In celebration of the 20th anniversary of Jerry Maguire, NFL Media’s Original Content Group worked with Sony to release extended “A Football Life” trailers about two of the fictitious players from the movie, Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.) and Frank Cushman (Jerry O’Connell). Dan Dieffenbach, the group’s senior coordinating producer, took the time this weekend to talk with Awful Announcing by e-mail about how these trailers came to be and what it was like putting them together.
First, though, here are the trailers if you haven’t seen them yet. They showcase 10 minutes of commentary on Tidwell and nearly six on Cushman, and they feature plenty of characters from the movie (including O’Connell, Beau Bridges as his father, and Jay Mohr as agent Bob Sugar), real athletes (including Shaquille O’Neal, Terrell Davis, and Kurt Warner), 90s celebrities (including Coolio, Vanilla Ice, and Salt-N-Pepa) and more.
Dieffenbach said this project stemmed from an idea within his group, and Sony quickly jumped on board.
“This project started as an opportunity to pay homage to perhaps the best sports-meets-pop culture movie of all time,” he said. “One of our producers, Amar Shah, had the idea to produce content to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Jerry Maguire, so we teamed up with Sony Pictures and ‘showed people the money.'”
He said the combination of strong material and working with Sony made it easy to get lots of great talents to participate.
“With such great material and with Sony’s help, it wasn’t that challenging,” Dieffenbach said. “Cast members stepped up and were excited to bring those great characters back to life. And when we brought the creative idea of the parody documentaries to current and former NFL players and other icons, they were game. It was great to see NFL greats like our own Kurt Warner and Terrell Davis, along with celeb icons Vanilla Ice and Shaq, really embrace the fun storylines that we had created. When you put this amazing collection together, it’s a cool fusion of vintage pop culture and the NFL.”
Dieffenbach said there were plenty of impressive performances in these trailers, but his overall favorite was Vanilla Ice.
“I think Kurt Warner wins the award for best “acting” by a non-actor, and to see Jay Mohr as Bob Sugar and Beau Bridges as Matt Cushman was nothing short of extraordinary,” he said. “Jerry O’Connell embraced the current state of Frank Cushman in such a vibrant way it’s hard to see this as fiction. But, in the end, who doesn’t dig Vanilla Ice?”
When Dieffenbach spoke to AdWeek about this, he mentioned that Jerry Maguire director Cameron Crowe provided notes on the project. Dieffenbach told AA he appreciated Crowe’s responses.
“His input was valuable and to get positive feedback on how we carried on the legacy of his characters–that’s pretty amazing,” Dieffenbach said. “He’s one of the best at creating iconic characters and we’re thankful for this chance.”
Dieffenbach said this project shows NFL Media’s original content group is looking to do more than just typical NFL projects, and that they’re happy to venture into the pop culture realm when it makes sense to do so.
“In the original content group here, we pride ourselves in creating content that has an impact and this was one of those rare opportunities where the best of the best, the storytelling of Cameron Crowe and the creative license of his characters, and sports, namely the NFL, had the chance to share the stage in documentaries,” he said. “We’re all about entertainment and access and this project certainly played to those strengths.”
Dieffenbach said they’ve seen impressive responses to the project.
“Someone told us it’s hard to believe Tidwell’s A Football Life isn’t real,” he said. “Our team did our best in giving fans more of what they wanted–more Cushman, more Tidwell and more Jerry Maguire. And for Sony, it’s the chance to promote the film again and have old and new fans enjoy Jerry Maguire.”
He said there’s a good chance they’ll do more along these lines in the future.
“Hopefully,” Dieffenbach said. “Our original content team is constantly telling stories that transcend the NFL, and sport in general. It’s when you find the sweet spot between what makes us laugh and what makes us care that everyone wins. It’s like the movie said: ‘Help me help you.'”