There is a scarcity of good football movies in our lives. While many are enjoyable, we are deprived of any that hold a candle to the best that exist in other sports. There are many documentaries, or documentary series that are good. But where is the fiction?
What could we do to change that? Here are some possible ideas for some NFL-based movies. And, if any get made, a producer credit needs to be provided.
1. The Ryan Leaf Story
The NFL Quarterback that never was. He was in the league for four years after being taken second overall in the 1998 Draft. Touted as a franchise QB after being a Heisman Trophy finalist, Leaf was drafted by the San Diego Chargers.
Yet his career never panned out due to a combination of injuries, performance issues, and off-field incidents. Since then his career has followed a few areas, including business and management, coaching and commentary. However, the drama continued over the past decade with a spate of legal troubles. More recently, he was worked with charities to support sobriety and recovery from addiction.
What’s not to like? There’s ups and downs, a tragic hero, and redemption. You also have a great parallel between his NFL career and that of Peyton Manning. It could be a fantastic story that gives a warning to all that sometimes the best-laid plans don’t work out.
Perhaps it would suit a documentary better, and that is where many NFL/football movies have fallen short. The problem with fictionalised real-life stories is there is a level of embellishment that rings hollow. Or, they lose their believability. Leaf’s story, if treated properly, should be able to toe the line.
2. The Class of 2010
The 2010 NFL Draft Class has some amazing storylines…and some frightening ones. It would be amazing to blend together some of their storylines and track their progress over the space of a decade. We would see the full range of successes and failures. It would make for a very balanced movie if the right individuals are chosen. So who might they be?
You have the first overall draft pick, QB Sam Bradford, often injured, full of promise yet never delivering. Or Tim Tebow, the second QB taken, who brought a media circus with him and was highly polarising. Yet he had his share of highlights, as well as the ‘Tebowing’ phenomena. The first round is littered with talented players with interesting stories.
The Good Guys
There are also some great feel-good stories from across the whole draft. Like Eric Berry, who overcame Hodgkins’ lymphoma a few years ago. Or the stellar careers of (possible) future Hall of Famers Gerald McCoy, Earl Thomas, Maurkice Pouncey, Demaryius Thomas, Rob Gronkowski, NaVorro Bowman, Jimmy Graham, Everson Griffen, and Kam Chancellor. Or 6th round selection Antonio Brown, who has been one of the top Wide Receivers for the last several years, with some diva behaviour to top it off.
Then there are the bad guys. And they range from the villains on the field, to the downright tragic. Dez Bryant, who had a difficult start to his career, going back before the draft, and eventually managed to get everything on track. Or Greg Hardy, who has a history of domestic violence cases and other offences.
Or, there is the complete extreme of Aaron Hernandez. Any film involving him needs to avoid glorifying him, but may choose to humanise him. He had a hugely difficult childhood as a victim of physical and sexual abuse, and ongoing problems throughout high school and college. Players like Pouncey (and his twin brother) and Tebow tried to help him while at college, and in the NFL he was part of one of the best dynamic duos alongside Gronkowski. In many ways, most of the major storylines from the 2010 Draft Class run through Hernandez.
However, where Hernandez is unlike any other player from this draft class, is where his career and life ended up. After being charged with murder, Hernandez went to prison. While in prison, he committed suicide.
A film covering all of this would be intricate and complex. It has a lot of potential, but needs to hit the right notes and blend some of these storylines together. A documentary, again, would be perfectly suited, but with the bevy of characters provided, it would suit a ‘fictional’-biopic-esque approach too.
3. Ownership and/or Expansion
Some other intriguing NFL storylines that have never been shown on film include the ownership battles that have taken place throughout the last 100 years. Or, you could showcase the NFL from the viewpoint of a new expansion team – which does away with the need to follow historical events, and creates a much larger spectrum of artistic license. A new expansion team could also merge the stories of different people – ownership, GM and Head Coach, players, and the fans. The only concern is it needs to steer away from the ‘Draft Day’ approach.
Green Bay Packers
However, if we take a look at ownership storylines, there are a few that stand out. The Green Bay Packers, for instance, who have over 300 000 shareholders. You could showcase what the team means to its fans and the region, complete with all its history. While it may be akin in some ways to ‘The Silver Linings Playbook’, a better storyline that focuses more on the franchise opens itself up to a wide number of possible plotlines. The Lombardi, Starr, Favre or Rodgers eras, the climate, or any other number of directions they wish to go.
Alternatively, the Oakland Raiders also have a storied history that is synonymous with the NFL at different times. The Al Davis acquisition of the team, and underhanded way of doing it, could make an interesting drama, although needs more to it to remain engaging. Add in John Madden, the Immaculate Reception, and its moves to Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and the Raiders’ story becomes highly fascinating.
Another option is the Cleveland Browns. After losing their franchise when it moved to Baltimore, the city of Cleveland regained it in 1999. They have had little success in the past few decades, but would showcase just what sports means to a city. And with the team on an upward trajectory, what an uplifting finish a movie about them could have. Plus, it would erase the damage done by ‘Draft Day.’