Is Draft Day’s Coach Penn a Real NFL Coach?

‘Draft Day,’ an unconventional sports film, presents a story about the NFL, told during the 12 hours preceding the Annual player selection, NFL Drafts. Told from the perspective of Sonny Weaver Jr., the General Manager of the Cleveland Browns, the film follows the most stressful day in the man’s life as he attempts to turn a risky trade into the best maneuver of his career. As such, an ill-timed pregnancy revelation and the heavy burden of living up to his late father’s reputation add pressure to the day’s existing high stakes.

Within such a pressure cooker situation, Coach Penn, the newest addition to the Browns, only adds to Sonny’s predicament with his perpetually conflicting opinions about the team’s future. Given the film’s setting within such an admired sector of the sports industry, Penn’s position as a holder of the Super Bowl ring may lead viewers to wonder if the man actually has origins in a real-life NFL coach.

Coach Penn Is A Fictional Character

No, Coach Penn from ‘Draft Day’ is not based on an actual NFL Coach. Despite the film’s realistic setting and authentic portrayal of the framework within the NFL and its teams, the storyline itself remains fictionalized. As such, the characters who helm the story also emerge as works of fiction penned by screenplay writers Scott Rothman and Rajiv Joseph under Ivan Reitman’s direction. Consequently, Denis Leary’s driven Coach, Penn, is only a fictional character with no firm ties to reality.

Penn is brought into the narrative as the brand-new coach for the Cleveland Browns. His past success in the Super Bowl and his dedication to the sport promises a bright future for the Browns. Nevertheless, since Penn arrived as a replacement for Sonny Weaver Sr. following his death, tension persists between the coach and the latter’s son Sonny Weaver Jr., Browns’ Manager.

In addition to the same, the upcoming NFL Draft proves to be another conflicting event for the duo since Penn and Sonny initially have different approaches. Penn wants Sonny to construct a dependable team that can work together seamlessly. His game strategies require certain attention on the team’s defense and offense, requiring Sonny to pick specific players. Inversely, Sonny, whose career depends on this season’s pick, feels compelled to heed the team owner’s demands and equip a choice that will “make a splash” across the media.

As a result, Penn and Sonny arrive at a stalemate, with the former insisting on keeping their current Quarterback, Brian Drew. Meanwhile, the latter makes a risky trade for Bo Callahan, the season’s top-pick Quarterback. Therefore, the narrative skillfully establishes the two as rivals to create conflict within the storyline. Yet, like Penn, his riveting dynamic with Sonny, as it unravels within the film, also remains confined to fictionality.

Nevertheless, Penn’s addition ensures the narrative includes authentic details from the inner workings of a Football team and how the same affects draft picks. Even though the character may not have an origin in reality, Actor Leary still managed to borrow some inspiration from real life by getting in contact with Bill Belichick, who served as the New England Patriots coach for several years.

Leary spoke about the same in a conversation with The Hollywood Reporter and said, “The script was great, but a lot of the football details Bill [Belichick] helped us out with and improved some of the scenes at the same time that he knew there were certain scenes that had to be a certain way because this was a movie.” The actor continued, “[But] He definitely made a difference, from my end of it anyway.”

Therefore, although Belichick’s contribution did not shape Penn’s character, it helped provide an insight that enhanced his authenticity. Ultimately, Coach Penn is a fictional character.

Read More: Is Draft Day Based on a True Story?