to run through a damn brick wall. The excitement around the Browns was palpable, #1 overall stud QB, two of the best WR’s in the game, a stable of productive and high quality RB’s, a promising rookie CB. This was the year… until it wasn’t. 

To put it simply the thing about Hard Knocks is it’s a TV show. NFL Coaches, GMs, and owners absolutely HATE distractions. You can essentially pin reality TV show at the top of any certified list of distractions, it’s the poster boy. Teams DO NOT want to be a part of Hard Knocks, especially good teams. For years the only teams Hard Knocks was being “gifted” to were not great. Most of it is a collection of some the NFL’s most forlorn franchises. Let’s look at the list of teams and their records.

The first year is their previous record/The second is their record after appearing on the show:

Baltimore Ravens – 2000 record: 12-4   2001 record: 10-6
Dallas Cowboys – 2001 record: 5-11   2002 record: 5-11
Kansas City Chiefs – 2006 record: 9-7   2007 record: 4-12
Dallas Cowboys – 2007 record: 13-3   2008 record: 9-7
Cincinnati Bengals – 2008 record: 4-11-1   2009 record: 10-6
New York Jets – 2009 record: 9-7   2010 record: 11-5
Miami Dolphins – 2011 record: 6-10   2012 record: 7-9
Cincinnati Bengals – 2012 record: 10-6   2013 record: 11-5
Atlanta Falcons – 2013 record: 4-12   2014 record: 6-10
Houston Texans – 2014 record: 9-7   2015 record: 9-7
Los Angeles Rams – 2015 record: 7-9   2016 record: 4-12
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 2016 record: 9-7   2017 record: 5-11
Cleveland Browns – 2017 record: 0-16    2018 record: 2-5-1

Outside of Baltimore in 2000 and Dallas in 2007 none of these are exactly powerhouses rolling out the red carpet for HBO cameras. The Ravens actually coming off of a SuperBowl win was a huge get in the premiere season, but let’s be honest they were bound to suffer a setback after letting go of Trent Dilfer… There’s a reason you don’t see the modern successful franchises on this show, the Steelers, the Patriots, the Packers. Great organizations do not want to deal with the distraction.

The argument there is some kind of curse seems silly. These are honestly just average to bad teams that are being featured. Expecting them to suddenly become playoff teams or post double digit wins is fairy tale stuff. The NFL and HBO know this and that’s why they changed the requirements for Hard Knocks a few years ago. Teams are now exempt from the all seeing eye of HBO if they meet any of the following requirements:

1) They have a first-year head coach in place 
2) They have a playoff berth in the past two seasons 
3) They have appeared on Hard Knocks in the past 10 years

While #2 hurts the chances of seeing great teams featured the other two rules certainly helps increase the odds of not seeing the bottom feeders every single year. If the show continues long enough eventually you will see a more storied and successful franchise featured, but until then any curse talk is misguided. No curse, just stink. 

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