A team looking to rebound from a dreadful 4-12 season? Pro Bowl talent at quarterback and wide receiver? A first-round pick from one of the NFL’s most famous families?
Hard Knocks should be fun this year.
HBO announced on Thursday that the Atlanta Falcons will be featured on what most sports fans consider the best sports documentary show on television. The series kicks off its five-episode run on Tuesday, Aug, 5 (10-11 p.m. ET/PT). Hour-long episodes will debut every Tuesday at the same time, with an encore presentation on Wednesday at 11 p.m. The season finale will air Sept. 2.
“The series will give fans a behind-the-scenes look at the competition between players as we build our roster and prepare for the season,” said Falcons coach Mike Smith, in a statement. “We are looking forward to the start of camp in late July.”
This will be the ninth season for Hard Knocks, which launched with the Baltimore Ravens in 2001 and followed with the Dallas Cowboys in ’02. The show took a hiatus between 2003 and 2006 and resumed in 2007 with the Chiefs and then the Cowboys (2008), Bengals (2009), Jets (2010), Dolphins (2012) and Bengals (2013). There was no Hard Knocks in 2011, due to the condensed training camp resulting from the league’s work stoppage. The 2012 season marked the first time the series, jointly produced by NFL Films and HBO, premiered on Tuesday nights. Last year the five-part series averaged 3.6 million viewers per episode.
Hard Knocks staffers, as chronicled by The MMQB last August, will tell you that their goal is to avoid being intrusive with the organization and to gain enough trust to provide NFL fans with access they cannot get anywhere else on television. Historically, the show’s best experiences are when organizations buy into the process whole. The Falcons, led by seventh-year head coach Smith, have a reputation for being media-friendly with league television properties, and last year’s Hard Knocks captured the Falcons as part of the preseason opener against the Bengals. Atlanta is also an interesting roster on a narrative level with well-known players in quarterback Matt Ryan, wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White and promising Texas A&M rookie lineman Jake Matthews, the son of Hall of Fame lineman Bruce Matthews and the cousin of Packers linebacker Clay Matthews and Eagles linebacker Casey Matthews. The Falcons are also only two years removed from a loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. About 30 Hard Knocks staffers work onsite during the filming of the show, working 12- to 14-hour days and often clocking 100 hours per week. The crew typically shoots 300 hours of film for each 55-minute program.