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Raiders DC Paul Guenther doesn’t see Hard Knocks as distraction: We look at how NFL teams fared the season they were featured

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Oakland Raiders

An NFL locker room is often something that is imagined as this fragile thing that must not be disturbed in any way for fear the whole team dynamic will crumble. So, the thought of allowing a camera crew for a TV show into the building to monitor a team’s every move is downright terrifying for some. Paul Guenther is not one of those people.

“I really don’t think [so],” Guenther said about the possibility of the Hard Knocks crew being a distraction. “They do a really good job of staying out of your way. You can see, kind of, what’s going to be on the show. I think the positive thing is you find out a lot about your team and the coaches on the staff that, ‘Hey, when the camera is on you are you going to be a different guy or a different player or if you’re not.’ Because really after the third day, you don’t notice, you’re so used to having them around that you just go about your business. I don’t really pay attention to where the cameras are in the building. You just go about and coach the guys how you know how to coach them and that’s all you know how to do.”

Guenther has twice before been on a coaching staff that had to deal with the Hard Knocks crew in house with their prying cameras, boom mics, and editing tools which, if they choose to, can make spin just about any narrative they like. In a world where the term “distraction” gets tossed around as an all too familiar copout, this time it could be real. Or it might not be.

Regardless of Guenther’s thoughts on the matter, it’s hard to say, really, how much of a difference it will make having the team featured on the show. Every team is different and there are varying factors as to why a team might regress or improve from season to season.

What we do have is precedence. Hard Knocks has been around for a while. This is their 14th season, so there is a large sample size from which to get an idea of how team typically perform the season they are featured on the show. It helps to compare it to how they performed the season before. So that’s what we did.

Ravens (2001) - 10-6

Season before: 12-4* (Super Bowl champs)

Differential: -2

Cowboys (2002) - 5-11

Season before: 5-11

Differential: 0

Chiefs (2007) - 4-12

Season before: 9-7*

Differential: -5

Cowboys (2008) - 9-7

Season before: 13-3*

Differential: -4

Bengals (2009) - 10-6*

Season before: 4-11-1

Differential: +6

Jets (2010) - 11-5*

Season before: 9-7*

Differential: +2

Dolphins (2012) - 7-9

Season before: 6-10

Differential: +1

Bengals (2013) - 11-5*

Season before: 10-6*

Differential: +1

Falcons (2014) - 6-10

Season before: 4-12

Differential: +2

Texans (2015) - 9-7*

Season before: 9-7

Differential: 0

Rams (2016) - 4-12

Season before: 7-9

Differential: -3

Buccaneers (2017) - 5-11

Season before: 9-7

Differential: -4

Browns (2018) - 7-8-1

Season before: 0-16

Differential: +7

Average wins year of: 7.5

Net differential: +1

First of all, you can see why Guenther isn’t worried. The two times the Bengals appeared on the show, they improved by a net 7 games and made the playoffs both times. But their results aren’t typical. Only one other team (Jets) both improved their record from the year before and made the playoffs the season they were on the show.

In total, four teams made the playoffs the season they were on Hard Knocks. Six teams improved their records, Five teams regressed and two teams’ records stayed the same.

Obviously, the Browns going winless in 2017 kind of messes up the overall differential numbers. We also have the Super Bowl champion Ravens needing to repeat to improve, which is a tall order. Eliminate those two outliers and you have a net differential of -4.

The Raiders went 4-12 last season, so there isn’t much farther to fall should Hard Knocks have any kind of adverse affect. Of the six teams who had losing records the season before, only one regressed (2016 Rams). One (2002 Cowboys) had the same record, and the other four improved.

So, what does this prove? It proves that there is no clear evidence that Hard Knocks is a detriment to the teams it covers. The average wins are close to .500 and the differential is negligible.

I guess maybe just chill and enjoy the show.