There have been a ton of question and comments regarding the Texans potentially being on Hard Knocks. A lot of fans worry that it could be a distraction from the offseason and preseason routine causing a negative impact on the team in question. So to try and shed some light on this, I thought I would look at past featured teams and their before and after success.
In 2013 when the NFL signed a contract with NFL Films for several more years of programming they also declared that one team would be required to go on the show each season. Any team can volenteer to star, but if there are no teams willing to do so the NFL can force a team to be on the show. The exemptions are:
Teams with new coaches.
Teams that have been in the playoffs at least once in the last two years.
Teams that have been on the show at least once in the past ten years.
Because of that second note, teams that are going to be featured are not necessarily going to be great teams in the first place (from 2013 on). That could potentially mean they won't be improving much anyway.
Also, NFL Films wants compelling stories. Teams that are in flux, have a lot on the line, have coaches with tenuous job security, or having position battles or personality issues at major position are often desired. Because of this, again, they won't usually be targeting "boring" teams that have everything together and no controversy at QB or other important spots. There are exceptions obviously, but all of this could point towards a trend to stay the same or even get worse after being on the show (I have not yet looked at the numbers...I am typing as I go here).
OK, with that in mind, here we go.
2001: Baltimore Ravens
2000 Season Record: 12-4 - Wildcard - Superbowl Champs
2001 Season Record: 10-6 - Wildcard - Lost in divisional round
2002: Dallas Cowboys
2001 Season Record: 5-11 - Missed playoffs
2002 Season Record: 5-11 - Missed playoffs
2007: Kansas City Chiefs
2006 Season Record: 9-7 - Wildcard - Lost Wildcard round
2007 Season Record: 4-12 - Missed Playoffs
2008: Dallas Cowboys
2007 Season Record: 13-3 - Division Champs - Lost Divisional Round
2008 Season Record: 9-7 - Missed playoffs
2009: Cincinnati Bengals
2008 Season Record: 4-11-1 - Missed Playoffs
2009 Season Record: 10-6 Division Champs - Lost Wildcard Round
2010: New York Jets
2009 Season Record: 9-7 - Wildcard - Lost AFC Championship
2010 Season Record: 11-5 - Wildcard - Lost AFC Championship
2011: NFL Labor Dispute...no show
2012: Miami Dolphins
2011 Season Record: 6-10 - Missed Playoffs
2012 Season Record: 7-9 - Missed Playoffs
2013: Cincinnati Bengals
2012 Season Record: 10-6 - Wild Card - Lost in Wildcard round (To the M-Fing Texans!)
2013 Season Record: 11-5 - Division Champs - Lost Wildcard round
2014: Atlanta Falcons
2013 Season Record: 4-12 - Missed Playoffs
2014 Season Record: 6-10 - Missed Playoffs
OK...so by my count, here are the numbers:
9 Seasons of Hard Knocks
5 teams were in the playoffs the season prior to the show. Of these, 3 made the playoffs again the next year.
4 teams were not in the playoffs the season prior to the show. Of these, 3 missed the playoffs again the next year.
So as far as playoffs go, 66% did the same thing the year after the show as they did the year before. 22% dropped out of the playoffs and 11% improved and made the cut.
Per NFL.com, at least 4 new teams have made the playoffs every year since 1990, which means 4 teams drop out of the playoffs every year. That means 66% of the teams each year that make the playoffs are likely to return to the playoffs the following year, which happens to be the exact amount of Hard Knocks teams that have done the same. 20% of teams that do not make the playoffs each year will make it compared to 11% for Hard Knocks. Coincidentally, if the Texans are on Hard Knocks this year and make the playoffs, that will bring the Hard Knocks percentage exactly on par with the NFL percentage of teams rising into the playoffs.
Overall, based on just that bit of info, it looks like Hard Knocks is a complete wash in regards to how it affects a team's success.
Also, 6 out of the 9 seasons, the featured team has improved their record the following season or finished with the same record, a rate of 66%. In the NFL in the 2014 season, only 16 out of 32 teams for a 50% rate improved or maintained their record.
So in conclusion, appearing on Hard Knocks simply does not seem to add up to a disadvantage to the team. The evidence simply doesn't support it. The NFL has high class professional coaches (excepting the Ryans maybe), Owners (excepting Jones maybe), and players (well hell...most of the time anyway). These guys who spend the entirety of their adult lives in front of a camera performing for the masses aren't suddenly going to let some cameras get in the way of their performance and livelihoods.