This is exactly the right time for the Bears to be on HBO’s ‘Hard Knocks,’ whether they like it or not

It’s about time the Bears got shoved out of their comfort zone and into the modern age.

They’ve fought and backchanneled as hard as they could to keep themselves away from HBO’s cameras and off of the behind-the-scenes series “Hard Knocks,” but getting picked Thursday was exactly what they needed. If the organization wants to be new and different, it needs to do something new and different for once.

And besides, what secret recipe has a team that’s gone 63-100 over the past decade been trying to protect?

No matter how much chairman George McCaskey objected, it’s a done deal and the team has no choice but to get on board. Coach Matt Eberflus, who was the Colts’ defensive coordinator in 2021 when they were the first team featured on the in-season edition of “Hard Knocks,” did just that publicly Friday and talked as though this was a dream come true for the Bears.

“NFL Films and HBO do an outstanding job of getting [a team’s] message out, and we’re going to be proud of that message because I’m proud of these guys and this organization,” Eberflus said after practice, noting he’d covered the subject in a team meeting as well. “We have a bunch of really good people here in the building… so we’re excited about getting that going.”

This type of programming is increasing, whether on the team level or with individual athletes as in Netflix’s “Quarterback” series, so the Bears might as well get used to it. Netflix inquired about including Justin Fields last season, and Fields implied that such a request wouldn’t go over well at Halas Hall.

But attention is a good thing. It’s been a while since there’s been this much national interest in the Bears, and that’s reflective of high expectations for a team finally trending the right direction and hoping it has attached itself to a rocket by drafting quarterback Caleb Williams No. 1.

The organization seemed to embrace, or at least understand, that everything would change in that regard upon Williams’ arrival when president Kevin Warren made a splashy hire two weeks before the draft by recruiting special advisor and chief administrative officer Ted Crews from the Chiefs.

Crews ran public relations for a championship team that had transcendent stars in Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce and had to manage the fame that came with Kelce dating Taylor Swift.

Eberflus shouted out Crews, a longtime friend of general manager Ryan Poles, by name Friday as the man who will guide the organization through “Hard Knocks.”

Williams will be the main character on the show just as he is in the organization at large. It might be easier to find his footing in the NFL without worrying each week about which scenes and soundbites will make it into the final cut, but given his uncommon stature as a college quarterback at USC and his seemingly unflappable demeanor, he seems like someone who will be at ease with this.

“He’s suited for that because he’s comfortable in his own skin and he knows who he is,” Eberflus said. “He’s been out there for several years in terms of in the media, in the focus, the Heisman winner — all those things that he’s done. He’ll be good.”

Furthermore, as Eberflus immediately and maybe inadvertently pointed out, the show’s bark is worse than its bite.

While “Hard Knocks” presents itself as an unfiltered look at the inner workings of the team, it’s much closer to an extension of the marketing department. Teams get final edit on every episode, and the show leans heavily on human interest stories. There’s no evidence that “Hard Knocks” has been a legitimate hindrance to any team.

“You have hard conversations sometimes in the building, and those have to be done in private,” Eberflus said. “We have a great plan in place for that.”

Players don’t get a say in the production, though, and new Bears running back D’Andre Swift took issue with how HBO depicted him when he was on the Lions in 2022. The show made it look like he clashed with position coach Duce Staley and lacked toughness.

“They just tried to portray a different narrative than what it was… but it was a cool experience,” Swift said Friday.

It’s cool because it means they matter — and not just locally, where they always matter anyway.

The Bears have had plenty of forgettable seasons over the four decades since they won the Super Bowl, and they’ve rarely been interesting enough to justify being part of this kind of content. The fact that they’ve climbed back to national relevance is a positive.

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