No matter where and when this season ends for the Eagles, whether it’s early February on the Super Bowl LIV victory platform at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, or in late December in the bowels of MetLife Stadium in North Jersey, you’re going to be able to sit on your couch next spring or summer and see how it all unfolded.
The Eagles are the latest NFL subject of Amazon’s All Or Nothing series, which is the younger brother of HBO’s Hard Knocks. Both series are produced by NFL Films.
Hard Knocks, which has been around since 2001, follows an NFL team through training camp each summer, from the first team meeting to the final cuts. The five-episode series runs concurrently with training camp.
All Or Nothing follows a team through an entire season and often beyond. The show also has featured English Premier League soccer teams Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, and the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team.
The Eagles aren’t crazy about the idea of being on the all-access show. But they didn’t have a choice in the matter. They got a call from the league shortly before the start of the season, informing them that they had drawn the short straw.
“There has to be somebody on the show,’’ Eagles president Don Smolenski said. “And if there are no volunteers, then the league makes a selection.
“There’s a certain criteria – I don’t remember all of the criteria – for those teams that cannot be chosen. And if you don’t fit that criteria, your name goes into a bucket with a group of other teams, and the league picks from the bucket.’’
The Eagles certainly have given their pint of blood to the league this season. For the second time in three years, they were given a schedule that included three straight road games. Now, they’re doing All Or Nothing.
The Eagles are the fifth NFL team to do All Or Nothing. The other four were the 2018 Carolina Panthers, the 2017 Dallas Cowboys, the 2016 Los Angeles Rams, and the 2015 Arizona Cardinals.
The Cardinals went 13-3 and made it to the NFC championship game the year they were featured. The other three teams didn’t fare nearly as well, however. All of them failed to make the playoffs.
The 2016 Rams won just four games and fired their coach, Jeff Fisher, with three games left in the season. The 2017 Cowboys finished 9-7 and sat home watching the Eagles win the Super Bowl. The 2018 Panthers went 7-9, a year after going 11-5.
The NFL feels strongly that all-access shows such as Hard Knocks and All Or Nothing are important in helping market its brand, and it’s right. That is why the NFL instituted a selection process for both shows in the event that it can’t get volunteers, which is almost always the case since the last thing coaches and general managers want is a camera crew following them 24/7.
Even media-friendly Oakland Raiders general manager Mike Mayock, who previously worked for the NFL Network, placed serious access restrictions on the NFL Films crew that chronicled the Raiders this summer for Hard Knocks.
“This type of programming is good for the league, good for the whole,’’ Smolenski said. “That’s why the owners voted on [a selection process] and approved it.
“These shows provide content to the fans. All fans, not just fans of a particular team. It gives some insight into what it’s like to go through a season. it’s appealing to a broader audience of fans.
“So, in terms of when the league selected us, it’s kind of like the schedule. It is what it is, and you deal with it and make the best of it. Just like we made the best of being on the road for three games in a row in October.’’
All Or Nothing isn’t quite as intrusive as Hard Knocks. There are more than 30 producers, camera and sound people on-site during the production of Hard Knocks each summer.
On a given day, the All Or Nothing crew at NovaCare typically has no more than five people. And given the regular army of reporters and cameras that are out there every day, they blend in pretty easily.
“For us, the media is around every day,’’ Smolenski said. “There’s media here at practice. There are press conferences almost every day. There’s cameras all around. So, in many ways, it’s nothing more in this marketplace than what our players are used to.’’
The Eagles coaches and players were told about being on All Or Nothing shortly after the league informed Smolenski and owner Jeffrey Lurie.
“We told them,’’ Smolenski said. “We were upfront with the players.’’
He said head coach Doug Pederson has dealt with it the same way he deals with everything else.
“The best thing about Coach is that he is a very positive person,’’ Smolenski said. “He always puts a positive outlook on what we do, no matter what the challenges are for him. This is no different.’’
When you’re losing back-to-back games by 45 points, like the Eagles did to Minnesota and Dallas, and when a player you recently got rid of goes on national TV and takes potshots at your team, and when your All-Pro defensive tackle’s love life is making bigger news than his on-field play, it can be difficult to find anything positive about being the subject of a popular TV series.
“The good news is all of that has already aired,’’ Smolenski said. “There’s no secret there. All 11 minutes [of the Orlando Scandrick interview with Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe on FS1] was all over the place.
“You can’t control what happens. It’s an NFL Films and Amazon production. What they do with it, we’ll see.’’
Teams typically have a fair measure of editorial control over all-access shows such as All Or Nothing and Hard Knocks. Plus, with just eight episodes to tell a story about an entire season, they can’t really spend a lot of air time on Scandrick’s comments on Malcolm Jenkins, or Cox’s shotgun-toting 911 call.
“Like I said, it’s an NFL Films and Amazon project,’’ Smolenski said. “They’re the creators. I don’t know how much involvement we have. We’ve worked with the crew to try to make their presence comparable to the other media presence here.
“We’re trying to be as accommodating as we can. But we’re always looking out for our football team first.’’