NFL teams aren't exactly beholden to HBO's television series Hard Knocks. The show, which takes an insider look at the front office, training camp, and day-to-day life of an NFL franchise during the preseason, often has trouble finding a team willing to bring the film crew aboard, due to the added scrutiny and publicity involved.
In 2013, the NFL announced an agreement designed to keep the Hard Knocks relationship going even if teams weren't willing; if no one volunteered, they could compel a franchise to appear on the show. It set guidelines for choosing eligible teams, in order to give franchises a respite from needing to appear on the show when they have more pressing issues to worry about:
- If a team participated in Hard Knocks in the last decade, it cannot be forced to appear on the show.
- If a team hired a new head coach, it cannot be forced to appear.
- If a team appeared in the playoffs in either of the previous two seasons, it cannot be forced to appear.
The Buffalo Bills are one of seven teams who fail to meet any of these criteria entering the 2016 season, and thus could be compelled to host HBO this preseason. The other teams are the New Orleans Saints, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Chicago Bears, and the Rams, Raiders, and Chargers, two of of which are expected to be in Los Angeles next season.
If the league is forced to choose a team to appear, it's hard to argue that the Bills wouldn't be near the top of the list. This would be Rex Ryan's third go-round with the show, having been on the Baltimore Ravens staff during the inaugural 2001 season, as well as his boisterous 2010 appearance with the New York Jets. He's a well-known media magnet, the team has fun personalities like Boobie Dixon and Marcell Dareus, and there's a story line to follow with the playoff drought and the relatively new ownership. The best competition for an NFL-mandated slot might be one of the Los Angeles teams, as they would belong to a massive media market and introduce plenty of drama with the team's location shift.
That being said, it's no guarantee that any team needs to be forced onto the show; so far, every appearance has been voluntary. Bills fans who don't want to deal with more media distraction in year two of the Ryan regime needn't worry yet. Just last season, when the possibility of appearing was broached, multiple high-level Bills personnel executives told media outlets that it's not in the Pegulas' nature to seek out that kind of publicity.