Photo: Photos By Norm Hall / Getty Images And Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle
The NFL has yet to announce which team will be featured on HBO’s hit show, “Hard Knocks,” this summer, and either Bay Area teams could be forced to be on the show if no other team volunteers.
There are three ways for a team to be exempt from the show: a team can have a first-year head coach, have made the playoffs once in the past two years, or have been featured on the show sometime in the past decade.
The 49ers and Raiders meet none of these requirements, meaning that if the NFL wants them on the show, they have to be on the show, period.
Hard Knocks typically features five episodes each season chronicling a team’s training camp and preseason in July and August. The Cleveland Browns were featured on the show last year, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers played host to the HBO crews in 2017.
Detroit, Washington, and the New York Giants are the other three teams that could be forced to be on the show this year, and with the exception of maybe New York, none of these three teams would be as compelling as the two Bay Area teams.
For the 49ers, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s return from a torn ACL would make for a nice comeback story, and cornerback Richard Sherman always makes for good soundbites.
In addition, Nick Bosa was the second overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, and Hard Knocks always makes a point to see how rookies navigate their first NFL training camps. The 49ers’ wide-open competition at receiver would also make for an intriguing storyline, as Dante Pettis, Marquise Goodwin, Trent Taylor, Kendrick Bourne, and rookies Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd are all expected to compete for playing time.
Tight end George Kittle is also an entertaining character, as is left tackle Joe Staley. Staley may be nearing the end of his career, which would also make for a fun storyline on the show.
Finally, the personal story of defensive end Solomon Thomas (his sister committed suicide in early 2018, and he has since become an outspoken advocate for suicide prevention efforts) would also be a compelling story.
The 49ers would make for great television, but the Oakland Raiders would probably be even better.
Head coach Jon Gruden has a background in reality television with his old ESPN show, “Gruden’s QB Camp,” and is arguably the most quotable person in football.
Newly acquired receiver Antonio Brown has a mercurial personality that’s made for reality television, as does new linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who has a slightly complicated history with Brown. The two new teammates say the past is behind them, and their potential interactions would be a fun story for HBO to follow.
The Raiders also have three first-round rookies in Clelin Ferrell, Josh Jacobs and Johnathan Abram. Ferrell’s story could be particularly interesting since his selection was one of the biggest surprises of the draft.
This is also likely to be the Raiders’ final season in Oakland, and that, in of itself, is a captivating storyline.
The NFL can’t go wrong with either Bay Area team, but both teams have shown a reluctance to be on the show.
49ers general manager John Lynch has stated on multiple occasions that he is fundamentally opposed to informing a player that he’s been released with a camera rolling in the background, and Raiders owner Mark Davis joked that he’d fire Gruden to stop the Raiders from being on the show.
But if no other NFL team volunteers for the show, the HBO crews could very well be coming to the Bay Area this summer.
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