Oakland Raiders on Hard Knocks: Good, bad, or insignificant?

SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 01: Head coach Jon Gruden of the Oakland Raiders looks on during their NFL game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on November 1, 2018 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 01: Head coach Jon Gruden of the Oakland Raiders looks on during their NFL game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on November 1, 2018 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

The Oakland Raiders have officially been announced as this year’s “Hard Knocks” team. But should this be considered good, bad, or meaningless for the franchise?

In one of the least surprising announcements of the entire NFL offseason, the Oakland Raiders were officially named as this year’s participants in HBO’s annual football training camp series, “Hard Knocks.”

The Raiders were one of five teams that couldn’t decline an invitation as they hadn’t done the show in the past 10 years, did not have a first-year head coach, and hadn’t made the playoffs in either of the last two seasons.

As such, it was an easy choice for HBO and the NFL.

The new-look Raiders team is sure to make for some compelling and entertaining television over the summer. With new additions such as Antonio Brown, Vontaze Burfict, and Richie Incognito — all players who haven’t exactly shied away from the spotlight — there’s sure to be no shortage of entertainment value.

Not to mention the abrasive, boisterous coaching style of one Jon Gruden himself.

But is this a good thing for the Raiders? Or rather, does it even really matter? For starters, let’s take a look at how it has potentially impacted teams who have taken part in the past.

Out of the 11 teams who have been a part of “Hard Knocks” since its revival in the 2007 season, only four have qualified for the postseason that same season with the most recent being the Houston Texans back in 2015. But is there a direct correlation here?

It’s more likely that there’s another simple explanation for this phenomenon. Since teams that qualify for “Hard Knocks” can’t have made the playoffs in either of the previous two seasons, there’s typically a greater chance of lesser teams being selected.

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That’s why we’ve seen teams like the Cleveland Browns, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Los Angeles Rams selected in each of the past three years. None of those teams were particularly good to begin the year so it’s no surprise that each of them failed to qualify for the playoffs that season.

Sports Illustrated went through and analyzed the records of each of the 12 teams — prior to the Browns — that have participated in the HBO series. After examining their record the prior season and comparing it with their record following “Hard Knocks,” they came to the following conclusion.

"“Five of the 12 teams documented improved their record in the season immediately following the show, five finished with a worse record and the last two had exactly the same record. In addition, five of the 12 teams made the playoffs in that next season – but four of those five teams already had winning records the season before HBO showed up. What all that means is there’s no, well, hard evidence that having Hard Knocks around helps or hurts.”"

So in essence, it doesn’t appear to have a direct impact on team success. But we’re not done here, let’s dive a little further, shall we?

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While there is no direct correlation between “Hard Knocks” and team success, the financial side of things might indicate otherwise. Teams that have participated in the television series have seen a stark rise in merchandise sales the following season seemingly as a direct result of the increased national exposure.

The Cincinnati Bengals went from one of the worst in the NFL in terms of merchandise sales to middle-of-the-pack following their 2009 appearance on the show and other teams have followed suit.

So for the organizations themselves, “Hard Knocks” could be quite the cash grab.

But we haven’t talked about perhaps the most important aspect — that being how it affects the players and coaches. While there have been some who have thrived under the heavy spotlight, the overwhelming consensus is that most players and coaches aren’t particularly fond of the increased attention.

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These are individuals simply trying to do their jobs and it’s certainly understandable how a collection of camera crew and television staff could make for quite the nuisance. This is doubly true given that many of these players are trying to get accustomed with their new team and are attempting to learn an entirely new playbook/system.

This could especially be a problem for the Raiders given the mass amount of new players on the team’s roster.

An annoyance, yes absolutely. A distraction, possibly. But a distraction that doesn’t necessarily impact future success.

So what have we learned? “Hard Knocks” is good in the sense that it serves as a financial boost to teams and increases nationwide exposure. It’s bad in the sense that it serves as an annoyance and nuisance to players and coaches alike.

But ultimately, it’s relatively insignificant in that there is no proven evidence of it having any direct impact on team success.

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The bottom line — just sit back and enjoy when the series kicks off on August 6th because the real winners of this announcement are the fans.