tampabay.com

Take two

By TOM JONES
Published September 17, 2006


BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A COACHING ROLE

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is drawing respectable reviews for his performance as a football coach in the just-released movie Gridiron Gang. No surprise considering Johnson played football at the University of Miami.

But it got us thinking about actors playing coaches in football movies. Here's our favorite five:

CRAIG T. NELSON as Coach Nickerson in All the Right Moves (1983): Walking around the practice field with a golf driver in one hand and player's facemask in the other, Nelson completely nails the obsessed, win-at-all-costs, it's-all-about-me high school football coach.

DENZEL WASHINGTON as Herman Boone in Remember the Titans (2000). The message of the movie and the Disney-style ending don't erase the scenes in which Washington appropriately comes off as unlikable when being the drill-sergeant coach who thinks a message is best delivered in a loud tone.

G.D. SPRADLIN as B.A. Strothers in North Dallas Forty (1979). From Sen. Geary in The Godfather, Part II to Gen. Durrell in The Lords of Discipline, Spradlin always plays the part of the guy we love to hate. No different here. Loosely based on Tom Landry, Strothers is cold as ice and treats football as a business in which the players are merely cogs in the machine. Spradlin is perfect even when he's not saying anything.

BILLY BOB THORNTON as Gary Gaines in Friday Night Lights (2004). The easy route when playing a high school coach is to scream, kick over garbage cans and slap players. Instead, Thornton goes the other way as a private man who mostly keeps his thoughts to himself. And it works. Well.

TOM BERENGER as Bear Bryant in Junction Boys (2002). This ESPN-made film about the infamous 10 days of Texas A&M training camp in 1954 isn't great, but it is saved by Berenger's scary performance as the legendary college coach. Berenger is even better as the latter-day Bryant, who tries to remain proud while worrying about the reception he will receive from the players he treated so poorly.