SBD/June 13, 2014/Media

Falcons Will Appear On HBO's "Hard Knocks" Despite Coach's Past Reluctance

Falcons execs see being on the show as a major branding opportunity
The Falcons on Thursday announced that they "will be featured on HBO Sports’ award-winning documentary series Hard Knocks," according to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION. The move comes after the team "turned down an offer from HBO a few years ago." While the team's football operations staff has "been opposed to appearing" in the series, Falcons Owner Arthur Blank and the business side "see being on the show as a major 'branding' opportunity for the franchise." Falcons coach Mike Smith "was not a big fan of the show," as he "went to great lengths to avoid the HBO cameras" during his time as a Ravens assistant coach. He "apparently has changed his tune" (AJC.com, 6/12). NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported the Falcons "volunteered" for the show, which is "exactly what the 'Hard Knocks' crew wanted." Rapoport: "They wanted a team that absolutely wanted them. They have been courting the Falcons for several years, and, from what I understand, this year just happened to be the year that the Falcons said, 'Okay, we're good with that.'" The show was looking for a team to feature "without a lot of national recognition and with some stars and some compelling stories," and the Falcons "do seem to fit that criteria." One other element is the fact the team is building a new stadium and trying to land a future Super Bowl. Rapoport: "So any publicity, including what is no doubt going to be positive publicity, is due to help them" ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 6/12).

SURPRISED BY SMITH: THE MMQB's Greg Bedard wrote the Falcons' appearance on the show "should be interesting," as the franchise is "in near make or break mode." Bedard: "I’m kind of blown away that coach Mike Smith agreed to do it. He prefers very much for his work and ideas to be under the radar" (MMQB.SI.com, 6/12). In Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley wrote of Smith, "You get a sense he took this one for Arthur Blank, who is among those owners who does not confine himself to his box during games." Blank's "fondness for the limelight is one motivation to be on 'Hard Knocks,'" and another is "getting revenue for a new stadium." Ledbetter in an e-mail wrote, "They are trying to move PSLs for the new stadium. They need to sell about $100 to $200 million worth as part of the $1.2 billion financing plan" (JSONLINE.com, 6/12).

FOCUS FACTOR: In Atlanta, Jeff Schultz wrote he does not understand why the Falcons organization, which "fell apart a season ago, and not just because of injuries, has decided to let a cable television show go behind the scenes in training camp and follow players in practices and meetings and areas of Fort Flowery Branch normally off limits to non-team personnel." Schultz: "And this is a smart decision? ... This will fix an organization that runs through assistant coaches like socks and is 1-4 in the playoffs since 2008?" He added, "Explain to me how this makes the Falcons better" (AJC.com, 6/12). ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure wrote it is "fair to wonder if this could be a distraction for a team coming off a 4-12 season." But Falcons S Dwight Lowery, who participated in "Hard Knocks" during his stint with the Jets, said, "Hopefully, it will be something that we can use for energy on those days in camp where it gets hard and long; kind of keep the mood light, I guess. I honestly don't think it will be a distraction. If it is, I think only at first because it's brand new. I think three weeks into training camp, guys will get accustomed to them being there and actually kind of get sick of it" (ESPN.com, 6/12).

LEAGUE REACTION: In San Diego, Tom Krasovic notes the Chargers "have never been on the show, which enters its ninth season." Officials on the Chargers' business side "saw some merit" in being on the show while "tossing the idea around last summer." Krasovic: "I think the 'Hard Knocks' audience would fall in serious like, if not love, with several Chargers players." QB Philip Rivers "would appeal to a wide demographic," while Chargers coaches John Pagano, Ollie Wilson, Frank Reich and Joe D'Alessandris would contrast head coach Mike McCoy "scooping vanilla from every container" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 6/13). In Jacksonville, Ryan O'Halloran reports the Jaguars "weren't interested in being part" of the series, and coach Gus Bradley is "thankful the cameras wouldn't be behind the Jaguars' closed doors." Bradley on Thursday deadpanned, "That’s great for Atlanta. I’m excited for them. I know the fans enjoy watching that to get an inside look so I appreciate (the Falcons stepping forward)" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 6/13).
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