The film opens with a professional football game being played in Washington, D.C. During the final minutes of the game, commentators John Madden and Pat Summerall (playing themselves) discuss the fact that at midnight, all of the players in the League will go on strike since contract negotiations with the owners have failed, perilously close to the end of the regular playing season. Due to League regulations, the strike cannot extend into the post-season. The Sentinels are poised to continue into the post-season playoffs if they win three of the last four regular season games. Edward O'Neil, owner of the Washington Sentinels, contacts former head coach Jimmy McGinty, recruiting him to put together a team of replacement players during the strike. McGinty agrees on two conditions: that he have no interference in his coaching from O'Neil and that his choices for the replacements be unquestioned. While other teams recruit semi-pro or former pro players, McGinty assembles an eclectic group of players that confuse the other coaching staff.