- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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The New York Jets, who have a history with Broadway (see Joe Namath), almost made it to Hollywood.
A year ago, the Jets mulled a key role in "Draft Day," which opens Friday across the country. The movie, starring Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner, uses real NFL team names in a fictional story about the Cleveland Browns, who make a blockbuster trade to acquire the No. 1 overall pick. In the original script, their trading partner was the Jets, who pass up the opportunity to draft a blue-chip quarterback.
But in the actual movie, the Jets are nowhere to be seen. Their role is played by the Seattle Seahawks. So what happened? Conflicting versions emerged.
The director, Ivan Reitman, told the Los Angeles Times the Jets backed out several days before last year's draft in New York City -- where much of the movie is filmed -- because they were concerned about their quarterback situation and a potential backlash from their fans.
“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 told the newspaper, adding that he had to scramble to secure the Seahawks at the 11th hour.
At the time, the Jets were immersed in a quarterback mess. They went into the draft with five quarterbacks, including Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow, and they added a sixth by drafting Geno Smith. The Times article suggests the Jets, who have a history of draft-day blunders, didn't want to be connected to another one, albeit fictional.
But there's another side to the story.
The Jets were open to participating in the movie, but they expressed hesitancy because the original script portrayed their fans in a negative light, according to a source familiar with the team-selection process. Everybody knows Jets fans aren't wallflowers at the draft, but the producers wanted to take it to the extreme. When they got back to the producers to discuss possible changes to the script, the Jets were told they were out of the picture, said the source, adding that the team's reluctance had nothing to do with its uncertain quarterback situation.
The Seahawks apparently had no problem allowing themselves to get fleeced by the Browns' general manager, played by Costner. Obviously, it didn't ruin the Seahawks' karma, as they went on to win the Super Bowl. As for the Jets, hey, that's show biz.