NFL training camps have begun, meaning we’re tantalizingly close to football. In fact, the first pre-season game begins a week from today. If, like me, you’re just itching for some football, ESPN has you covered. Since it debuted in 2009, the 30 For 30 documentary series has been an engrossing exploration of sports and the stories behind the greatest moments and games in our history. One of the best collections of those films is their NFL documentaries. So, in honor of the start of the season, today I’m looking at five of my favorite 30 For 30 football documentaries.
Do you have a favorite 30 For 30 football film? Share it in the comments or hit me up on Twitter @knighthawk7734.
The Band That Wouldn’t Die (30 For 30, Vol. 1)
About: In the middle of the night moving trucks arrived in Baltimore, Maryland, and began clearing out the Colts facility. A few days later, it was announced the Colts had fled their home in Baltimore for the confines of Indianapolis. This left behind a shattered and broken-hearted fanbase, and a marching band that refused to quit on a league that had left them behind. This film from director Barry Levinson captures their story in a gripping and moving way, from the team leaving until the Ravens arrived more than a decade later. This was the second 30 For 30 documentary released, and it remains one of the most compelling.
Run Ricky Run (30 For 30, Vol. 1)
About: We spend a lot of time talking about receiver Josh Gordon and what might have been, but the first guy to walk down that road was arguably running back Ricky Williams. His career began with the Saints’ paying a ransom to draft him, while he had some great years running for the Dolphins. But his career was marred by failed drug tests. This film, from directors Sean Pamphilon and Royce Toni, explores the man behind the career, telling his story and showcasing his life away from the game. It’s a fascinating exploration that helps you see Williams in a new way.
Elway to Marino (30 For 30, Vol. 2)
About: This documentary from director Ken Rodgers is my favorite 30 For 30 film. This one is narrated by Tom Selleck and explores the First Round of the 1983 draft, which featured six quarterbacks drafted. The first of those, John Elway, and the final of those, Dan Marino, were both represented by Marvin Demoff, who shares his diary kept during the draft process. It also explores the careers of those selected, featuring some great interviews with Elway, Marino and the rest of the Class of 1983. It’s a heck of a lot of fun.
The Four Falls of Buffalo (30 For 30, Vol. 3)
About: This one also comes from Rodgers, released in December of 2015. This is another of my favorites, centering on the prolific run of the Buffalo Bills in the 1990s. If you’ve been reading my series on the best players of all time in the NFL, then you’d know I think these Bills teams were great and under-rated. They made the Super Bowl four years in a row, losing them all. Still, it was an incredibly achievement from a great group of players, and this film celebrates that.
The Two Bills (30 For 30, Vol. 3)
About: A third film from Rodgers, who basically is the best football documentary director in this series, this one focuses on the relationship and careers of Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick. Both are incredible coaches who’ve won many Super Bowls and had success with many teams. They began as a pair before going their separate ways near the end. This brings both together to look at their journey with the Giants, Patriots and Jets, and it’s a fantastic exploration and dive into these two legendary coaches.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.