Football is back but these documentaries and shows made sure it never left

With a huge upset win in his debut, Deion Sanders’s start as head coach for the University of Colorado Buffaloes is playing out like a movie. Fortunately, interested fans will actually get to see one about it. Coach Prime, a docuseries on Amazon Prime, showcased the former NFL player and Hall of Fame inductee’s last season as head coach at Jackson State University.

Now, its upcoming season will showcase his talents as the top dog at Colorado.

But Coach Prime is far from the only football content giving viewers an inside look into players’ lives. Streaming services like Max, Netflix and YouTube all offer series and documentaries like Hard Knocks and Quarterback that reveal what happens on and off the field.

“I think these things often work well, there’s like a level of access, and behind-the-scenes quality where people are really willing to kind of open things up,” Daniel Kirschner, CEO of Greenfly, a company that helps sports teams capture, organize and distribute short-form content, tells Yahoo Entertainment.

Kirschner says it’s “really compelling” when big names like Sanders express themselves and let fans into their thought processes.

“I definitely think it attracts new fans,” Kirschner explains of the shows, and “it builds deeper relationships” with existing ones.”

As the NFL readies kickoff and college football season has kicked into gear, these series take viewers into how they think about the game, more insight on injuries and what their lives look like off the field.

Hard Knocks

Hard Knocks is an oldie but goodie. The series, which debuted in 2001 and is sanctioned by the NFL, forces teams (that often don’t want to be featured) to let cameras follow training camp and preseason action leading up to the regular season. This year, it chose a highly publicized franchise in the New York Jets, who signed former MVP and Super Bowl-winning quarterback Aaron Rodgers in April.

The five-part series is a reality sports documentary produced by NFL Films and airs on HBO and the streaming service Max. The Jets made it very clear they did not want to be featured this season, but players consistently acknowledged the cameras and seemed to enjoy the filming process, referencing it often. Rodgers even got to meet the narrator of the show, Liev Schreiber, after saying how much the quarterback enjoyed the actor’s voice.

The first episode of the Jets’s Hard Knocks became the most-watched episode of the NFL Films/HBO series 20-season history, according to Fox Sports’ Peter Schrager. The last two years, the show has even produced an “in seasons” version following a new team.

Hard Knocks is now streaming on Max.


Volume 3 of the documentary anthology series Untold made a big splash highlighting several popular football stories from the not-so-distant past.

“Each installment of Untold is a first-person account from the athletes and subjects who lived it. They share intimate details about what it was like to face mounting pressure and public shame in the midst of competition,” Netflix says of the series.

It premiered in August with three films, two of which honed in on the world of college football. The first highlighted Johnny Manziel in Johnny Football. As one of college’s top athletes, the program shows Manziel’s rise to fame at quarterback of Texas A&M, becoming the first college freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. It also follows his infamous run at the university as well as his life struggles following fame and fortune as he tried to make it in the NFL.

The other film shined a spotlight on the Urban Meyer coaching era with the University of Florida Gators in Swamp Kings. Featuring sit-down interviews along with archival footage, the four-part series profiled Meyer and the players he coached (Tim Tebow, Brandon Spikes and Major Wright, to name a few). The documentary gives viewers behind the scenes looks at how the Florida Gators went from underdogs to winners of two BCS National Championships.

Unotold is now streaming on Netflix.


Netflix doubled down on its football coverage with Quarterback, highlighting the most important position in the sport. The eight-part docuseries, which premiered in July and was produced by NFL Films and Omaha Productions, a company started by retired NFL quarterback Peyton Manning, takes viewers “inside the huddle and into the homes” of NFL stars Patrick Mahomes, Kirk Cousins and Marcus Mariota showcasing their 2022-23 seasons.

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JULY 11: Marcus Mariota, Patrick Mahomes and Kirk Cousinsarrives at the Los Angeles Premiere Of Netflix's

Marcus Mariota, Patrick Mahomes and Kirk Cousins star in Netflix’s Quarterback. (Steve Granitz/FilmMagic)

“We’ve seen quarterbacks mic’d up for a game. We’ve certainly seen training camp. But we’ve never followed a quarterback throughout the entire season to see what he does Sunday night after a big win, after a brutal loss on a last-second field goal — what they do on Mondays and Tuesdays on their off days,” Quarterback executive producer Manning told Netflix. “Are they hanging out? Are they playing golf? Are they in the weight room and watching film and grinding for that next game? Which is the answer, by the way, not to give it away.”

Quarterback is now streaming on Netflix.

NFL teams tell their own stories on YouTube

All 32 NFL teams have YouTube channels where they post footage from practice and portray players in their element. Some teams have even created their own Hard Knocks-esque type of shows on YouTube.

The Carolina Panthers have a show called Camp Confidential, giving fans a well-produced view from their vantage point, showing off new rookie and first round pick Bryce Young.

Down in Florida, the Tampa Buccaneers grant access to the players with its show, In The Current, while the Jacksonville Jaguars show you QB Trevor Lawrence and his teammates with The Hunt.

In Baltimore, the Ravens, who have a good chance to make it far this season, are showing off their Odell Beckham Jr., Lamar Jackson and their crew with Wired: Inside Ravens Preseason.

Over in Philly, the Eagles are giving fans two long form type shows with Unscripted and Mic’d Up.

Go behind-the-scenes with your favorite NFL team on YouTube.

ESPN Films and 30 for 30

ESPN Films produces award-winning sports documentaries, series and films, including the beloved series 30 for 30, which showcases some of sports’ best storytelling.

30 for 30, which first premiered in 2009 is ESPN’s award-winning and flagship documentary series. Some of the notable football stories have focused on controversial former NFL quarterback Michael Vick in Vick; the Baltimore Ravens’s incredible early 2000s defense led by Ray Lewis in Bullies of Baltimore; and a look into the rise and fall of former USC coach Pete Carroll’s college football run in Trojan War.

ESPN Films also produced a series on Tom Brady, who is arguably the NFL’s greatest quarterback ever, in 2021’s Man in the Arena.

ESPN Films content can be viewed on ESPN or streamed on ESPN+.

Leave a Comment