The New York Jets' offseason trade acquisition of four-time NFL MVP and Super Bowl XLV MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers meant the franchise was going to receive its largest spotlight in team history. As expected, the lights are bright along Broadway for Gang Green as the NFL placed them in a maximum six prime-time games, the most in a single season in Jets history.
As of Monday, their spotlight hit maximum wattage with Rodgers' Jets announcing that they will be. That means they will be followed around by HBO and NFL Films' camera crews throughout the ramp-up to the 2023 NFL season.
Here's what we know so far about the league's preseason reality television show just six days away from the start of the New York Jets. The show itself typically airs from the beginning of August through the end of the preseason. Below, we'll run through how the Jets became the "Hard Knocks" team, how they and people around the league feel about their selection, players and coaches to watch, and how "Hard Knocks" teams of years' past have fared once the real football season kicked off.
How Jets were selected to be 2023 'Hard Knocks' team
Essentially every NFL team subscribes to the belief that they "need to limit distractions." That means most franchises aren't doing cartwheels or jumping up and down with their hands in the air like it was time to be chosen for recess basketball teams in elementary school.
With that in mind, the NFL put together three exemptions that allowed teams to avoid selection starting back in 2014: a team with a first-year head coach, a team that has made the postseason in one of the last two prior seasons or a team that has been featured on "Hard Knocks" within the last decade. This offseason, there were four teams that couldn't use any of those three criteria to opt out of being chosen -- the New York Jets (obviously), the Chicago Bears, the New Orleans Saints and the Washington Commanders.
Between the addition of Rodgers, the young talent already present on the team (2022 Offensive Rookie of the Year wide receiver Garrett Wilson, 2022 Defensive Rookie of the Year cornerback Sauce Gardner and running back Breece Hall among others), and the make-or-break nature of the upcoming season for head coach Robert Saleh (11-23 records in two seasons, no playoff appearances), New York was the perfect choice.
One of Rodgers' former Packers bosses, Green Bay team president Mark Murphy, who once called the quarterback a "complicated fella," expressed his enthusiasm for watching this year's "Hard Knocks" at the beginning of July. His reason was simple: Eight former Packers are now a part of the New York Jets -- Rodgers, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, wide receiver Allen Lazard, wide receiver Randall Cobb, wide receiver Malik Taylor, offensive tackle Billy Turner, quarterback Tim Boyle and safety Adrian Amos.
"I'm anxious to see the Jets and the many ex-Packers on 'Hard Knocks' this summer -- should be very entertaining,".
How Jets feel about being chosen
Gang Green, in short, isn't thrilled about the preseason spotlight. Rodgers, who never saw his previous NFL home of 18 seasons -- the Green Bay Packers -- appear on "Hard Knocks,"to cameras following him around this preseason, a surprising revelation considering his drawn-out, public divorce with the Packers over the last three years.
"They forced it down our throats and we have to deal with it," Rodgers told KPIX. "I understand the appeal with us. Obviously, there are a lot of eyes on me, a lot of eyes on our team, a lot of expectations for our squad."
Jets head coach Robert Saleh even lobbied to have other organizations featured on the show instead of his squad back in June.
"I know there are several teams that would love 'Hard Knocks' to be in their building," Saleh said on June 9, via SI.com. "We're just not one of them."
Now that the Jets are that team, Rodgers has found one silver lining with the unwanted exposure.
"One of the only things I like about 'Hard Knocks' is the voice of God, the man who narrates it, Liev," Rodgers said. "I hope I get to meet him."
Jets players and coaches to watch on 'Hard Knocks'
The Jets aren't strangers to the "Hard Knocks" experience. Back in 2010, the last season New York reached the playoffs -- a run that ended in the AFC Championship game -- they provided one of the best characters in the show's history: then-head coach Rex Ryan.
The 2023 edition will also possess plenty of colorful characters and intriguing storylines, here's a look at some of the top contenders to make a huge impression when the show hits the air waves.
Rodgers is far and away THE storyline of the 2023 edition of "Hard Knocks" since he's clearly the best quarterback the Jets have had since the 1970 AFL/NFL merger.
Aaron Rodgers vs. every Jets QB (since 1970 NFL/AFL merger)
Seasons with 4,000+ pass yards
Seasons with 30+ pass TD
Super Bowl wins
How he meshes with his younger teammates who aren't among the five other former Packers players the Jets imported this offseason will be the most critical development of the Jets offseason. He famously didn't get on the same page with Packers rookie wide receiver Christian Watson until Week 10 last season when the duo connected for three touchdowns in an overtime win against the Dallas Cowboys.
However, Rodgers has gone out of his way to publicly highlight how much fun he has been having as a willing participant in New York's offseason program this year. Watching him build a new connection with Garrett Wilson and the other young Jets playmakers will reveal a lot about how much Rodgers' newfound fun is translating on the field.
Off the field, Rodgers seems to be embracing his teammates and all being in the media capital of the world has to offer. He even introduced Gardner to actress Jessica Alba while.
Seeing Rodgers' new teammates figure out how to stop being "starstruck" when seeing their star QB during practice, something linebacker Quincy Williams admitted, per ESPN, will also make for fun television.
How much the show dives into Rodgers' hippie side from theto his ayahuasca journeys could be a unique side plot to his storyline as well.
The 2022 Defensive Player of the Year is coming off one of the best rookie seasons ever: Gardner led the entire league in passes defended (20) and Pro Football Focus grade by a cornerback (87.9) while ranking second in the NFL in defensive passer rating allowed with a minimum of 75 passes against as the primary defender in coverage (44.9). Those efforts led to him earning Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro honors, making Gardner the first rookie cornerback to be named a First-Team All-Pro since Pro Football Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott in 1981.
The trash-talking cornerback also doesn't shy away from the spotlight, donning a cheesehead in celebration of beating Aaron Rodgers' Packers at Lambeau Field last season. He has since in order to make peace with his new quarterback. Gardner also appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated back in May, so he's certainly game to ham it up for HBO and NFL Films' production crews.
Jets quarterback Zach Wilson, the second overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, was supposed to be the long-term, face of the franchise. Instead, his development has through two NFL seasons as Wilson became the first quarterback since Ed Brown in 1957-58 with the worst passer rating in the NFL in back-to-back seasons. That performance is the reason why New York needed to dive in, head first, to the Aaron Rodgers experience in the first place.
Wilson also vowed to make whichever veteran quarterback the Jets brought in this offseason uncomfortable when it came to their competition to be the team's starting quarterback.
"I'm going to make that dude's life hell in practice every day,".
Wilson's statement was made prior to the trade acquisition of Rodgers. The four-time league MVP took the remark in stride at his introductory press conference with his new team.
"He's going to make my life hell in practice … and I'm going to make his life heaven off the field," Rodgers said, via ESPN.
Jets defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, the 25-year-old who earned Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro accolades for ranking second in sacks (12.0) and tied for second in QB hits (28) at the position trailing only Chiefs All-Pro Chris Jones, agreed to a Thursday. That deal makes him the highest-paid defensive tackle in total contract value and the second highest in average per year ($24 million) behind only Los Angeles Rams future Hall of Famer Aaron Donald ($31.7 million APY).
One of the NFL's best defensive disruptors also oozes personality: He sneezed, blessed himself, and then thanked himself for doing so on the day of the 2019 Draft when he was selected third overall by Gang Green. The team reposted the video shortly after news of his extension broke:
Williams, a player whose on-field performance and character is larger than life, could make for a great show.
Jets head coach Robert Saleh is a defensive mastermind. He coordinated top-ranked defenses for the San Francisco 49ers under head coach Kyle Shanahan before moving to the big char in New York back in 2021. Saleh has also transformed the Jets defense over the course of his two years at the helm. Gang Green had the worst scoring defense in the league in 2021, his first season, allowing 29.7 points per game.
Things turned around in historic fashion last season as the Jets flew to the top of the league, surrendering only 18.6 points per game in 2022, the fourth fewest in the NFL. That marks the second-best defensive turnaround of the 21st century, trailing only the "Greatest Show on Turf" Rams defenses in the early 2000s that eventually caught up to their historic offenses.
Largest turnaround in scoring defense (since 2000)
* Allowed 29.7 PPG in 2021, 18.6 PPG in 2022
The 2023 is also a pressure-packed season for the third-year head coach as his 11-23 record and zero playoff runs has owner Woody Johnson.
"What's the definition of frustration?" Johnson said in January, via The Athletic. "Frustration means you see the ingredients of success and they don't happen. If you're lousy, you can't be frustrated. But we have a great team, a great nucleus of young players getting better every day."
On top of the expectations -- playoffs or bust -- Saleh is literally a massive individual, as evidenced to his gun show the Jets posted ahead of the 2023 Masters Tournament. A behind-the-scenes look at
Popeye's Saleh's workout regimen could be nearly as fascinating as his defensive coaching.
New Jets offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett earned the first NFL head-coaching job of his career in 2022 with the Denver Broncos after being Rodgers' OC in Green Bay from 2019-2021, a run that concluded with Rodgers winning consecutive NFL MVPs. Hackett's tumultuous season in Denver started with him expressing his excitement about coaching Russell Wilson through his unceremonious end: He was fired following a 51-14 Christmas Day faceplant in Week 16 at the Los Angeles Rams. That loss ran their record to 4-11 as Wilson experienced the worst season of his 11-year career.
Rodgers has long expressed his admiration for Hackett, both as a coach and as a friend, so seeing how the disgraced former head coach rebuilds his coaching reputation alongside the legendary passer will be a storyline to keep an eye on.
'Hard Knocks' teams season-by-season results
While no team has won the Super Bowl in the same season as appearing on "Hard Knocks," seven of the 18 teams to be featured on the show made the postseason. The 2010 Jets, the last time the franchise made the playoffs, are the owners of the best year of any "Hard Knocks" team since they reached the AFC Championship game that season. The show went off-air from 2003-2006, and there wasn't an iteration of "Hard Knocks" during the 2011 NFL lockout. During the pandemic in 2020, both Los Angeles teams -- the Chargers and the Rams -- were featured on the show.
|Season||'Hard Knocks' Team||Regular-Season Record||Postseason Result|
Lost at Steelers in AFC Divisional Round
Lost vs. Jets in AFC Wild-Card Round
Lost at Steelers in AFC Championship
Lost vs. Chargers in AFC Wild-Card Round
Lost vs. Chiefs in AFC Wild-Card Round
Lost at Packers in NFC Divisional Round
Lost vs. 49ers in NFC Wild-Card Round
The 2023 Jets edition of "Hard Knocks" will kick off on Tuesday, Aug. 8, at 10 p.m. ET on HBO and will also be ready to stream on MAX simultaneously. Additional episodes of the series will air on the following Tuesday's in the lead-up to the show's finale on Sept. 5. Soon enough, it will be time for Gang Green's close-up.