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Jets chosen for ‘Hard Knocks’ 2023: Why NFL picked New York for HBO show despite team’s protest of participation

For the first time in more than a decade, “Hard Knocks” is coming to the Big Apple.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on Wednesday that the NFL is expected to announce that the New York Jets are set to participate in the league’s annual behind-the-scenes preseason documentary show for 2023.

The Jets were last on “Hard Knocks” in 2010 when Rex Ryan was the coach. Ryan’s boisterous personality and collection of wacky soundbites helped make that season of the show a hit.

The NFL is hoping for a repeat of that success with a different cast of characters. This year’s show will be highlighted by the team’s energetic coach Robert Saleh, fiery cornerback Sauce Gardner and, of course, the team’s new quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Also drawing intrigue will be the fact that the Jets were vocal that they didn’t want to participate in “Hard Knocks” this season; the NFL simply chose them for the program because it could.

MORE: Aaron Rodgers draws comparisons to Tom Brady from new Jets teammate

Here’s what to know about why the Jets were selected for “Hard Knocks” on eve of 2023 NFL training camps beginning.

Why the Jets were chosen for ‘Hard Knocks’

It’s easy to understand why the NFL chose the Jets to participate in “Hard Knocks.” In short, they are a talented team in a big media market with a lot of notable players and big-time personalities in their locker room, so that should make for good television.

It’s also worth noting that the team underwent a seismic shift during the 2023 offseason when it acquired long-time Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers via trade. The Jets have long endured struggles at the quarterback position and it is expected that Rodgers, a four-time MVP, will put an end to those difficulties.

Of course, Rodgers is a quirky guy — remember his darkness retreat? — and can be mercurial, so fans will be interested in how he adapts to playing with the Jets. After all, he spent the first 18 seasons of his career in Green Bay, so there’s no guarantee that the 39-year-old’s transition to a new squad will be easy. 

Rodgers’ transition to New York will also test coach Robert Saleh, who is facing a critical season in his third year with the Jets. The team’s defense has performed well under Saleh but the offense has been a major problem. As such, Saleh needs the offense to improve to avoid landing on the hot seat for the win-now Jets.

That’s part of the reason Saleh brought in Nathaniel Hackett as offensive coordinator after his failed tenure as the Broncos head coach. Hackett served as Green Bay’s offensive coordinator before he took the head coaching job in Denver, so he has some built-in chemistry with Rodgers. That relationship will likely be highlighted by the program.

Add in the aforementioned Sauce Gardner and dynamic running back Breece Hall, who is coming off a torn ACL, and the Jets should be a lot of fun to watch. That made them the perfect fit for “Hard Knocks” among teams that could be forced to participate in the program.

MORE: Aaron Rodgers’ timeline of ayahuasca usage, comments on it

Why the Jets have to participate in ‘Hard Knocks’

Of course, it’s worth noting that the Jets aren’t exactly willing participants in “Hard Knocks.” Saleh made it clear that he didn’t want New York to be a part of the program during a news conference in June.

“I know of several teams that would love for Hard Knocks to be in their building,” Saleh said. “We’re just not one of them.”

So, how did the Jets end up on the program? Well, the NFL allows teams to volunteer to be on “Hard Knocks” but if no team chooses to do so, the league is allowed to pick a team to participate in the program so long as it meets a certain criteria for selection.

The Jets met those criteria for 2023. As such, the NFL was able to force them to be a part of the show.

MORE: Why the Jets don’t want to participate in “Hard Knocks”

NFL’s ‘Hard Knocks’ criteria, explained

The NFL’s criteria for avoiding a “Hard Knocks” assignment is rather simple. Teams must fall into one of the following three buckets to avoid potential selection for the show.

  • The team must not have a first-year head coach
  • They must have made the playoffs in either of the last two seasons
  • They must have appeared on “Hard Knocks” over the last 10 years

Saleh is in his third year with the Jets, the Jets failed to qualify for the postseason after the 2021 and 2022 seasons and haven’t appeared on “Hard Knocks” in 13 years. That allowed the NFL to put them on the show in 2023.

There were only three other teams besides the Jets that didn’t fall into one of the buckets listed above. They were the Bears, Commanders and Saints. While there are bits of intrigue surrounding each team, none has the true star power of the Jets. That made New York the obvious choice for “Hard Knocks.”

MORE: Tom Brady explains why move to Jets could “invigorate” Aaron Rodgers

When does ‘Hard Knocks’ start?

It isn’t exactly clear when “Hard Knocks” will start airing episodes in 2023. The 2022 version of the program aired its first episode on Aug. 9, 2022, so it’s safe to assume that HBO and the NFL will target a similar release date for the program.

That said, it’s worth noting that the Lions’ participation in “Hard Knocks” was announced in March. That was partly because the team had effectively volunteered to be on the program, but it’s still worth noting that the Jets’ announcement is among the latest the NFL has made in recent history. It isn’t clear if that will impact the airing of the first episode.

Below is a run-down of the announcement date for each of the show’s seasons over the last decade.

Year Team(s) Announcement date
2014 Falcons June 12
2015 Texans May 27
2016 Rams March 23
2017 Buccaneers April 19
2018 Browns May 17
2019 Raiders June 11
2020 Chargers/Rams April 20
2021 Cowboys July 2
2022 Lions March 28
2023 Jets July 12

The Jets start training camp in just six days, so it’s worth wondering why the NFL took the time to announce this decision. Perhaps New York put up a bit of a fight behind the scenes or perhaps the NFL wanted to keep the official decision on the down-low to avoid it becoming a storyline during Jets minicamp and OTAs.

Either way, NFL fans will be treated to an inside look at the Jets’ training camp.

And soon enough, they’ll get to see whether Rodgers and Co. can live up to the hype.

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