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Netflix’s "Receiver" Should Work for NFL Fans Despite a Predictable Playbook

The wild success of Netflix’s “Quarterback” last summer led fans to imagine a new trio of ball-slingers to follow in summer 2024. The first season chronicled the 2022-23 seasons of Patrick Mahomes, Kirk Cousins, and Marcus Mariota, a perfect array of professional athletes in very different phases of their careers. How could they top it? Could they convince one of the challengers to the Mahomes throne like Lamar Jackson or Joe Burrow? What about someone fighting for their job like Justin Fields? Tua always has a story to tell. 

Rumors started to circulate that the warts-and-all access needed by the Peyton Manning-produced show was scaring off potential subjects, and those seemed verified when Netflix announced that there would be no “Quarterback” in July 2024, pivoting instead to a different position on the football field, one that’s often been characterized by people who have NO issue being in the spotlight. Welcome to “Receiver,” an 8-episode chronicle of the 2023-24 season through the eyes of five ball-catchers from four different teams. Fans of these players, teams, and really football in general, will find this to be an easy watch, even if it’s hard to shake the feeling that much of what we’re seeing has been through multiple approval processes, sometimes playing more like advertising for the NFL than an honest pulling back of the curtain.

Once again, the producers have to be given credit for finding season-long narratives worth telling. (One wonders what would happen if they picked wrong and got a dull season like, I don’t know, the one Kyle Pitts had in Atlanta.) They ended up with three players who made the NFC Championship game, one who struggled with injury for the first time in his already-notable career, and a legend who seemed stuck in a broken program until a coaching change gave him hope for the future. As a card-carrying Detroit Lions fan, the inclusion of Amon-Ra St. Brown means I would have watched 45 episodes, even if reliving the trauma of the circus catch from the NFC Championship game may not have been good for my mental health. He’s joined by competitors from that game in Deebo Samuel & George Kittle (not technically a receiver but a show called “Tight End” might get an unintended audience) from the San Francisco 49ers, Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings, and Davante Adams of the Las Vegas Raiders.

All five men feel genuine in the moments chosen by the producers and editors, but there’s a sense if you look hard that these illusions of personal access have been very carefully considered. Davante’s frustration with the first half of the Raiders seasons is there, because it has to be, but one never really feels like they’re dealing with the triumphs and tribulations of the position as much as skipping through a highlight reel of five pretty darn good seasons. Part of the problem is in the structure that forces so much jumping around among the five participants by virtue of being chronological. Given the success of “Quarterback” and the likely success of “Receiver,” I doubt anyone will fix something they don’t think is broken, but there’s a stronger version of this concept that stays with a single player through the whole season for maybe two full episodes instead of forcing us to remember where we’re at in the year and that player’s journey before jumping to another one.  

That kind of structure would allow a greater appreciation of Justin Jefferson’s tumultuous season, one that saw him miss games for the first time since high school, only to return and get hit so hard that he started spitting up blood. That scene is one of the most striking of the season because it feels like we’re seeing something the regular NFL broadcasts like to avoid: the actual human cost of playing football. There are also beats in which the phenomenal Adams speaks about how he works so hard during the season that he doesn’t get to spend much time with his kids. So much of “Receiver” is satisfied with celebrating some of the best to ever play the game that it doesn’t understand that humanizing them in these beats like the ones with Jefferson and Adams makes us love and admire them even more.

To be fair, it’s hard not to love George Kittle, who brings such passion, humor, and humanity to everything he does. Watching him celebrate his grandmother’s 100th birthday or open a collection of Christmas gifts that reminds us that he’s really a big kid at heart (lots of LEGOs) is undeniably charming. He’s a great ambassador for the game, someone who doesn’t give up on a play, supports his teammates, and loves to block as much as score. I may be biased but St. Brown comes off phenomenally too – a player who is still putting his own body in jeopardy in games they have no chance of winning. And the interactions with his unforgettable parents are reality TV greatness.

Clearly, there’s enough to like about “Receiver” for football fans like myself, but it may work even better for the casual Sunday sports ball viewer. That I sometimes found myself hoping it would dig in deeper or take more time with the darker side of the game is indicative of how much I already knew about the players and the overall arc of last season. It also did get me playing the same casting game as I did last year, although my suspicion is that we may shift position yet again. Running Backs should expect a call any day now.

Whole season screened for review. Now on Netflix.

Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico is the Managing Editor of, and also covers television, film, Blu-ray, and video games. He is also a writer for Vulture, The Playlist, The New York Times, and GQ, and the President of the Chicago Film Critics Association.

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