It has rarely seen this much debate or buzz, the announcement of which NFL team is selected for HBO's annual all access show “Hard Knocks.. Last year, the selection of the wobegone Cincinnnati Bengals was met with more interest than concern. So Thursday's announcement that the New York Jets were selecte. as this year's all access candidate by the cable network was a little surprising, but nowhere near as surprisin. as the fervor in media coverage regarding the announcement. Now the Jets, despite th. onfield successs by Rex Ryan and Company last year, have always been the NFL stepchild (a lucrative one yes) in the New York media market. Save for the legendary 1968 season and 1969 Super Bowl, the Giants have always been the more secure, more streamlined and more upscale brand in the area, even in their darkest days. The Jets have always been the renter in someone's house, be it Shea (where their full set of seats were never in place until after the Mets finished) or Giants Stadium (where they always played second fiddle despite their best branding efforts). Their hope for a site of their own on the West Side of Manhattan was lost in a vicious battle with Madison Square Garden and others in Manhattan, and the compromise of a shared new home which will be all Jets on their days, all Giants on theirs (eventhough the Giants practice facility is within a long punt of the stadium and the Jets is in distant Florham Park) will still be just that, a compromise. The Jets battle to obtain seat licenses in a challenged economy has also been a struggle, while the Giants, although with a waiting list now exhausted, will fill the new home to the brim once again. The Jets, much more than the Giants, remain the team that has to do more to grow image and gain casual support, both locally and even nationally.
So as an answer, green and white will give the HBO crew all the access needed for Hard Knocks, a great way to showcase the brand and the personalities of the team to a very large audience. Last season we learned more about Mike Brown, Sherm Lewis and their squad than in the franchise's entire history. In year's past, the confrontations and images of Brian Billick and Herm Edwards and their teams were brought to light and helped to grow the brands of those teams. So why not the Jets, and why not expose “Hard Knocks” to the largest media market in the countr. Well this is New York, and the constant struggle amongst the media for access immediately reared its ugly head. Would Mark Sanchez have five less minutes for the local media becuase he stops and answers questions for the HBO camera.? Would Rex Ryan suddenly give away his secrets behind the scenes that the beat writers could only see on T. Would the Jets sacrifice those who cover them regularly for the sake of some national TV, and would the team be risking distraction by allowing more media coverag.
If this were a different regime, or a different sport, the questions would be vaild. However “Hard Knocks” is a well planned, well executed TAPED show that has rarely broken news, and focused more on the mundane inner struggles of coaches decisions in personell and the personalities of the players, especially the marginal players, more than the stars. The micing of players and coaches in camps has been dones for years, and as Ryan pointed out with the media Thursday, he has gone through the experience with the Ravens and found it to be no distraction to anyone (the Ravens also had an all access book done one summer, also to no distraction). There may also be those who feel that the access cheapens the image of the brand, and will make football into more of a circus…a desperate attempt by the team to try and use this as a vehicle to sell more licenses.
In reality, the move by the Jets probably makes great sense for them. They need the exposure. They have a team that took a big step last year but stil neeeds to grow their brand and move inventory. They need to grow casual fan interest, not just in New York but in a larger scope. They have good stories that the NFL wants to market. They have a new facility. They have a willing owner. And on annoucement day, they all spoke as one and spoke positively, showing that the brand is unified in support of the project. In New York, the need for branding falls to the Nets, the Mets, the Devils, the Red Bulls, the Islanders…the have's in comparison to other markets but the have nots in comparison to the Giants, the Rangers, the Knicks and the Yankees. Those brands also have to find ways to grow, but their loyal core is deeper than the others…it is just the way it has worked over time. So for people to vilify the Jets for taking this branding shot is silly. It may not in the end be great TV…maybe it will…but it already has generated offseason buzz and debate, making the move a good one so far. Score points for the Jets.