It's 1925 and the concept of professional football is sputtering along like an ill-running Model T. Teams such as the Duluth Bulldogs are dogged by slow ticket sales, insufficient sponsorships and a general lack of interested fans.
What the league needs is someone to save them---someone with clout or better yet celebrity status. In Dodge Connelly's (George Clooney) mind, Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski) is that man. The decorated war hero is one of Princeton's finest football front men and a huge crowd pleaser. Offering Carter a chance to play along side him with the Bulldogs, Dodge is convinced that the university squad member can pull the league out of it's slump and send it down the field for a touchdown.
Covering the conversion from collegiate play to pro is Lexie Littleton (Renee Zellweger), a feisty female reporter who has her eye on the editor's desk. However with notebook in hand, the tough-minded correspondent wants to do more than report final scores. Like every ambitious journalist, she digs for scandal and finds it. But what she isn't counting on is the ruckus the exposure causes or the sideline plays both Dodge and Carter make to attract her attention.
With plenty of verbal sparring and a haze of cigarette smoke, the comedy is like watching the keystone cops take to the field amid allegations of bribery, speakeasies and drunken brawls. Unfortunately it's a combination that is hard to maintain for long. While the slapstick is entertaining in doses, it doesn't always mesh well with the more serious storyline.
In an era when women were pushing the limits of their opportunities and celebrities hawked smoking products along with household items, the frequent use of alcohol, chewing tobacco and cigarettes (including a child smoking) may not have been unusual. Yet for today's parent, the role models are anything but ideal.
Still given the amount of talent on screen, the film could (and should) have offered so much more. Instead these characters skirt around the truth of the past and artfully dodge any real scoring chances with audiences as the pigskin passes from the days of football free-for-alls to the rule-bound rigors of the modern sport.