It was hard to watch the NFL draft on ESPN on Thursday night — Berman, Kiper and the rest — without thinking of similar scenes in Ivan Reitman’s “Draft Day” last month, in which many ESPN and NFL personalities also appeared, albeit fictionally.
Yet nothing at Radio City Music Hall offered that life-imitating-art feeling as much as the moves by Cleveland Browns general manager Ray Farmer that ultimately led to the team drafting Johnny Manziel with the 22nd pick.
Reitman’s film also focuses on the Browns, via Kevin Costner’s fictional GM character Sonny Weaver. There are a surprising number of parallels between Farmer’s moves in real life and Weaver’s in the film — not to mention between Manziel and the film’s coveted but polarizing quarterback prospect Bo Callahan.
Let’s start with the players. Like Callahan, Manziel is a highly rated but controversial quarterback with the attendant character questions (the issue with Callahan is whether he’s too much of a me-first celebrity-minded type to be a team player; Manziel has faced related questions).
Like Manziel, Callahan’s stock also dropped as some general managers questioned his NFL readiness, forcing him to put on a stoic face as Roger Goodell came and went to the Radio City podium without mentioning his name.
But the parallels really get weird with the team maneuverings.
As in real life, when the Browns moved from 26th to 22nd position in the first round, Reitman’s Browns also trade up so they could be in position to take a controversial quarterback.
As in real life, said trade engendered enthusiasm among the fan base—and question marks among pundits.
And as in real life, Weaver also ended up also trading down some spots so he could get a clutch of future picks.
The parallels are made even more eerie when you consider that the movie was made a year ago, when the idea of the Browns and a polarizing college quarterback was as distant as thoughts of a Lombardi trophy.
And on top of all that, a key transaction Thursday came when the Seahawks traded their first-round pick so another team could take a star quarterback--exactly what happened with the Seahawks of the film, who had dealt the pick to Celeveland so the team could take Callahan.
In an interview last month, Reitman noted how much he and the other filmmakers wanted to get it right, even as he acknowledged how hard that was. “Things happen really fast in the NFL,” he said. “What seems obvious one day may not turn out to be obvious the next.”
There is one key difference between the film and the real-life Browns: Though they initially traded up to take Callahan, Costner’s team in the end wound up going another way, passing on him for other players.
With not even a Hail Mary chance of a sequel, we’ll never know how the moves turned out for Weaver and his fictitious Browns. The verdict for Farmer and Manziel, though, will be evident soon enough.