In this age of Peak TV, the Ravens over the past two seasons have been been a lot like "Kevin Can Wait": Both are CBS staples, both feature an extremely well-paid leading man of questionable talent, and both seem to be better off with a laugh track.
But mediocre NFL teams can make for compelling drama. And after the Ravens' season ended Sunday without a playoff appearance for the second straight year (and with coach John Harbaugh keeping his job), the team became eligible for a starring role on HBO's documentary series "Hard Knocks."
Any NFL team can volunteer to be featured on "Hard Knocks," but the league typically appoints one. The preconditions, established during an NFL owners meeting in 2013, protect the league's most successful and most turbulent teams: "All organizations will be eligible with the exception of those that have a first-year head coach; teams that have made the playoffs in at least one of the last two seasons; and teams that have participated in the previous 10 seasons."
The Ravens do not have a first-year head coach. They did not make the playoffs in either of the past two seasons. And they last appeared on "Hard Knocks" in 2001, the show's first season.
Also eligible for compulsory participation (assuming all keep their current coaches): the Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts, Philadelphia Eagles, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints. If TV market size matters, Baltimore has the fourth smallest among the contenders, ahead of Nashville, Indianapolis and New Orleans.
The retirement of the eminently quotable Steve Smith Sr. might have been a godsend for the Ravens' chances of avoiding the spotlight. Because as TV tastes have changed over the years (or, in the case of "Kevin Can Wait," not changed), teams' willingness to let every aspect of their traning camp be captured has not.
Here's former Ravens tight end Todd Heap in 2001: "I don't know if I'll ever be used to the cameras. I'm just going to do the same things I always do out there. It'll probably be a little bit of an adjustment. You have to watch what you say at all times. I think it will be exciting."
And here's Texans coach Bill O'Brien in September 2015, after "Hard Knocks" invaded Houston: "Just being mic’d up all the time and having cameras in your face all the time – that’s not something a football team is used to. Although, I think our guys handled it very well. It wasn’t a distraction; it was something that we handled very well, but it’s something that I don’t think you really need for a football team."
An announcement on "Hard Knock" 's next destination is expected this spring.