By Ross Benes
This season there is little debate over who should win the NFL MVP award, as it's pretty obvious Panthers quarterback Cam Newton will snag that honor. So we decided to examine a more uncertain question -- who is the best fictional pro football player?
To do this, we hand-calculated stats for the following movie characters: Shane Falco ("The Replacements"), Rod Tidwell ("Jerry Maguire"), Phil Elliott ("North Dallas Forty"), Joe Kingman ("The Game Plan"), Willie Beamen ("Any Given Sunday"), Tom Jarrett ("Heaven Can Wait"), Paul Crewe (both versions of "The Longest Yard"), Earl Megget (2005's "The Longest Yard") and Deacon Moss (2005's "The Longest Yard").
We did not include movies based on real people (e.g. "Invincible") or movies based on football in college (e.g. "The Waterboy") or high school (e.g. "Varsity Blues"). We also avoided relying on projections, and stuck solely to the calculable stats that were shown in the movie. Montage clips that featured indecipherable yardage were excluded from our statistical totals. To simplify things, sacks were counted as rushing attempts for negative yardage, which is how sacks are counted in college football.
Here's how each fictional football player performed in his movie:
Shane Falco (Keanu Reeves), Washington Sentinels quarterback:
• 11-13 passing (84.6 percent), 310 yards, 6 touchdowns
• 4 rushing attempts, 11 yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 fumbles
• Bottom line: 321 yards, 6 touchdowns, 2 turnovers, 18.9 yards per play
Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.), Arizona Cardinals receiver:
• 5 receptions on 6 targets, 57 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 drop, 9.5 yards per play
Phil Elliott (Nick Nolte), North Dallas Bulls receiver:
• 3 receptions on 4 targets, 70 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 drop, 17.5 yards per play
Joe Kingman (Dwayne Johnson), Boston Rebels quarterback:
• 3-4 passing (75 percent), 63 yards, 1 touchdown
• 4 rushing attempts, 43 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 fumble
• Bottom line: 106 total yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 turnover, 13.25 yards per play
Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx), Miami Sharks quarterback:
• 8-11 passing (72.7 percent), 286 yards, 5 touchdowns, 2 interceptions
• 10 rushing attempts, 49 yards, 2 touchdowns
• Bottom line: 335 total yards, 7 touchdowns, 2 turnovers, 15.9 yards per play
Tom Jarrett (Warren Beatty), LA Rams quarterback:
• 3-3 passing (100 percent), 77 yards, 1 touchdown
• 1 rushing attempt, -8 yards
• Bottom line: 69 total yards, 1 touchdown, 17.25 yards per play
Paul Crewe (Burt Reynolds), Mean Machine quarterback:
• 5-10 passing (50 percent), 204 yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions
• 7 rushing attempts, 17 rushing yards, 1 touchdown, 1 fumble
• 1 reception, 25 yards
• Bottom Line: 246 total yards, 3 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, 13.7 yards per play
Paul Crewe (Adam Sandler), Mean Machine quarterback:
• 7-12 passing (58.3 percent), 118 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception
• 4 rushing attempts, -1 yards, 1 fumble
• Bottom line: 117 yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 turnovers, 7.3 yards per play
Earl Megget (Nelly), Mean Machine running back:
• 5 rushing attempts, 128 yards, 1 touchdown
• 2 receptions, 38 yards
• 2 kick returns, 97 yards
• Bottom line: 263 all-purpose yards (166 yards from scrimmage), 1 touchdown, 23.7 yards per play from scrimmage
Deacon Moss (Michael Irvin), Mean Machine receiver:
• 5 catches on 7 targets, 80 yards, 2 touchdowns, 11.4 yards per play
It was difficult to gauge the dominance of wide receivers, since most of their plays came during montages, when it was impossible to place any context on what was going on. Kingman and Jarrett were pretty stellar, but their movies featured so few football plays that it's difficult to seriously consider them among the most dominant fictional pro football players. Crewe was pretty average in both "Longest Yard" movies, but then again in each version Crewe intentional played terrible for at least a quarter.
Surprisingly, the player who stands out most isn't a lead actor. Nelly's character in "Longest Yard," Earl Megget, averaged more than 25 yards per carry, was a versatile back who had great hands, and was a huge threat in the return game. When Adam Sandler's Crewe flirted with throwing the game after halftime, the Mean Machine could have reduced the guards' lead had they just given Megget the ball more.
One knock against Megget is that he played against inferior competition, since the guards weren't exactly NFL caliber. As far as true pro players go, Beamen and Falco put up pretty similar statistics. But like Megget, Falco also played inferior competition.
Beamen's statistics are the most impressive because he played top-level pro competition, but was still able to complete more than 70 percent of his passes with a touchdown-to-interception ratio that was better than 2-to-1. He was a third-string quarterback to start the season and got thrown into the fire without much experience, but somehow adapted very quickly. Beamen even led the Sharks to a playoff victory despite shoddy offensive play and a very inconsistent running game. Coach Tony D'Amato (Al Pacino) was wise to steal Beamen from the Sharks and build his new expansion franchise around the star quarterback.
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Ross Benes is a Sports on Earth contributor who has written for Deadspin, The Wall Street Journal, Esquire and Slate. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @RossBenes.