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Film / Draft Day

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You only get drafted once.

Draft Day is a 2014 American sports drama film directed by Ivan Reitman (his final directorial effort) and starring Kevin Costner. The premise revolves around the challenges faced by the fictional general manager of the Cleveland Browns (Costner) and in the final hours before the 2014 National Football League Draft.

Sonny Weaver Junior (Costner) is responsible for making draft picks and trades with other NFL franchises. When the GM of the Seattle Seahawks offers Sonny the first overall draft pick in exchange for multiple first-round picks in the next three years, Sonny takes up the offer, which would allow the Browns the chance to select top prospect Bo Callahan (Josh Pence), yet he is adamant that linebacker Vontae Mack (Chadwick Boseman) is the better option. Draft Day revolves around Sonny's choices and the reactions of others in the Browns organization and the entire league, including head coach Vince Penn (Denis Leary) and finance manager Ali Parker (Jennifer Garner). Basically, a high-stakes dramatization of a sports fan's annual fantasy draft.

When the idea was first made public, the film was to be centered around the Buffalo Bills, but the studio subsequently changed it to the Cleveland Browns because of cheaper production costs in Ohio. The film contains multiple Real Life football analysts, commentators, and players.

This film provides examples of:

  • Ambiguous Situation: Did all of Bo's teammates really not attend his 21st birthday party, and if so, why? Sonny suspects that Bo doesn't get along with his team, but Bo gets out of explaining by claiming to have no memory of that night. Sonny has to concede that it's a plausible excuse — he doesn't remember his 21st birthday party either — and while he ends up trusting his instincts about Bo, his suspicions are never confirmed, and we don't find out whether Bo makes it in the pros.
  • Artistic License – Sports: Vontae calling Sonny and telling him to rewatch the game where he sacks Bo four times, but still lost. He tells Sonny this so Sonny will see Bo start to crack under the pressure, which is treated as a "Eureka!" Moment. But the idea that no one noticed that before then is ludicrous: It's the job of every NFL scouting department to spot that sort of thing. If it were that obvious, the TV announce team would've spotted it. Not to mention, since the film shows Vontae losing his cool and getting ejected before Bo's breakdown, all it would tell Sonny is why Bo shouldn't be #1, not why he (Vontae) should. Not to mention, someone on Bo's coaching staff would've gotten the word out on that kind of red flag, as much to warn potential teams as to try and make sure whoever did draft him would know Bo might need extra handling.
  • Babies Ever After: Sonny and Ali are nervous about becoming parents and are having problems with their secret relationship. However, the epilogue establishes them as an Official Couple - the baby isn't born, yet Ali is visibly pregnant and both are enjoying it.
  • Bad Liar: Bo is called out a few times over this, though not directly at him - when Sonny questions why his college teammates didn't come to his 21st birthday party, Callahan states he doesn't remember. Later, when Browns Security Chief Ralph Mowry tells a story about the Washington Redskins attaching a $100 bill on the back of the Redskins' playbook in order to test if their quarterbacks have actually read it, all of them found the money or admitted they didn't read the playbook - Bo, instead, claimed he forgot about the money until after the Redskins mentioned it to him, when he clearly didn't read it.
  • Berserk Button: Coach Moore does not like Sonny questioning Bo Callahan, who he calls his best "discovery."
  • Boring, but Practical: Sonny wants Vontae Mack as his first pick, saying they can build their defense around him. Molina, the owner, wants a flashier selection than a defender — specifically, Bo Callahan the mega-hyped quarterback — to get the fans excited.
  • Butt-Monkey: Rick the Intern, who fills in for Ali for the duration of Draft Day
  • The Cameo: A lot of analysts, officials, players and presenters from the NFL make an appearance in Draft Day, chief among them being Roger Goodell, Chris Berman, Jon Gruden and Rich Eisen.
  • Central Theme: Dealing with pressure. All three of the featured prospects are questioned about it (Callahan's reactions to being sacked or not being drafted, Jennings losing his head and joining a gang brawl, Mack touching a ref and being ejected), and of course the general managers all trying to take advantage of one another at various points.
  • Chekhov's Party: In the leadup to the draft, Browns GM Sonny Weaver's scouting staff tells him about presumptive top pick Bo Callahan's last birthday party, which none of his teammates attended. This, along with other revelatory character flaws, come up later on and serve to justify Sonny's decision to draft Vontae Mack instead of Callahan first overall.
  • Cool Uncle: Vontae is active in the lives in the nephews, presumably especially since his sister's death, even taking them to gymnastics in his hometown in Virginia. His main motivation for being drafted as high as possible, and by extension a more lucrative rookie contract, is to be able to provide for them.
  • Darkest Hour: When Sonny selects Vontae instead of Bo as the first overall pick in the Draft, the Browns traded away their first-round picks for the next three years for this player, a person who they could have grabbed without sacrificing any trades at all and selected him as the seventh overall pick (which they initially had before the Seahawks offered them their first pick). This effectively destroys their chances to build a team in the next few years; at that moment, Sonny has all but lost his job. Averted when other franchises take Sonny's consideration into heart by not selecting Bo themselves, inevitably disrupting the Draft. Note that the time between Sonny drafting Mack and redeeming himself with the trade that nets him his picks back and Jennings is six ten-minute draft slots, making this an actual hour.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The hype surrounding Callahan and the fictional draft is reminiscent of Johnny Manziel, who ended up in Cleveland and turned out to be a major bust, during the Real Life 2014 NFL Draft.
  • Due to the Dead: Sonny's mother and ex-wife show up, on the busiest day of his calendar, demanding to spread his father's ashes on the practice field outside his window.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Discussed regarding Bo and Brian - Mowry tells Sonny the Redskins' test. Whereas Bo sticks with his lie about forgeting about the $100 bill at the back of the playbook, Brian (when he was playing for the Redskins) returns the bill with a card saying the Redskins can pay him when he wins them the Superbowl.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The movie starts 12 hours before the draft and ends after the first-round picks (ignoring the epilogue).
  • Fatal Flaw: Callahan is a great quarterback with such talent he can become the face of an NFL franchise for years, except Sonny doesn't draft him because he doubts Bo's ability to perform under pressure and his negative personality problems.
  • Gut Feeling: A large part of why Sonny doubts Bo being the best pick in the Draft stems from this upon being told of his Fatal Flaw. Ali tells him not to listen to other people, but to do on what he thinks is best. Lampshaded word-for-word when Sonny tells General Manager Jeff Carson of the Jacksonville Jaguars why he didn't pick Callahan.
  • Heel–Face Turn: In-Universe, Sonny - he fired his father Sonny Weaver Senior as head coach of the Browns, which vilified him to the organization and its fans. When Sonny chooses Vontae over Bo, Coach Penn, the fans and Browns owner Anthony Molina want his head, until Sonny's decision changes the rest of the Draft's structure. After multiple acquisitions via trades with other teams during the Draft, the Browns wind up with their original choices they had wanted from the start, turning Sonny into a hero for the organization. Even Penn, his staunchest critic, is impressed.
  • Heroic BSoD: Upon hearing his name announced as the Number One Pick, which under the NFL’s rookie wage scale entitles him to a contract worth more than double what he’d have gotten in his expected draft position, Vontae is unable to speak or move or even blink. He stares at the screen as his family and agent erupt into celebration around him, stunned. By the time Sonny calls him, he’s unable to do much more than cry from relief and joy, Sonny’s name the only thing he can manage to say.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Sonny only fired his father because doctors warned him about a risk of dying during his stressful job, to which Sonny's mother asked her son to do it, since that would would have resulted in some relaxed years for the old man. Too bad Sonny Senior died anyway.
  • Idiot Ball: Sonny trades first-round draft picks for the next three years for a player he doesn't know without consulting Coach Penn or the scouts; he researches Bo Callahan after he makes the trade. If he at least did his research right after the initial trade offer from the Seahawks, he wouldn't have made the trade or would have achieved a much better bargain, thus it's no wonder Penn, the players and the scouts are pissed.
    • Sonny acquires the #6 pick from Jacksonville for three second-rounders and then immediately flips it to Seattle for three first-rounders plus a player. Jacksonville could have gotten a much better return on their pick if they'd traded it to Seattle instead of locking in on Cleveland as their trade partner. Jacksonville settled for second-round picks because Cleveland had no first-rounders to trade at this point, and it was public knowledge that Seattle fans were irate at their team's first trade because it risked losing Callahan; Jacksonville should have anticipated the desperation of a team that had more to offer than Cleveland did.
    • Seattle is particularly baffling. They initially traded #1 and dropped down to #7 while picking up three more 1st Round picks. There's no guarantee that Jacksonville would take Bo with the 6th pick (ignoring the fact that the Jaguars would certainly have demanded at least one 1st Round pick when trading with Cleveland in real life.) and usually NFL Drafts have more than one highly rated QB even if the 2nd QB falls a la Johnny Manziel or Aaron Rodgers in real life. Anyway, Seattle then trades ALL of the 1st Round picks BACK plus a current player... to move up one spot? when in real life they would've more realistically offered up the 7th Pick, a 2nd Round pick, maybe a future draft pick, and the player in question.
    • Cleveland not researching Callahan until after trading up is doubly-baffling, since teams in real life will frequently do so on players they have no chance to draft just to have a scouting file for when they must later play them. Notably, The Redskins' $100 trick only worked because they were doing their research when Cleveland hadn't.
  • Ironic Echo: Michaels offers his first-round pick in the current Draft for first-round picks in the next two years from the Browns. Initially, Sonny declines the offer, but changes his mind and accepts it; Michaels raises his offer to first-round picks for the next three years, stating it's a different world than three hours ago. During the Draft, after he acquires the sixth overall pick from the Jaguars, Sonny wants to trade it with Michaels for his three first-round picks back; when Michaels accepts, Sonny raises the offer to include a special teams player, saying it's a different world than 30 seconds ago.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Coach Penn often acts like a Jerkass, but he's right when he points out the Browns made a draft analysis and created a playbook with Brian Drew as a quarterback in mind (Penn doesn't want to teach a new quarterback his plays). Months or maybe even years of work has become worthless because of a rash decision by Sonny.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Michaels succeeds in making a trade with Sonny which is beneficial for the Seahawks. Turned on its head later when Sonny does the same by coercing Carson to trade away his sixth overall pick to the Browns, giving Sonny a chance to take back his three first-round picks from Michaels by offering up the sixth pick to the Seahawks.
  • Moment Killer: Vontae Mack throws a ball to his sister in the stands after scoring a touchdown... but is then flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. In the ensuing argument, Mack touches the referee and is ejected.
  • New Meat: When new possibilities open up to salvage their draft day, Sonny quickly identifies Jacksonville's rookie GM as a weak point he can exploit.
  • Next Sunday A.D.: This film was released in 2014, a month before the Real Life draft, to wit some people actually referred to this movie.
  • No Antagonist: Played with - the closest thing to one in Draft Day is Tom Michaels, yet he's simply doing his job as a general manager of a major sports franchise. The true conflict in this movie comes from the pressure on Sonny and the choices he has to make before and during the Draft.
  • No Name Given: Vontae's two nephews are unnamed.
  • Non-Actor Vehicle: Arian Foster, a veteran NFL running back, does not play himself, but a rookie running back. Unlike Real Life, Foster's character is actually drafted.
  • Open Secret: Sonny and Ali might be in a secret relationship, but multiple colleagues already know this, even mentioning it to their faces. Lampshaded in a conversation between Ali and Coach Penn, whom the latter states that she "has his [Sonny's] ears".
  • Opt Out: Subverted with Coach Penn - after he learns their second-round picks for the next three years are traded away to the Jaguars, he frustratingly quits his job. Sonny asks him to at least wait until the end of the first-round; if he still doesn't like the results of the Draft, Penn can quit. However, it turns out the Draft ends up in the Browns' favor and Coach Penn gets the player he wanted from the start.
  • Pet the Dog: Rick suffers some abuse from the Browns' staff, but when Sonny destroys his laptop in a rage, he apologizes to Rick and promises him a better one.
  • Precision F-Strike: When Sonny pushes Michaels into accepting the trade for the sixth overall pick.
    "Come on, say it, you pancake eating motherfucker!"
  • Promotion to Parent: While the film leaves the specifics unclear, Vontae seems to have stepped in as a parental figure for his nephews since his sister's death (if he wasn't before - there's no mention of their father). His doggedness in getting drafted by the Browns with the 7th overall pick was motivated in large part by his desire to provide for them with a more lucrative contract (the 7th overall pick in the Real Life 2014 NFL Draft got a contract worth $14.6M).
  • Really Gets Around: Bo Callahan has quite the active love life and isn't afraid to publicize it according to Sonny's scouts.
  • Relationship Upgrade: By the end of the film, Sonny and Ali no longer decide to keep their relationship secret, despite it being clearly open.
  • Sigil Spam: There is hardly a frame of the movie that doesn't have at least one NFL or NFL team logo visible on the set or costumes. There are three alone on the film's poster.
  • Tears of Joy: Vontae, when he slips out of his BSoD after his name is called as the first overall pick. He’s so overwhelmed by what being first means for him and his family that he can’t even manage to speak other than sobbing out Sonny’s name when Sonny calls him about coming to Cleveland for the post-Draft celebration.
  • Third Act Stupidity: Inverted - Sonny might have been tricked into a monumentally bad trade by Michaels, but once he makes his choice for first overall pick in the Draft, all teams in the NFL are bewildered because they believe Sonny's non-pick for Bo Callahan implies there's something wrong with the latter (which there is). When the easily-rattled, New Meat General Manager Jeff Carson of the Jaguars doesn't know who to pick as their sixth overall (due to the previous teams having picked the Jaguars' intended choices), Sonny trades the Browns' second-round picks for the next three years in place of the sixth spot so the Jaguars can recuperate and reorganize themselves. Finally, Sonny trades the suddenly stupid Michaels the sixth pick for the return of not only the seventh spot, but all three first-round picks PLUS an additional player; furthermore, Coach Penn gets Ray Jennings as the seventh pick like he wanted. In-Universe, Sonny's draft decisions are called an act of genius by sports analysts and commentators.
  • Tomboy: Ali admits football is her life and that she doesn't know anything about typical mother stuff.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Played with - before departing for New York on his private jet to the Draft, Molina calls Bo (whom he believes will be drafted into the Browns) the son he never had. Sonny remarks Molina already has a son.
  • Wham Line: In-Universe example - "The Cleveland Browns select...Vontae Mack!" While it's hardly surprising for the audience at that point, NOBODY expected the Browns would have agreed to such a trade with the Seahawks to acquire Vontae as the first overall, or simply the fact that Bo Callahan was not the first as everyone thought.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: It's never revealed how the Buffalo Bills (who'd offered to trade the first draft pick for some their first round picks next year) or Bill Zotti (who'd been interested in Vontae if the Browns passed him up) do in the draft.
  • Who Would Be Stupid Enough?: Lampshaded; Tom Michaels discusses his wish to make a trade reminiscent of the RGIII trade with his Seahawks Head Coach Walt Gordon. Michaels knows someone has to be really stupid to agree with such a trade; when Gordon asks "Who's the most desperate guy you know?", cue the next scene to the city of Cleveland.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: The Browns owner leaves the NFL draft after Mack is selected, to fly back to Cleveland and fire Sonny. He walks into the draft room as Sonny is haggling with Seattle, which cannot be more than 50 minutes later. Manhattan to Cleveland in under an hour is impossible. This is likely a holdover in the script from when the featured team was meant to be Buffalo.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Sonny is forced to play this during the Draft after he makes his first overall pick, to ensure his initial choice to trade away his team’s first-round picks for the next three years won't have disastrous consequences. He ends up being able to get those picks back, plus a special teams punt returner, in exchange for the sixth overall pick that he traded the Browns’ next three years’ second-round picks for. This ensured that Seattle’s GM could select Bo Callahan, who he wanted from the start, and the Browns could get a second first-round pick, which Sonny then used to get the player Coach Penn had been fighting to sign: Ray Jennings.

"Enjoy the Draft"