Warning: Contains SPOILERS for Home Team
Netflix’s sports comedy Home Team is based on a true story, but as with all true story films, the real-life characters moved on and the movie made certain story changes to heighten theatricality and improve the narrative flow. That said, some of the things that remain true about the movie may be surprising to some viewers. Home Team follows the events immediately after the 2012 season suspension of New Orleans Saints’ head coach Sean Payton (Kevin James) after the scandal known as “Bountygate,” in which Saints players were given bounties to purposefully injure opposing players that included Minnesota Vikings star veteran Brett Favre and Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner. However, while these real figures play a central part in the story, there are elements to the drama that take liberties with the truth.
Home Team focuses on Sean Payton and his too-good-to-be-true story before he was brought back onto the Saints in the 2013 season. Being the first NFL coach to ever be suspended for any reason, some believe Home Team glosses over the controversial Bountygate scandal too lightly. However, of all coaches to have serious scandals tarnish their career, like the “Spygate” and “Deflategate” scandals against Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots, Payton had an especially unusual off-coaching story. For instance, while not being allowed to coach NFL football during his suspension, Payton returned to his family in Argyle, Texas and coached his son’s middle school football team, the Liberty Christian Warriors. Home Team comes from Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions and Kevin James’ Hey Eddie Productions, resulting in another collaboration between the comedians after movies like I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry and Hubie Halloween.
Looking at the story, it’s easy to believe that the film is more fiction than fact, and it’s true that film plays fast and loose with some elements of its story. For example, the entire football team didn’t all start collectively vomiting on the field after eating homemade “Super Logs.” Nonetheless, Home Team’s all-star cast portrays real people and events. Here are some of the shockingly true events of Home Team, including some changes made to the story along with the present-day lives of the real main characters.
True – Yes, Sean Payton Really Did Coach His Son’s Team
Even though the basis of the film is about Sean Payton coaching his son’s middle school football team, those going into the film unfamiliar with how true of a story it is may be surprised to learn that in this case, fact is stranger than fiction. While lots of kids in football can claim that their dad is one of the coaches, it is much less common for the coach to be a bonafide NFL professional. However, in this case, young Connor Payton benefitted both from a familial bond and some genuinely world-class coaching. Although the Bountygate scandal mention alone merits Home Team a “true story” credit, the scarsely believable middle school football coaching connection makes much of the movie a genuinely true story – as opposed to something like the Coen Brothers’ Fargo, for example.
Change – Ex-Wife’s Husband and Coach Troy Lambert
Beth Shuey did remarry to a man named Jamie, but no evidence indicates that he’s anything like Rob Schneider’s man bun-flaunting, transcendental meditating character. More notably, Payton and Shuey filed for divorce in June 2012, which is during Payton’s suspension and when Home Team takes place. The divorce wasn’t finalized until 2014. Therefore, she wouldn’t have been remarried during the movie’s events. Rob Schneider is a longtime Adam Sandler collaborator, having worked on such Happy Madison movies as Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo and Grown Ups.
Another notable character changed for the movie is Taylor Lautner’s Coach Troy Lambert. Lautner’s character is greatly inspired by Brennan Hardy, who coached the Warriors during the 2012 season with Payton while he was studying at Texas Christian University. On the other hand, there’s no proof of Gary Valentine’s Coach Mitch Bizone being inspired by any real-life Warriors coach. With the character’s dependency to “coach juice,” one can only hope.
True – Using Simplified Saints Plays for Son’s Team
The Saints won the Super Bowl in 2009 with Sean Payton, which is all the more understandable that the kids in the movie are as excited as they are to receive real Saints playbook plays from their offensive coordinator. Even better is the fact that this is something that Coach Payton really did. If other football movies and shows like Friday Night Lights proves anything, it’s the fact that football is king in Texas. Not only did the Warriors have Sean Payton’s kid on their team to brag about, they could also use real Saints plays on the field – albeit, plays simplified for 12-year-olds.
Change – The Warriors Weren’t As Bad As The Movie Makes Them
Movies need a conflict, which isn’t provided with a dominating football team. In Home Team, the Warriors celebrated for just putting something on the scoreboard with a “we got a touchdown” chant that reverberates throughout the film. Until Coach Payton arrives on the team, single-touchdown games turn into full-on wins that lead to a championship with the formidable Porcupines. It’s a classic underdog story that’s seen in sports comedies like Rebound and Dodgeball, and a formula that nearly led to a Mighty Ducks 4.
The real Liberty Christian Warriors weren’t actually struggling that much. They were a pretty decent team, starting their season with a 30-0 win, but Sean Payton’s arrival did cause them to improve dramatically. The team regularly shut the scoreboard off, which is something that really does happen in middle school football after a certain amount of points.
Change – Contacting Coach Bill Parcells, Not Bill Cowher for Porcupines Game Help
In what appears to be a comedic gag in the film, Sean Payton calls former Pittsburgh Steelers’ head coach Bill Cowher to help him with an old formation called a “single-wing” used by the rival Springtown Porcupines. The Porcupines were a real team that played against the otherwise undefeated Warriors in the championship game, and Sean Payton actually called up a former head coach for help. Also in real life, the Warriors narrowly lost the championship to the Porcupines.
Sandler-produced movies aren’t averse to using celebrity cameos for laughs, with pro golfer Lee Trevino in Happy Gilmore being a classic example. However, Cowher’s cameo is additionally used to represent Bill Parcells, Payton’s mentor and the former head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, New York Jets, New England Patriots, and the New York Giants. Considering that Parcells is 80 years old and hasn’t worked since 2010, he was probably not up for a Home Team cameo. Bill Cowher, however, is still working and is currently a football analyst for CBS Sports’ NFL Today.
Change – Sean Payton’s Daughter Isn’t In The Film
Home Team shows Sean Payton returning to his ex-wife and son, played by Jackie Sandler and Tait Blum, respectively. Missing from the picture, however, is Payton’s daughter Meghan. True story portrayals sometimes remove characters if they’re not relevant to the narrative. At 24 years of age, Meghan Payton is a sports reporter based out of Los Angeles for Chat Sports.
Now – Sean Payton is “Retiring” From Coaching NFL Football
While Kevin James wants to join the Twi-Dads fan club after working with Twilight‘s Taylor Lautner, the real-life Sean Payton announced on January 25, 2022 that he will be stepping out as the Saints head coach. Since there’s no word on who he’ll coach next, sources are treating the announcement like a retirement. However, Payton wants to avoid that word, claiming that he still sees himself doing things for football. This announcement comes a year after Saints quarterback Drew Brees stepped down.
Now – What Connor Payton Is Doing Today
Connor Payton is now 21 years old. Not much is made public about his life, but sources indicate that he’s attending Texas Christian University. He’s still on good terms with his dad and has spoken up about Payton’s retirement announcement. Home Team is boosting his name up, but he’s otherwise living a normal life.
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