'Hard Knocks' deal has pros, cons for Bucs

May 15 2011 - 4:11pm

Herm Edwards had advice for players who overacted for the cameras when his Kansas City Chiefs appeared on HBO's "Hard Knocks" four years ago.

" 'Don't think you're Sidney Poitier,' " said Edwards, a former Jets and Chiefs coach, referring to the Academy Award-winning actor. "You'd see this player who had nothing to say for two months and now he can't stop talking."

The Tampa Bay Bucs are said to be among the front-runners this year to be the subject of "Hard Knocks," the reality series produced in conjunction with NFL Films that follows a team through training camp. The Saints, Raiders and four other teams also are being considered.

Edwards, now an analyst for ESPN, said there is an obvious downside to exposing a franchise to documentary-style television. But he believes it's something the Bucs would be able to manage.

Tampa Bay has plenty of reasons to accept the opportunity. It went 10-6 last season, but every home game was blacked out on TV. The series could be a great promotional tool for ticket sales.

Though the Bucs are scheduled to have two prime-time games next season, as well as another trip to London for a game, they did not have a national TV game last year. The program would help introduce young stars such as quarterback Josh Freeman, receiver Mike Williams and running back LeGarrette Blount to a wider audience.

Edwards said the success or failure of the experience could fall on coach Raheem Morris. Edwards gave Morris his start in the league by hiring him as part of the minority coaching program with the Jets.

"The head guy has to handle it," Edwards said. "If he doesn't, it could get embarrassing."

Edwards had one of the youngest teams in the NFL in 2007 when Hard Knocks went to Kansas City.

"I think it's too long," Edwards said of the experience. "They start the week before you go (to training camp), and it runs all through training camp. After about four weeks, you get tired of it. It's definitely an adjustment for the coaching staff. I told them, 'You don't want to put yourself in a position that makes the organization look bad.'

"You have to hold them accountable on the practice field as far as language goes. You can scream and holler, but you want to watch your language."

Edwards was very critical of the amount of profanity used by Jets coach Rex Ryan and his staff during last season's Hard Knocks.

"It was embarrassing," Edwards said. "We sit here as a league and talk about ... doing what's right and sound like that as coaches. Are you kidding me? People are watching. Kids are watching."

Edwards said HBO had total access to his staff meetings, practices, locker room, team meeting rooms and the team hotel. Though the presence of cameras makes players practice a little harder, they also tend to play to the red light that indicates the camera is running, he said.

"The downside is the players ... get so hung up on wanting to be part of the show, and not all of them are going to be," Edwards said. "So half the time they're asking, 'Why wasn't I on the show last night?' Then they're almost overacting to become a part of it.

"NFL Films does a good job. They always have somebody looking at it. If you don't want certain stuff to get out, they're okay with it. They want to get behind the curtain, but you still have some control. But as a head coach, you don't have time to sit there and watch everything. ... I think Raheem can handle it. He'll be good at it. He's young and has that personality."

It's interesting to note that four of the six teams that have been featured on Hard Knocks finished their subsequent season with a winning record; three of them made the playoffs. Edwards, whose team went 4-12, does not believe the show has an impact on the won-loss record.

"We had a bunch of young guys," Edwards said. "Did it make a difference in our record? No. I don't think it hurts you or helps you. Some people say it does. (The Bucs) have a good group of guys. The quarterback has leadership skills. They've got guys fans like to see. Raheem has done a good job of giving guys second chances, and that will be part of the story.

"The head coach has to know where to draw the line, and you've got to talk to your football team before the cameras ever start. You have your little day in the sun, and at the end of the day, the game goes on."

 

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