Business Movie Review: Draft Day (2014)

I’m open to nominations if there was ever a movie more misguided than the sports business movie Draft Day.  Let me first say that like most guys who love football, we have had the dream of being a general manager of an NFL franchise. I’m not even embarrassed to say that I’ve seen this NFL draft film farce probably five times, and only because Kevin Costner has the ability to make this movie stupidly fun to watch (if you abandon all logic). 

Draft Day is just what the title says, a football version of the Kiefer Sutherland vehicle ‘24’ where you get to watch a minute-by-minute (actually probably 12 hours total) day in the life of a General Manager trying to make a draft splash for his Cleveland Browns. In this one, no one gets killed except Costner’s movie Dad who dies after he fires him, but this apparently happened before the Draft so we have little context.  

Rumor has it, even the hapless NY Jets passed on being the subject of this ludicrous draft scenario. Still, honestly, the Jets are probably the only team (other than the loveable Lions) more pathetic than the Browns who were probably gleeful to be the subject team of the film. 

Not happy with a basic, “I’ll draft a QB and then an offensive lineman and then maybe a defensive back,” Draft Day gives Costner a vehicle to make some of the dumbest last-minute trades ever fictionally glorified. If you want to get a group together and take shots every time Costner makes an outlandish assessment of football talent in the movie, you’d all be drunk at the one-hour mark. 

In other words – this is no way to run a business. 

Costner makes every possible decision you could make to ruin a company and, in this case, a football team. From a business perspective, let’s list the ways this guy should have never been allowed to run an NFL franchise:

  • He made a rash of knee-jerk decisions without ever consulting his staff or new head coach.
  • He got one of his subordinates (a salary cap guru poorly played by Jennifer Garner) pregnant. Something that today would render him unemployed AND dealing with a lawsuit.
  • He relied on unsubstantiated rumors – ON DRAFT DAY – to decide not to take the top QB available AFTER GIVING UP THREE FIRST ROUND DRAFT PICKS. Instead, he put his faith in last season’s losing QB, who missed half the year due to injury. He was told by some of his advisors that the QB looked really good and was lifting an incredible amount of weight in his workouts. It sounded to me that someone should have suggested a drug test. 
  • He was cutting deals on the actual draft day when he had performed no discernable research prior to the minutes leading up to picks.
  • He had no idea what his salary cap was or the financial value of choosing players at different spots in the first round (something readily available to ESPN, never mind a guy running a billion-dollar enterprise).  
  • He actually fired his Father (a Cleveland Browns legendary coach) the year before the movie and no explanation was ever given, though it was brought up constantly.  Not exactly a model way to handle a business succession. 

Anyone who would actually run a company like this would be fired on the spot because after all his wheeling and dealing he ended up with a projected mid-first round linebacker with the first overall pick, a running back and a special teams throw-in from a trade with a befuddled Seattle Seahawks front office. 

Is this any way to run a business? Sure, if you want to drive it into bankruptcy. A football team? We will never know. The movie ended with the draft. But, any casual observer will know how it ended up – another season of heartbreak and futility. They are, after all – the Browns.