The 2023 NFL Draft gets underway Thursday, and over the ensuing few days, the hopes and dreams of more than 200 college football players will be realized. It's the type of stuff that movies are made of -- which inspired us to revisit some of the best sports films and TV shows over the years. If the writers and editors on our college football team could draft fictional coaches to lead our even more fictional teams (of any sport), who would we choose?
And so, the Fictional Coaches Draft was born.
Over the course of five rounds, our writers and editors selected their ideal coaches from various sports movies and TV shows. While football was obviously the most popular, no sport was off the table. From baseball to boxing and even dodgeball, elite coaches can be found at every corner of athletics.
Keep scrolling to see which coaches were taken and in which order, along with draft grades at the bottom.
Lou Brown ("Major League")
Gordon Bombay ("The Mighty Ducks")
Mickey Goldmill ("Rocky")
Eric Taylor ("Friday Night Lights")
Ted Lasso ("Ted Lasso")
Tony D'Amato ("Any Given Sunday")
Norman Dale ("Hoosiers")
Chip Patterson: Lou Brown exemplifies exactly what we're going for with a fictional coaches draft. He wasn't the star of the "Major League" franchise, but he's arguably as beloved as Wild Thing or either of the Willie Mays Hayeses (Wesley Snipes or Omar Epps). A grizzled veteran who was able to whip a team into shape but also relate to them when they needed it the most, Brown is a manager you'd love to play for. When we're talking about fictional coaches, the best compliment of a character is that you'd love to play on their team.
Jack Crosby: Gordon Bombay goes through one of the great transformations for a coach ever seen on the silver screen. Initially an arrogant attorney haunted by his youth hockey shortcomings following the death of his father, Bombay leads a rag-tag group of youth hockey players -- later named the Ducks -- to a state championship over his old coach. If that character arc (and success on the ice) isn't worthy of a first-round pick, nothing is.
Adam Silverstein: Let's be clear about what Mickey Goldmill accomplished. He took an undersized, inexperienced fighter (against top-level competition) with a paltry 64-20 career record in Rocky Balboa -- who only got a title match against a dominant heavyweight champion because Apollo Creed's planned challenger broke his hand -- and coached him up into taking Creed to the scorecards. And then in a rematch, this improbable underdog actually beats Creed, becomes heavyweight champion of the world and rattles off 11 straight wins. Goldmill's influence on Rocky was so significant that Rocky himself became a trainer for Creed's son, Adonis, a supremely successful fighter in his own right. Goldmill won at the top level of one of the world's biggest sports. Far more significant and successful than making the MLB playoffs, winning a youth hockey title or Goodwill Games medal.
Tom Fornelli: Getting coach Eric Taylor with the fourth pick of the draft is an absolute steal. Chip and Jack took alcoholics, and Adam took a coach who dies before the story ends. Meanwhile, I get one of the greatest fictional coaches of all time. Not only a winner, but a coach who knows how to lead all sorts of different personalities and egos. Whether it's the paralyzed quarterback, the egomaniac running back, the other QB who is sleeping with his daughter, the drunk fullback or the murderer at wide receiver, there's nothing Taylor can't handle.
Barrett Sallee: Ted Lasso should have been the No. 1 overall pick, so I was absolutely stunned that he fell down to me. Lasso is everything that you want in a coach. He understands how to motivate players based on their personalities, cares deeply about his team and, most importantly, is an all-around good dude. I drafted him to be the true leader of my team in the same way that he leads AFC Richmond on and off the field.
Ben Kercheval: There might be more celebrated fictional football coaches than Tony D'Amato, but none that can match his bona fides. The two-time Pantheon Cup champion of the Miami Sharks nearly won a third title with third-string quarterback Willie Beamen. Then, in a total boss move, D'Amato signed Beamen as his franchise quarterback upon taking a job with the AFFA's new expansion team in New Mexico. D'Amato is a complicated character, as are so many in this first round, but that layering only adds to his intrigue as a first-round selection.
David Cobb: After his first practice at the tiny high school in Hickory, Indiana, Norman Dale finds himself with just five players left on the team and without the school's best player, Jimmy Chitwood, who has given up basketball entirely. But when it's all said and done, the Huskers wind up as Indiana state champions. Dale is not a perfect coach -- he's got some skeletons in the closet -- but he understands the game and how to extract the most from his players. He also knows how to recruit, because Chitwood eventually rejoins the team and plays a critical role in Hickory's title. Chitwood's return also helps Dale keep his job, who repays him by letting Chitwood take the game-winning shot in the state title game. Dale is a complicated character, but undoubtedly the greatest fictionalized basketball coach in American cinematic history.
|GM||Round 2||Round 3||Round 4||Round 5|
Chubbs Peterson ("Happy Gilmore")
George Knox ("Angels in the Outfield")
Jackie Moon ("Semi-Pro")
Darren Goddard ("Blades of Glory")
Pete Bell ("Blue Chips")
Wally Riggendorf ("Necessary Roughness")
Morris Buttermaker ("The Bad News Bears")
Sam Winters ("The Program")
Jimmy McGinty ("The Replacements")
Mr. Miyagi ("The Karate Kid")
Eddie Franklin ("Eddie")
Nate Scarboro ("The Longest Yards")
Jimmy Dugan ("A League of Their Own")
Hayden Fox ("Coach")
Harry Hogge ("Days of Thunder")
Ernie Pantusso ("Cheers")
Coach Klein ("The Waterboy")
Romeo Posar ("Tin Cup")
Ed Gennero ("Necessary Roughness")
Christian Hollings ("Rad")
Patches O'Houlihan ("Dodgeball")
Rocky Balboa ("Creed")
Reggie Dunlop ("Slap Shot")
Molly McGrath ("Wildcats")
Bud Kilmer ("Varsity Blues")
Joe Barker ("Air Bud")
Danny O'Shea ("Little Giants")
Sal Martinella ("Rookie of the Year")
Chip Patterson's draft: Chip likes his sports movies cheeky and his coaches a little rough around the edges. I'm actually impressed he didn't choose a single fictional football coach for this draft. Brown wasn't a surprising No. 1 overall pick given "Major League" is an iconic sports comedy franchise, and Peterson is a strong Round 2 selection after he honed in Happy Gilmore's power (and anger) to best Shooter McGavin. George Knox is, if nothing else, an underappreciated Round 3 pick, and the late rounds have a Will Farrell flair -- even if they're not the most well-known Farrell sports movies. Grade: B
Jack Crosby's draft: Love the Bombay pick in the first round. Don't let Charlie Sheen hog the spotlight for Wild Thing; Emilio Estevez brings a ton of depth and, ultimately, likability to this coaching draft. Plus, he wins. The rest of Jack's draft falls under the radar, though Morris Buttermaker is an impressive late-round pick-up. This group isn't full of bad coaches or anything like that, but it's not anything to write home about, either, and it is anchored by its Round 1 selection. Grade: C+
Adam Silverstein's draft: Front to back, it's hard to find many faults in Adam's draft. Goldmill has to easily be the most recognizable fictional coach in cinematic history and certainly deserving of a No. 1 overall pick, so getting him at No. 3 is insane value. Jimmy McGinty is a good-not-great Round 2 pick -- it's not even actor Gene Hackman's most iconic fictional coaching role -- but getting Mr. Miyagi in Round 3 is the steal of the draft. Adam took a flier on Eddie Franklin, but the OG Nate Scarboro to round out the group is a flex. The best of the best of these picks more than overshadows the other, high-floor selections. Not a perfect draft, but close. Grade: A
Tom Fornelli's draft: Tom will probably tell you on Twitter that he had the best draft. It's ... fine, I suppose. Taylor is a bit overrated as an actual coach, but it would have been surprising to see him on the board after the first round. Jimmy Dugan wasn't likely to get past Round 2 anyway, but I do appreciate Tom's willingness to find some gems with Hayden Fox and especially Ernie Pantusso. Seriously, who would have thought? Grade: B-
Barrett Sallee's draft: Holy cow, this draft is a mess. Folks, don't get caught up in the chummy personality. Lasso is a bad soccer coach. In any reality, he'd have been sacked years ago. Also, I'll be the brave one to say it: He can be a little too hokey with his folksy nonsense. (Tortured Lasso is way better; otherwise, there's no conflict!) And Coach Klein is the most neurotic leader of young men I've ever seen in all my days. The only reason he was able to win the Bourbon Bowl -- which the Mud Dogs were losing at halftime, by the way -- was because the most ferocious defensive player in Louisiana history decided to show up. And of course -- of course -- Barrett ended his draft with "Rad." Grade: F
Ben Kercheval's draft: Leaning away from his inherent biases into his star player's talent turned Beamen into a difference maker and gave D'Amato himself a second chance on a waning career. He was a no-doubter as a first-round pick. That said, Ben did reach with Patches O'Houlihan. Let's face it: He was a washed up star for a lower-level sport that aired its tournament on The Ocho; plus, he drank his own urine because it's sterile and he likes the taste. Still, though, there's no doubt that O'Houlihan turned a rag-tag group into a competitive bunch that bested the top competitors in their sport. Rocky Balboa offered a nice value in Round 3 in a pupil-becomes-the-teacher move following the greatest boxing trainer (and arguably the best coach) in film history, while Reggie Dunlop and particularly Molly McGrath were steals in the later rounds. Grade: B+ (-- Adam Silverstein)
David Cobb's draft: David's draft is ... something, that's for sure. The first three picks go in one direction, and the final two go in a completely different one. Dale is a dicey character, and the locals certainly had their doubts about his coaching ability, but it's tough to argue with a championship in one of the most well-known sports movies ever. Similar with Bud Kilmer and Joe Barker: Outstanding coaches, but terrible human beings. Danny O'Shea and Sal Martinella represent a full heel turn on the moral compass. I'm not sure what to make of this draft. I'm not sure David does, either. Grade: C