Kevin Costner, finally appeared in a football movie in Ivan Reitman’s ‘Draft Day’, a 2014 film with Costner playing Sonny Weaver, the general manager of the Cleveland Browns. The movie takes place as a glimpse into a single day in the life of a pro football GM during the NFL Draft.

Draft Day football movies movie Kevin Costner Browns NFL
“Draft Day” stars Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner in a football movie about the NFL Draft. (Image: Lionsgate)

The NFL approved of the film, teams signed off, and cooperated with filming. Reitman got access to the actual NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Many ex-players, coaches, sports media, and even the NFL commissioner appeared in the film as themselves. Cameos included Jim Brown, Bernie Kosar, Ray Lewis, Jon Gruden, Rich Eisen, and Roger Goodell.

Reitman produced “Draft Day” and directed his first sports film. He’s most known for highly-successful comedies in the 1980s with Bill Murray such as “Meatballs”, “Stripes”, and “Ghostbusters” (plus its sequel).

Release Date: April 2014
Directed by: Ivan Reitman
Produced by: Ali Bell, Ivan Reitman, Joe Medjuck
Written by: Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman
Distributor: Summit, Lionsgate

“Draft Day” had a $25 million budget. The film grossed $29 million at the box office. It had mixed reviews.

Overall, the consensus was “eh, it’s not great, but much better than I thought it’d be.”

You hoped that Reitman’s comedic sensibilities would spice up the film, but he played it straight down the middle.

Considering the cannon of Costner’s sports flick include “For the Love of the Game”, Draft Day is definitely not the worst. But it’s definitely in the lower tier compared to other gems such as “Field of Dreams” and “Bull Durham” mega-hits.

The Plot: A Day in the Life

On the morning of the 2014 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns have to make a difficult decision to pursue the #1 pick in the draft and pull off a trade with the Seattle Seahawks to grab the top QB prospect named Bo Callahan.

Cleveland Browns GM, Sonny Weaver Jr (Kevin Costner), recently lost his father — the legendary coach, Sonny Weaver, Sr. He is also having relationship commitment problems with Ali Parker (Jennifer Garner), an attorney in the Browns front office who works as the salary cap manager.

The Browns hired a new coach, Vince Penn (Denis Leary), who won multiple Super Bowls. He wants to trade up and grab the stud QB.

The Browns have the #7 pick. At that spot they have two options: Ohio State LB Vontae Mack (Chadwick Boseman) or RB Ray Jennings (Arian Foster). The linebacker reminds Weaver that if he does not pick him at #7, then his stock will tumble until late in the draft. Mack has a financial hardship raising his two nephews by himself. Meanwhile, Jennings happens to be the son of ex-Browns Hall of Fame RB, Earl Jennings (Terry Crews). It would be wrong to diss Browns royalty by snubbing Jennings.

Browns owner, Anthony Molina (Frank Langella), reminds Costner that he’s on thin ice, but he should “make a splash” with his pick.

Weaver pulls the trigger on a move that seems excessive and everyone in the war room questions the move. He trades three first round picks including the 2015 and 2016 first rounders) to the Seahawks. But will Bo Callahan be worth it?

Weaver’s trusted scout digs up some dirt on the QB. Sure he’s great on tape, but in real life, none of his college teammates liked him. Even though Bo Callahan had a huge blowout for his 21st birthday, none of his actual teammates showed up. That drew immediate red flags for Weaver. Plus, Callahan failed the $100 bill test. The scout taped a $100 bill in the back page of their playbook to see which recruits would actually read it and which ones would be honest about it when confronted about the test. Most of the recruits didn’t know about the $100 bill, but they all confessed that they did not read the playbook. Callahan was the only one who doubled down on his lie.

Crunch Time

With the start of the draft closing in, Weaver passes on Bo Callahan and makes the bold decision to draft Vonate Mack. The picks stuns everyone. Why trade up and waste future first round picks to grab a guy that would be available at #7 anyway?

The Browns owner storms out of the draft and considers firing Weaver. The curveball pick sends shockwaves throughout the rest of the draft. Everyone else in the league panics and avoids picking Bo Callahan. If Weaver and the Browns passed, then clearly there must be a problem.

Weaver makes a bold move and trades away the team’s horde of future second round picks to acquire the #6 pick from the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags agree to trade down and Weaver now has a shot at selecting Bo Callahan.

Instead of grabbing Bo Callahan, he dangles the pick in front of the Seahawks. The Seahawks need a quarterback and get him at a discount. Their GM agrees to trade back the first rounders that Weaver shipped them to acquire #1 in the first place.

The Seahawks draft Bo Callahan with the #6 pick and then the Browns draft RB Ray Jennings with the #7 pick. Ray gets to play for the same team as his father, Earl.

Instead of trying to decide which guy to draft – Jennings or Mack – he orchestrated a trade to acquire both. Everyone wins.

‘Draft Day’: Did You Know?

The initial script, co-authored by playwright Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman, used the Buffalo Bills as the franchise looking to turn things around. Due to production costs, Ohio was cheaper to film in versus western New York, so the script changed the team. Instead of Kevin Costner as the general manager of the Buffalo Bills, he’s the GM of the Cleveland Browns.

The film originally had a R-rating. Lionsgate appealed and won without any edits, which sounds crazy because that rarely happens.

The Robert Griffin III (RG3) trade inspired Weaver’s astounding trade. In the 2012 NFL Draft, the LA Rams traded the #1 pick to the Washington Redskins for a horde of picks (including multiple future first rounders) so they could selected RG3.

Sonny Weaver, Jr (Kevin Costner)
Ali Parker (Jennifer Garner)
Head Coach Vince Penn (Denis Leary)
Browns Owner (Frank Langella)
Ohio St LB Vontae Mack (Chadwick Boseman)
RB Ray Jennings (Arian Foster)
Ex-Browns RB Earl Jennings (Terry Crews)

The $100 trick is inspired by the Oakland Raiders coaching staff. The discovered their top draft pick, JaMarcus Russell, was not studying game film when they sent him home with blank tapes.

The actual 2014 NFL Draft echoed eerie similarities to the film, which had been released two months earlier. Johnny Football, who won the Heisman, saw his draft stock slip. The Browns made a couple of big trades and questionable picks that year.

Other Sports Movies

Kevin Costner appeared in more sports movies than we can count.

For other sports movies, OG recapped Caddyshack (1980), Blue Chips (1994), and Steven Soderbergh’s NBA drama, High Flying Bird (2019).

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