NY Jets, Woody Johnson, Hard Knocks
Woody Johnson, New York Jets, Getty Images

Officially set to grace HBO’s airwaves again, the New York Jets will look to run from mediocre history

It’s not TV … it’s the New York Jets.

With the line of “Succession” over and “The Idol” having fallen, the Jets are ready for their premium cable close-ups, as they’ll officially headline the 20th official season of the long-running HBO docudrama. New York becomes just the fourth team to earn a renewal, joining the Dallas Cowboys, Cincinnati Bengals, and Los Angeles Rams.

It’s an announcement that has drawn a polarizing response, but no matter how much the offensive line has improved, the Jets can’t block it out now.

With the Jets’ spot secure, it’s worth looking back on those that came before them. Eighteen teams (two in 2020) have appeared on the training camp edition of the summer showcase (the outlier seasons being a 10-year retrospective in the wake of an NFL labor dispute in 2011 and in-season showings in Indianapolis and Arizona in 2021 and 2022 respectively).

In the ensuing season following their appearance, eight teams beat their projected win totals, nine went under, and there was one push.

With HBO on their way to Florham Park, Jets-X looks back on the highest risers and the deepest of the fallen.

Fell: 2007 Kansas City Chiefs

  • Projected Wins: 7.5
  • Season Wins: 4

“Hard Knocks” returned from a four-year hiatus to document Herm Edwards’ second season at the helm of the Chiefs. There was no shortage of storylines; Brodie Croyle and Damon Huard battled to succeed Trent Green at quarterback while Dwayne Bowe and Larry Johnson were mid-season cast additions due to contract disputes, the latter competing for rushing carries against Priest Holmes, who was returning from a neck injury that cost him the prior season.

Beyond Bowe, each of those headlines had brutal resolutions: neither Croyle nor Huard was destined to be the franchise man, Holmes’ comeback ended with a November retirement and Johnson was limited to eight games, three touchdowns, and 3.5 yards per carry in an injury-riddled campaign. Kansas City failed to capitalize on a playoff berth from the year before and finished 4-12, though the season was a Super Bowl run compared to the 2-14 showing the year after, one that led to Edwards’ NFL exit.

One look at HBO’s programming guide should’ve tipped the gridiron world of the strangeness to come. The 2007 edition of “Hard Knocks” is, to date, the only season not narrated by Schreiber, the honor instead going to Avenger and Chiefs superfan Paul Rudd.

Rose: 2009 Cincinnati Bengals

  • Projected Wins: 7
  • Season Wins: 10

One of the ways to keep HBO’s cameras out of camp is to make the playoffs. Any team that appears on the bracket in either of the two seasons prior is exempt from appearing on the show.

While it was a run that proved nowhere as near as lucrative as their current trek, the Bengals used several televised storylines to their advantage and went on to show up in the playoffs in all but one of the next seven seasons.

Though their first post-“Hard Knocks” season was ended in one-sided fashion by the conference title game-bound Jets, the Bengals set the stage for something lasting after over a decade of futility, part of it featuring Chad Johnson (then going by the surname Ochocinco) at the height of both his on-field and entertainment values (at least until he ran into Darrelle Revis).

Alas, this season took on an emotional toll following the death of receiver Chris Henry, whose return to the Bengals after a line of personal issues was one of the storylines for the summer in question.

Rose: 2010 New York Jets

  • Projected Wins: 9.5
  • Season Wins: 11

Let’s be honest: perhaps the only reason why the casual football fan wouldn’t want to see this year’s Jets on the program is because it would take a lot to top their appearance in the program’s prior visit in 2010.

The first descent upon Jets camp (then held at SUNY Cortland) had all the makings of providing fodder for the team’s incessant critics. When head coach Rex Ryan wasn’t dropping a new quotable (Jets fans to this day enjoy “g****** snacks”), he was telling anyone who would listen that his team would be back in the conference final after a supposed fluke the year before.

Darrelle Revis went through a contract holdout and the trademark roster underdog (Danny Woodhead) went to the rival New England Patriots. That doesn’t even begin to cover the other one-shots that surfaced throughout camp, such as Antonio Cromartie’s struggle to name all nine of his kids.

But, in an exhilarating departure from form, the Jets defied the expectations and shattered the bright lights. They kicked the year off on a 9-2 mark and survived a Foxborough flogging in a nationally-televised Monday nighter to pick up revenge in the postseason before another comeback effort in the AFC title game fell just short in Pittsburgh.

One look at this site is an obvious (if not unneeded) reminder that things haven’t been the same since that fateful season, but the facts stand: not only did the Jets provide the most popular season of “Hard Knocks” to date, but their run to the AFC Championship Game makes them the most successful participants to date.

Fell: 2016 Los Angeles Rams

  • Projected Wins: 7.5
  • Season Wins: 4

The beginning of the end for head coach Jeff Fisher was documented on HBO and that was just one of the reasons for the Rams’ mediocre win projection in their first season back in SoCal.

HBO failed to capture the lasting Hollywood magic that “Entourage” often created, with the most memorable moments (Fisher cutting incumbent quarterback Nick Foles over the phone and later releasing receiver Deon Long for violating team rules about having female guests in his room) coming in the early episodes. Even so, HBO wasn’t the only visitor to the Rams’ new base, with the inaugural LA excursion also documented by E! and Amazon Prime.

The fact that punter Johnny Hekker was among the Rams’ All-Pro selections says it all and Fisher was fired with three games left in the season. A return trip to Los Angeles in 2020, which saw the Rams share the airwaves with their new roommates the Chargers in the pandemic-centric season, proved more successful under Sean McVay. By prevailing in that season’s NFC Wild Card, the Rams are one of just three “Hard Knocks” participants to win a playoff game (with the 2001 Ravens joining them and the aforementioned Jets).

Fell: 2017 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • Projected Wins: 8.5
  • Season Wins: 5

The descent unto Tampa was already relatively boring, its most memorable moment being an emotional heart-to-heart between Dirk Koetter and Jameis Winston, one where the head coach bluntly tells the then-franchise quarterback that he’s “the only one who can lose a game for (them).”

It’s also an endeavor that feels downright ancient after the Tom Brady era and most of the major players were ejected by the time the arguable GOAT showed up from New England.

Issues that were seemingly solved in front of the cameras came back to bite the Bucs during the regular season. They booted high-capital kicker Roberto Aguayo in favor of veteran Nick Folk, who lasted only four games in pewter, Winston faced an in-season benching in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick, and the announcement of Jon Gruden into the team’s Ring of Honor is comedically awkward.

Rose: 2021 Dallas Cowboys

  • Projected Wins: 9
  • Season Wins: 12

If “Hard Knocks” was “Star Wars,” consider the Cowboys the franchise’s version of Emperor Palpatine. No matter how many times they’re extravagantly defeated, each will inevitably come back to wreak havoc. The 2021 season, which saw Dallas trying to recover from a fruitless six-win campaign, marked their record third appearance on the show.

After an awkward COVID-altered season in SoCal, the program turned to familiar star-branded settings. Its primary storylines included the emotional return of quarterback Dak Prescott after a devastating injury ended his 2020 season early and a training camp brouhaha with the Rams.

The season once again proved to be a disappointment by the Cowboys’ lofty standards (falling to San Francisco in the Wild Card round) but no team has been more successful after appearing on the program if going solely by regular season victories.

Dallas’ data helps create a solid trend forward for the Jets. Between the 2021 Cowboys and last year’s Detroit Lions, “Hard Knocks” participants have beaten their preseason projection by at least two wins in each of the last two seasons.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Audio Version available to members only: Learn more here

Download Jet X Mobile on the App Store and Google Play.

Want More NY Jets News & Jets X-Factor Content?

Download the free Jet X Mobile App to get customizable notifications directly to your iOS (App Store) or Google/Android (Google Play) device.

Add Jets X-Factor to your Google News feed to stay up to date with the New York Jets.

Follow us on Twitter @jetsxfactor for all the latest New York Jets news, Facebook for even more, Instagram for some of the top NY Jets images, and YouTube for original Jets X-Factor videos.

Join the official Jets Discord community to connect with likeminded fans.

Geoff Magliocchetti is a veteran football writer with years of credentialed experience with the Jets and Giants. Email: geoffmags90@gmail.com
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments