EXCLUSIVE: As the NFL is heading to the semi-centennial Super Bowl L in 2016, the league is eyeing a big-scope historical drama project about its past. I have learned that the NFL has teamed with filmmaker Jon Favreau (Iron Man) and producer Kevin Misher (Carrie) for a sprawling scripted series that chronicles the history of football in America that predates the launch of the professional league in 1920. It follows the evolution of the sport decade by decade up to the present. I hear Favreau and Misher had been working on the idea for several years. The series, which doesn’t have a writer yet, is envisioned to run over multiple seasons.
I hear the NFL, Favreau and Misher pitched the project to multiple outlets a couple of weeks ago. Interested networks were asked to submit offers, which I hear a number of them did, led by NBC and Fox — which carry NFL games — and A&E/History. The process has been spearheaded by WME, which reps the NFL. The agency, working with CAA, which reps Favreau and Misher, has been evaluating the offers and presenting them to the league.
After a two-week pause to organize things, I hear negotiations with the networks pursuing the project are expected to begin next week. And I hear that there might be a surprising, out-of-the-box play along with the traditional network agreements that would be considered. That would not include digital player Netflix, which has been involved in a number of big-ticket series deals in the past few years but I hear is sitting this one out.
The NFL originally was called the American Professional Football Conference when a group of mostly Ohio-based club teams organized the first pro league in 1920. The Green Bay Packers were allowed into the league the next year, and the year after that the name was changed to the National Football League. It survived lean years during the Depression and World War II and several rival leagues, most notably the American Football League, which began play in 1960 and merged with the NFL in 1966. In between the sport grew thanks to TV and the expansion of the league from the Midwest to both coasts. The sport’s popularity also was propelled by a wide-ranging cast of colorful characters, from owners to coaches to players, that become household names. Those include early stars like Olympian Jim Thorpe and later the likes George Halas, Vince Lombardi, Jim Brown and Joe Namath.
Favreau is coming off the success of his indie Chef, which was released in May and has grossed $46 million.