'A Football Life' tackles revised ending to 'Jerry Maguire'

Who would have ever guessed that Rod "SHOW ME THE MONEY!" Tidwell would eventually turn down even bigger money and retire because he lost his "Quan?" Or that former No. 1 overall pick, Frank Cushman, would have his career derailed by an acute case of athlete's foot?

Yes, those events actually transpired to the star NFL players featured in *Jerry Maguire *-- at least in the minds of the writers.

As part of the release of the 20th anniversary Blu-ray edition of Jerry Maguire, which includes 60 minutes of deleted and extended scenes, NFL Media teamed with Sony Pictures Home Entertainment to produce two new videos to chart what happened to those memorable characters in the movie starring Tom Cruise.

The vehicle to tell those stories is through the NFL Network's A Football Life *series.* The humorous videos follow the same format as the popular series, right down to the signature narration of Josh Charles. They feature former NFL players, such as Kurt Warner, Michael Irvin, and Terrell Davis, and non-football big names like Shaquille O'Neal and Vanilla Ice, all weighing in on the imaginary lives of Tidwell and Cushman. Jay Mohr reprises his role of Maguire's rival, snarky agent Bob Sugar, and Jerry O'Connell returns as the self-absorbed Cushman, and Beau Bridges as his father.

"Jerry Maguire probably is one of the coolest football-meets-pop culture movies ever made," said Dan Dieffenbach, the coordinating producer for original content at NFL Network. "We thought it would be exciting to see where these characters end up."

"Who wouldn't want to know what happened to those guys?" said Lexine Wong, Sony Pictures' senior executive vice president for worldwide marketing. "We love the concept."

When fans first saw the Cameron Crowe-directed film, which debuted in 1996, they were caught up in the tale of Maguire (Cruise) trying to balance his career as a struggling agent along with his rocky relationship with Dorothy Boyd (Renee Zellweger). Maguire's business almost implodes when Cushman, the top pick in the upcoming draft, jilts him at the last minute to sign with Sugar. Only Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.) sticks with Maguire. In the end, the colorful but flaky receiver for the Arizona Cardinals redeems both of them by making the big game-winning catch, which eventually gets him the big contract.

Dieffenbach thought A Football Life provided the ideal platform to tell the updated version of Tidwell and Cushman's stories.

"We wanted to play it straight-faced," Dieffenbach said. "We wanted to tell these stories with the utmost sincerity. That's what makes for good humor. It really strikes a chord."

Dieffenbach said it was essential for real-life stars to also play it straight in the interviews, albeit with a wink and a nod.

"Kurt Warner was the star of the Tidwell piece," Dieffenbach said. "He was so believable."

Indeed, Wong contends the "mockumentary" format is so believable, it might even fool some people.

"If you're not paying attention, you might think these things actually happened," Wong said.

Adding to the authenticity are shots of Gooding as Tidwell actually practicing with the Cardinals during the making of Jerry Maguire. During a conference call, Dieffenbach said, someone from Crowe's team casually mentioned they had 30-40 minutes of footage that never had seen the light of the day.

"They asked, 'Would we be interested?'" Dieffenbach said. "That footage was our golden nugget. It was the launching pad for what we wanted to do."

Dieffenbach said the writers had several versions for the updated storylines of the two characters. There was even some fluctuation depending on what actors and real-life stars were available.

Ultimately, they went with an ironic twist with Tidwell. The player who was obsessed with the money in the film winds up walking away from a $100-million deal.

"He's always been about that Quan. And if the Quan ain't there, the cash means nothing," said Tidwell's brother, Tee Pee, in the video.

As for Cushman, Dieffenbach said there was some consideration to making him a complete bust. However, they went with something more absurd. Fittingly, Cushman, who was depicted as lame in the movie, is knocked out by something lame, athlete's foot. After getting dumped by Sugar, Cushman rejoins Maguire and opens a facility that treats "misunderstood sports ailments."

"I dream of a future where nobody has even heard of athlete's foot," said Cushman in the video. "Not because it's obscure, but because it's been eradicated. A future where my grandkids can walk the earth without ever feeling the burden that I carried."

Adding to the retrospective, bonus videos include Detroit receiver Golden Tate doing his version of Gooding's famous "Show Me the Money" scene; former quarterback Ryan Leaf alleges Cushman stole "the Cush Lash" concept from him.

It all is very tongue-in-cheek and fun. Ultimately, though, the packages resonate because of the lasting power of Jerry Maguire. Wong said the movie had a "tremendous amount of heart," and that Maguire and others were compelling underdogs.

Dieffenbach pointed to several iconic scenes. Besides "Show Me the Money," Zellweger's line of "you had me at hello" to Maguire is firmly locked into pop culture.

"Crowe is an incredible storyteller," Dieffenbach said. "He put two worlds together that are near and dear to a lot people: Football and relationships. To create so many iconic moments out of one film is amazing. Those scenes will be just as powerful 40 years out as they are at 20 years."

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