The NY Jets agreed to be on this year's season of "Hard Knocks" with one condition. The team didn't want NFL Films and HBO to show any of their players getting cut. They got their way.
In reality, the Jets were one of four teams the NFL was allowed to force to appear on "Hard Knocks" this summer, but in the spirit of establishing a productive working relationship, NFL Films agreed to the Jets' request.
The result was a much more compelling and morally acceptable showcase of those fighting for a roster spot. Instead of showing those who didn't make the team receive the unfortunate news, the Jets took a different spin on roster cut day.
The season finale of "Hard Knocks" on Tuesday showed scenes of undrafted wide receivers Jason Brownlee and Xavier Gipson receiving the news that they had made the 53-man roster.
It was a wholesome, emotional moment for both rookies, and it provided further evidence that the Jets did the right thing. We can only hope that the Jets set a new precedent for the hit HBO show.
The NY Jets did the right thing on 'Hard Knocks'
Jets general manager Joe Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh were the two who delivered the news to Brownlee and Gipson, and it made for one of this season's highlights.
Douglas recently joined former NFL defensive end Chris Long on his Green Light podcast to discuss his team's thought process behind not showing roster cuts. For Douglas, it came from a place of personal experience.
"When we found out we were doing Hard Knocks, Robert (Saleh) immediately texted me: ‘I don't want to show any players getting cut.’ And I'm like, brother, we see it the exact same way. There's no way we’re going to do that. These kids put their heart and soul into this thing every day, and we’re not going to exploit one of the worst moments in their lives. We're not doing that. Those are brutal conversations ... They have lived and died for this moment for their whole life, and we’re going to protect that."- Joe Douglas
Douglas was infamously declared "The Turk" during the first-ever season of "Hard Knocks" in 2001. Working as a scout with the Baltimore Ravens, it was Douglas who was in charge of rounding up players who were about to be released.
That's right, this wasn't Douglas' first appearance on "Hard Knocks." He's seen the ugly side of this business, and he's seen firsthand how heartbreaking having a camera crew film players during the lowest point of their careers can be.
Both Douglas and Saleh agreed that they were going to do things differently. They didn't want to show players' dreams being crushed — they wanted to show dreams coming true.
The Jets and "Hard Knocks" showed that this can still make for compelling television. The Brownlee and Gipson segments were quite possibly the highlight of Tuesday's season finale.
The show also proved that you can still highlight players who get released without actually showing the moment it happens. They did exactly that with backup defensive lineman Tanzel Smart.
We don't need to see the moment they get cut. Players don't need cameras in their faces during those moments. As Douglas told Long, the Jets didn't want to exploit them like that.
It was a step in the right direction for a show that has long prayed on taking advantage of athletes at their lowest.
The Jets set a new morale precedent on this year's season of "Hard Knocks." Here's to hoping future teams follow suit.