The Vikings, like so many NFL teams, have no interest in letting the outside world see their inside business. The team’s website gives fans an “inside look” at things every so often, but that’s on their terms and anything that isn’t deemed favorable is quickly edited.
That’s why watching the debut of the 13th season of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” on Tuesday got me to wondering when the HBO/NFL docu-series is going to pick the Vikings as the subject of the five-part training camp series that provides incredible inside access.
The Cleveland Browns, coming off an 0-16 season, are this year’s featured club. The Browns might have been awful in 2017 but that didn’t make Tuesday’s show any less compelling.
From Hue Jackson dealing with the death of his brother and mother while trying to coach his team, to new Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landy using extremely colorful language to inform his fellow receivers that their work ethic wasn’t acceptable, to rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield, the first-overall pick in the draft, having his contract explained to him, the cameras and microphones take you places you are never invited.
The Vikings never have been featured on “Hard Knocks” but there are a few good reasons that should change at some point soon. It’s always been expected Minnesota would be selected since Mike Zimmer became coach in 2014.
Zimmer has plenty of experience on the show, having appeared when he was Dallas’ defensive coordinator in 2002 and again when he held the same job with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2009 and 2013. Zimmer stole the show on a few occasions in large part because of his use of a certain profanity that many NFL coaches and players embrace.
“I wouldn’t be opposed to it if our organization … discussed it and we all decided to do it,” Zimmer told the St. Paul Pioneer Press in June 2014. “It was actually a very good experience for (his previous teams). … I think you have to be the right kind of team. You have to have guys who are more concerned about working instead of being celebrities.”
Assuming Zimmer is back next season, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t be, he will be entering his sixth season as Vikings’ coach and there is no question he has molded this roster to a point where this is his kind of team. Thus, the Vikings would seem to be a good fit for “Hard Knocks.”
Here’s the issue.
In 2013, NFL owners passed a resolution that teams could avoid mandatory inclusion on “Hard Knocks” if they fall under any of three exemptions. 1) The team has a first-year head coach in place; 2) The team has a playoff berth in the past two seasons; 3) The team has appeared on the show in the past 10 years.
Coming off a 13-3 season, the Vikings could use No. 2 as a reason to avoid “Hard Knocks” unless they were willing to do it.
The ability of the “Hard Knocks” crew to eavesdrop on a team would give viewers a look at Zimmer talking to his coaches and players and how the Vikings go about planning its next day. It would allow us to see the assistant coaches in a way we never see them — we’d find out how much defensive coordinator George Edwards really does and who isn’t afraid to speak up in Zimmer’s presence — and, most importantly, it would allow us to see players with their guard down and operating in a football environment.
I’m betting that Harrison Smith is a far different person around his teammates than he is when he’s got a microphone stuck in his face. Same goes for a guy like Eric Kendricks and they certainly aren’t the only ones.
Then there would be the meetings that Zimmer has with general manager Rick Spielman about roster moves. Those are likely some spirited discussions between two headstrong individuals.
“Hard Knocks” would allow us to see the Vikings like we’ve never seen them before. They might not be in favor of that, but it sure would be fun for the rest of us.