Sources: Falcons offered HBO show

Updated: April 12, 2012, 11:21 AM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

New York Jets owner Woody Johnson said last week he'd be interested in another appearance on "Hard Knocks," but the Atlanta Falcons have been offered the starring role in this season's version of the HBO reality series, according to sources.

An HBO spokesman declined to comment, saying it's company policy not to discuss potential candidates during the selection process. Typically, HBO, which produces the show in conjunction with NFL Films, doesn't announce the team until May.

After a 13-3 record and NFC South title in 2010, the Falcons went 10-6 in 2011 and lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants 24-2 in the first round of the playoffs.

Despite boasting former Pro Bowlers Matt Ryan at quarterback, Michael Turner at running back and Roddy White at receiver, the Falcons regressed on offense in 2011. The struggles followed a headline-grabbing draft-day trade in which Atlanta moved up to the No. 6 overall pick to select former Alabama receiver Julio Jones.

Offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey left the Falcons in the offseason to become coach in Jacksonville, and defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder left for the same position at Auburn.

Still, under Ryan and coach Mike Smith, the Falcons have made the playoffs three of the past four seasons. They never have been featured on "Hard Knocks," which documents a team's trip through training camp and the preseason every August. There was no series last summer because of the NFL lockout.

The Jets were featured on the show in 2010, drawing huge ratings and increasing their national profile. Johnson said the exposure was of "tremendous value" to the franchise.

With the recent attention-grabbing trade for Tim Tebow, and the locker-room turmoil that has dominated offseason headlines, the Jets seemed like a logical option. Johnson intimated last week there have been informal talks with HBO, but he declined to speculate on an outcome because "we can't react to anything unless it's a real invitation" and a person familiar with the Jets' situation confirmed that the organization has not received an official offer from HBO.

But Johnson said they'd give it strong consideration, saying he'd discuss it with general manager Mike Tannenbaum and coach Rex Ryan.

Ryan didn't seem excited about the prospect when asked about it at the recent league meetings, and Tannenbaum, in an interview last month on SiriusXM NFL Radio, made it clear he had no interest.

Tannenbaum then backtracked from his comments only hours after Johnson expressed interest last week.

"When I made that comment, I never had an expectation that we'd be asked to do it again," he said in a statement. "Obviously, if we're asked, we'll sit down and talk about it."

Initially, the Jets were criticized in 2010 for accepting the invitation, with many saying it would become a distraction, but they went 11-5 and reached the AFC championship game.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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