The San Francisco 49ers head into 2018 with a ton of optimism, and plenty of compelling storylines. Jimmy Garoppolo is the most significant, and his performance these past five weeks is going to have a lot of people projecting playoffs for the 49ers next season.
It is fitting then that the 49ers are one of six teams eligible to appear on HBO’s Hard Knocks program in 2018. Technically any team can volunteer to appear on the show, but the NFL has had issues in the past with getting a volunteer. In 2013, they created some rules for mandatory inclusion. The league could require a team appear on the program, but they created three exemptions:
- They have a first-year head coach in place.
- They appeared in the playoffs in the past two seasons.
- They have appeared on Hard Knocks in the past 10 years
NFL.com writer Dan Hanzus went through all 32 teams to sort out who is eligible this year, and it came own to six teams. The 49ers join the Denver Broncos, Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Chargers, Baltimore Ravens, and Washington as eligible for mandatory inclusion.
The league will look for one of the six teams to volunteer to appear, but if not, they will choose the team. And in doing so, they will look for the most compelling storylines. My guess is someone will take up the opportunity, but if not, here is how I would rank these teams from most to least compelling television.
1. 49ers — Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and head coach Kyle Shanahan look to take this team back to the glory days. General manager John Lynch has extensive media experience and would probably see a lot of face time. It’s pretty simple.
2. Browns — Coming off an 0-16 season, likely drafting a quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick, and potentially adding a lot of talent with their cap space.
3. Broncos — They seem all but certain to invest in a quarterback in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Vance Joseph was nearly fired after one season, so he could be an interesting personality to track in a make-or-break training camp.
4. Chargers — This is a wild card option. If they spend a first round pick on a quarterback, there is a pretty young vs. old dynamic between a rookie QB and one of the greatest players in franchise history (Philip Rivers).
5. Washington — If Kirk Cousins is franchised a third straight year, I might consider bumping this up just because of the unprecedented awkwardness that would create.
6. Baltimore Ravens — I can’t think of much here, although I guarantee you Ray Lewis would find a way to get camera time.