“Winners always want the ball… when the game is on the line.”
This is an important life lesson for all of us and should not be taken lightly. It’s a message about courage, strength, and the confidence to succeed, even if everything is at risk. The Replacements reminded us of that and woke up a sleeping giant in quarterback Shane Falco.
Falco, who is played by the incomparable Keanu Reeves, is the greatest movie quarterback ever created. That’s up for debate, sure, but he checks off every box needed. He is the underdog you love to root for, a very talented player, and the former superstar who got a second chance to redeem his past. That combination is lethal, and the Washington Sentinels quickly found that out during the pro football players’ strike.
It took head coach Jimmy McGinty — played by Gene Hackman — to bring the good back out of Falco, but once it happened, man, it was a beautiful, beautiful thing.
The Legend of Shane Falco
When The Replacements movie began, we saw a middle-aged Keanu Reeves scraping gunk off boats and throwing a trophy football underwater. That’s it. Nobody knew anything else. As it turns out, of course, there was much more to the story and a lot to unpack in his crazy life.
Shane Falco — also known as “Footsteps” Falco — played college football at Ohio State. He was obviously good because he played for the Buckeyes, a traditional college football powerhouse, and led them to an elite bowl game. However, that 1996 Sugar Bowl was a complete disaster, and Falco’s career spiraled out of control.
Falco, despite repeatedly called a scab by the team’s usual starting quarterback and asshole Eddie Martell, led the Sentinels to three wins in four games to make the playoffs, fell in love with a head cheerleader named Annabelle (Brooke Langton), and pulled off a second half comeback that even made The Waterboy’s Bobby Boucher blush.
And before the comeback against Dallas, Falco delivered a speech for the ages to make us love him even more.
“I wish I could say something classy and inspirational, but that just wouldn’t be our style. Pain heals, chicks dig scars, glory lasts forever.”
Falco was just a regular guy, out there balling out with his new buddies, and overcame a lot of demons and adversity to make it all happen. So could he take an NFL team to the playoffs? You’re damn right he could.
Here it out: Falco did all of this — starting with a close loss to Detroit and a heroic win against Dallas — with practically no viable offensive threat. A makeshift offensive line with bodyguards and a sumo wrestler in Jumbo Fumiko. A running back in Walter Cochran (Troy Winbush) with one good knee. A solid, but deaf tight end in Brian Murphy (David Denman). A wide receiver in Clifford Franklin (Orlando Jones) who needed Sitckum to catch the ball.
Not to mention, Falco had been living on a damn house boat for who knows how many years and just showed up throwing 40-yard bombs like it was a walk in the park. Imagine a full season under his belt with an adequate NFL offense. Would you really bet against that?
The Sentinels football team did have some other good players. Safety Earl Wilkinson or “Ray Smith” (Michael Jace) was a former NFL player before he went to prison. Linebacker Daniel Bateman (Jon Favreau) was a freaking maniac. Kicker Nigel Gruff (Rhys Ifans) had one of the best legs around.
At the end of the day, however, Falco was the glue that kept the team together, a natural leader, and the guy who knew how to make plays.
Most importantly, he is a winner and his underdog-to-hero status would make The Replacements Shane Falco #16 football jersey fly off the shelves forever.