Welcome to The Ringer’s Sports Movie Hall of Fame! We’re taking a look back at some of our favorite sports films of all time, starting with Jerry Maguire. Bill Simmons and Chris Ryan discuss that movie’s strengths, weaknesses, and mysteries in this debut episode.
Listen to the full podcast here. This transcript has been edited and condensed.
Why Wasn’t Rod Tidwell Getting Paid?
Chris Ryan: I know [there’s] inflation, but the deal [Tidwell] asked for at the beginning is not that much. Four years, $10 million.
Bill Simmons: Right. So [Maguire’s] walking Tidwell across on the draft, the ’96 draft. And he’s bragging about how Tidwell had 1,550 yards and 110 catches in ’95, so the question is: Why wasn’t this guy like one of the giant receivers in the league? He does not mention how many touchdowns he had. So he might have just had four touchdowns.
C.R.: Is it that he does or doesn’t go over the middle?
B.S.: He doesn’t want to get hit. He doesn’t want to go over the middle, which doesn’t make sense if he has 110 catches.
C.R.: He’s short, so he should be a slot receiver.
B.S.: He’s short. He’s a slot receiver. You don’t like going over the middle but you have 110 catches. It’s 110 outs that he was running. ’95 was the big wide receiver boom, which is kind of ironic because [Cameron] Crowe had been working on this movie for years. Jerry Rice [had] 1,848 yards, 15 TDs, 122 catches. Isaac Bruce, Herman Moore, Michael Irvin all [had] over 1,600 yards.
C.R.: They also mention Andre Reed and Cris Carter in the movie. He mentions, “Andre Reed gets paid this much.” And he’s like, “Those guys are marquee guys.”
B.S.: Right. So then Robert Brooks, Brett Perriman, Cris Carter, Tim Brown, Carl Pickens are the rest of your top nine. All of them have between 1,200 and 1,500 yards. Tidwell, 1,550 yards, 110 catches, puts him right between Michael Irvin and Robert Brooks. Fifth place for that year. So the question is, why didn’t this guy get a contract? I think Jerry Maguire might have been a terrible agent. This guy’s the fifth-best receiver in the league! C’mon, Jerry Maguire. He’s got this house. He’s got a water-bed deal. That’s his only commercial. He’s doing water beds. And he’s got a house that has ants. And he’s got seven people in his house. He can’t get a mansion? Terrible.
C.R.: This is also Clinton-era economics. So you definitely would’ve been able to get a better house than that.
Where Is Tidwell Now?
B.S.: So the sequel to Jerry Maguire … is Rod Tidwell with dementia from concussions.
C.R: That’s not a great one.
B.S.: Fighting the NFL. It’s now a drama. Jerry Maguire kind of let him go because he’d been acting so radically he lost his family.
C.R.: Because Concussion lit up the box office.
B.S.: Great point. Maybe it’s a Netflix series. But where do you think Rod Tidwell is now? Because my answer when I answered this question a while ago is that he was divorced, bankrupt, living with his loser brother …
C.R.: Oh, I think he’s on Sunday Countdown. What are you talking about? He’s next to [Trent] Dilfer. They’re talking thermostats and thermometers. … Did we ever find out where Tidwell [is from]? He’s from Arizona, right? He’s a local boy. So he’s like a Sun Devil or something?
C.R.: OK. I was hoping that he had gone to The U.
Frank Cushman’s Denver Deal Made No Sense
B.S.: The dealbreaker for Jerry Maguire keeping [Frank Cushman] was that he had a deal for San Diego to get the no. 1 overall pick and Beau Bridges, Cush’s dad, really wanted Denver. This movie comes out in ’96. So this is the ’96 draft. April ’96, leading into the ’96 season. John Elway’s still in his [post-prime] career for the Broncos, and yet, for the Chargers, you had Stan Humphries, whose career was falling apart.
Why would you want your son to play for the Broncos and be John Elway’s backup for three years? I continue to think Cush’s dad just [made] some terrible judgements.
C.R.: There’s definitely shades of [Todd] Marinovich’s dad there in some ways.
B.S.: Did he think he was going to take John Elway’s job? ’Cause I can tell you right now, he wasn’t.
C.R.: Well, didn’t Elway himself like demand to go to Denver when he got drafted?
B.S.: He did, but at the timing of this movie, John Elway going into the ’96, ’97, ’98 seasons, they won two of those three Super Bowls. Cush, you’re not playing in Denver.
C.R.: Well, also, was this part of the 20-year run where the Arizona Cardinals were, like, the worst team in football?
C.R.: So why would he be like, “You’ve got to stay in Arizona?” I would be like, “You’ve got to get this guy on the Cowboys.
Jonathan Lipnicki Was Perfect Until He Had to Throw a Football
B.S.: [Jonathan] Lipnicki. Phenomenal. Really great. Like my kids, we watched Jerry Maguire on AMC. I allow AMC because the Kelly Preston sex scene, for instance, got cut. But every time Lipnicki’s in the movie, they’re just on pins and needles.
C.R.: Do you think that kid has as big of a role in the script, or do you think they get Lipnicki and they’re like, we gotta write —
B.S.: They gotta ad-lib it.
C.R.: They’re like, “[Get] as much Lipnicki as we can stand. Let’s get him in there.”
B.S.: Yeah, they’re in the airport with Lipnicki, and he probably just climbs on the conveyor belt himself and starts going in the circle. … Like, “My god, we’ve hit jackpot here.” So at the end, though, here’s yet another Cameron Crowe sports flaw. I don’t mean to pick on Cameron Crowe, because this is a great movie. But Lipnicki at the end, he gets the ball. The ball rolls over to him after everybody’s happy. They’re in the park. And he’s like, hey kid, throw it. And he throws it, like … he doesn’t [know how to] throw it. Like his whole body convulses. His arm is 100 percent straight. He slings it, like he’s in the Olympics. And Maguire’s like, “Whoa.” The inference is like, “Whoa, what an athlete. We might have to sign this kid.”
C.R.: And [Renée] Zellweger’s like, “No, you don’t.”
B.S.: And it’s the worst throw ever. But then I realize Tom Cruise thought it was a good throw because we saw him throw in War of the Worlds 10 years later. He doesn’t know how anyone throws a ball. Like he probably did think that was a good throw.
C.R.: He was probably like, “Great throw.”
B.S.: Great throw. You did it, Lip.
C.R.: Did you ever see those, the 60 Minutes about the guy in Texas who teaches pitchers who have suffered Tommy John surgeries how to throw and they do that weird shot-put [motion]? So maybe Lipnicki was just ahead of the curve on biomechanics and stuff like that, you know? Little Joe Maddon.
B.S.: I just don’t think so.
C.R.: No? OK.