Film and football fans who turn out to see Kevin Costner's NFL drama "Draft Day" when it opens this weekend will watch many real-life teams in fictional action, including the Cleveland Browns that Costner's general manager character runs and the Seattle Seahawks with whom he wheels and deals.
One team you won't see: the New York Jets.
The colorful, sometimes embattled franchise of Namath, Maynard, Martin and Toon was scheduled to play a key role in the picture, directed by veteran helmer Ivan Reitman.
It was supposed to serve in the role the Seahawks wound up playing -- the team with the first overall draft pick that trades the pick, and the quarterback most think it should be used for, to Costner's Browns.
It would have been a fitting choice -- after all, the Jets are a team with a dubious honor of many high draft picks and a long record of doing foolish, Johnny "Lam" Jones-ish things with them. And the team has a history of, er, vocal fans at the draft expressing their displeasure at the team's moves, just as the script called for.
But the club pulled out just a few days before shooting was set to begin last year.
The Jets, it turned out, were undergoing some drama not unlike that in the script -- the team had a new general manager in John Idzik, and then-quarterback Mark Sanchez looked like he could be getting shunted aside for what wound up being the team's top draft pick that year, West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith.
“They were having something of a quarterback dispute, and the team said that this is just going to incite our fans a little more to criticize us, even though it’s all fictional,” Reitman said.
The team opted out several days before shooting was set to begin at the 2013 NFL draft.
Desperate, Reitman worked a personal connection to the Seahawks' ownership, and they joined just days before shooting was to begin.
A p.r. veteran who works with the team declined to comment on the record about the team's decision not to participate in the film.
(Generally shooting at the team campuses, which the film does in spades, wasn't easy either. Even with the NFL's blessing, the production sought permission from individual clubs to shoot at their facilities -- which is why though the Chiefs, Jaguars and Texans are in, blue-chip franchises such as the Bears and Broncos are not. Producer Ali Bell noted that, for some teams, the movie and its tale of front-office contentiousness or roster drama "might have hit a little too close to home.”
This all is something of a disappointment for Jets fans, like this reporter, who rarely sees his team in any big-media context, even one in which they're getting fleeced.
The Seahawks, meanwhile, proved to be an interesting choice. The team holding the first pick in the draft is of course usually the worst team from the year before, but the Russell Wilson club ended up winning the Super Bowl in January. So basically putting them in the film as the worst team proved a weird kind of good-luck charm.
Maybe the Jets can get cast in the sequel.
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