It's been almost 24 hours since we found out the Dallas Cowboys would be appearing on HBO's “Hard Knocks” series in 2021. Since then there have been a lot of misconceptions and even some misinformation floating around. Let's clean up this mess.
The biggest lie being told or suggested right now is that a desperate Jerry Jones either outbid or outmuscled the rest of the NFL to get his team on the show. That's simply not how “Hard Knocks” works.
HBO generally selects the team that will appear. The pool of teams they can pick from each season is often limited based on the following exemptions:
- Teams with first-year head coaches
- Teams who made the playoffs the last two seasons
- Teams that have already been on the show the last 10 years
While there is an option for teams to volunteer to appear on the show, the Cowboys apparently haven't done so as their last appearance was in 2008. The 10-year rule alone would've made them exempt until 2018, and then the rule about recent playoff appearances (2016, 2018) would've applied up until now.
2021 was literally the first time that Dallas has been available for mandatory selection to appear on the show.in 13 years. The fact that it happened is a pretty clear sign that it was HBO's call and not Jerry's.
And yet, you still see nonsense like this:
America's Team is losing some of its grip on America; it will try to regain some of it by appearing on Hard Knocks. https://t.co/T5bgwMpEYl
Despite their lack of championship success since the mid-90s the Cowboys remain the most valuable franchise in professional sports and the NFL's most-reliable ratings draw. The idea that they need “Hard Knocks” to help the brand is absurd.
In fact, It's actually HBO who needs America's Team.
“Hard Knocks” suffered a 63% drop in viewership in 2020 from the previous season. While that may have had a lot to do with the distractions of the COVID-19 pandemic and the presidential election, the decision to cover both Los Angeles franchises at the same time didn't seem to resonate with the audience.
With a lot of the season focused on pandemic challenges and the construction of SoFi Stadium, fans hungry for football content weren't satisfied.
So no, this isn't Jerry Jones trying to pull a spotlight back on his team. He's already got it and always does, and especially in 2021 after Dak Prescott's free agency and new contract was the biggest story of the NFL offseason.
Also, real quick, let's dispel this notion that being on “Hard Knocks” will somehow affect the Cowboys' upcoming season. This is professional football; these guys are used to having cameras and microphones in their faces. And this is Dallas; these players are already used to it.
As my Inside The Star colleague wisely sad it yesterday…
If Hard Knocks is the difference between making the playoffs and not, then they aren’t good enough to begin with. #DallasCowboys
— John Williams (@john9williams) July 2, 2021
If you have angst about the Dallas Cowboys appearing on “Hard Knocks” in 2021 or any other year, please don't. This is an additional window into your favorite team; an opportunity to see these men as more than just helmets and jerseys.
Like John said, this won't be difference between wins and losses or playoff appearances. Dallas hasn't needed HBO to struggle in those areas since 2008.
But make no mistake, the Cowboys are on “Hard Knocks” this year because they are still America's Team. Any honest person (sorry Florio) doesn't need a reminder.