The Atlanta Falcons offer to be the feature team on HBO's Hard Knocks was a definite source of discussion here for a few days. I think there were some positives that could not be ignored, such as free publicity and giving the fans a chance to get to know and connect with the players on a more personal level. For a team that really is seen outside of Atlanta as "boring" this would have been a chance to shed that label.
No Hard Knocks For You!
The Falcons brass took this offer very seriously but ultimately decided to stick with their off-season theme of staying the course. The Falcons off-season has been highlighted by the change of coordinators but besides those two moves it's been an off-season of keeping the status quo. The Falcons have re-signed a bevy of players (John Abraham, Kroy Biermann, Thomas DeCoud, Jason Snelling, Chris Redman, Todd McClure, etc) and they've franchised Brent Grimes. They've basically kept everything intact with the exception of letting Curtis Lofton walk (and replacing him with Lofa Tatupu) and to a lesser extent Eric Weems.
Was this the right decision for the Falcons franchise? Some radio personalities like John Kincade of Atlanta's 680 the fan took to their pulpit to question the Falcons for turning down the show saying that they needed the fans due to attendance issues as compared to teams like the NY Giants and Kincade's Eagles. Would the show have helped the Falcons popularity? Yes, no question. But when you look at attendance, the Falcons filled their dome at a 96.8% rate this past season. According to that link from the four-letter network, they filled their stadium at a rate higher than the Green Bay Packers and yes, the NY Giants and Jets. Those teams all had higher overall attendance due to their stadium capacities but that just re-opens the debate on the Falcons building a new stadium.
This all come back to the main question, was this the right decision for the Falcons? For the writers, talk show hosts and bloggers it would have made the off-season much more interesting. We exchanged tweets awhile back with Falcons beat writer D Orlando Ledbetter in which he stated that he would be interested in seeing more of the inner workings of the organization. For the fans, it would have been fun and entertaining to see the players and get to know the 52nd player a little bit better. For the team, I think it ultimately came down to not trying to reinvent the franchise just for the sake of reinventing it and it came down to the fact that we are installing a new offensive and defensive system. The Falcons simply didn't need the off-field distractions that come with a production like HBO's Hard Knocks. Whether we like it or not, I think the Falcons made the right decision.