Bears in the Pros: Introducing the villain of the NFL Playoffs

One final team stands in the way of a shiny new Super Bowl ring for a Golden Bear.

Non-playoff news

Briefly, head coach Ron Rivera’s Washington Football Team made news with a historic hire:

King has spent the 2020 season as a “full-year coaching intern” who specifically worked with the running backs and was the first Black female in the history of the NFL in that position. She previously “won multiple championships as an All-American player for the Carolina Phoenix” of the Womens’s Football Alliance, coached women’s college basketball, and served two internships under Rivera.

Divisional round

Eight teams entered the divisional round of the NFL Playoffs with six of them featuring California representation. If each game were a 50–50 coin toss, this means a 75% chance that a Golden Bear would walk away from Super Bowl LV with a ring (down from 85.7% at the start of the Playoffs).

Unfortunately, there was some Cal-on-Cal violence that we were forced to behold. OL Patrick Mekari—who started at center for the Baltimore Ravens—saw the end of his quest for the Super Bowl at the hands of the Buffalo Bills, where Davis Webb is a back-up quarterback. Mekari had a rough night thanks to the crowd noise, which resulted in pre-snap communication issues and problems with the snap count, with two of his snaps “result[ing] in fumbles”.

But the big game of the weekend was the Cal Bowl—which saw Jared Goff and the Rams face off against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Goff had a fine day—especially considering he was just coming off thumb surgery—but Rodgers had a finer day and led his team to victory and the next round. Goff pledged to come back “stronger than ever before”, but is facing questions if the team would be better without him and if he and head coach Sean McVay need “marriage counseling”. For Rodgers, the world decided to ensure the chip on his shoulder gets a little chippier—former NFL executive Gil Brandt is forcing Aaron to relive those painful memories by penning his experience in the 2005 NFL Draft, how he tried to warn Rodgers that he was going to fall in the draft, and how Cal & Jeff Tedford factored into Rodgers slipping away from the number-one pick.

Rodgers was more of a wild card for not only [new Miami head coach Nick] Saban but the rest of the NFL. Why did no one recruit the Chico, California, quarterback out of high school? Why did he end up at Butte Community College? And what was up with that high-ball grip he was taught at Cal by coach Jeff Tedford? Speaking of Tedford, why did so many of his previous college star quarterbacks (Akili Smith, Joey Harrington, Kyle Boller) have less-than-stellar careers in the NFL? Would Rodgers be next in line?

But overall, there was at least one positive, pro-Cal moment that the media covered. As Aaron and Jared met at the end of the game, the commentators mentioned what a great moment it was for “the two Cal quarterbacks”. May all the ‘croots out there hear and take notice of Cal—the only school to have two current NFL quarterbacks who have been to the Super Bowl.

But the Divisional Round was set up well for us with each of the two non-Cal teams scheduled to face a team with a California alumnus—allowing for potential elimination of those tainted teams.

One of those elimination games went exactly to plan. Though RT Mitchell Schwartz is still out with a back injury, his Kansas City Chiefs were victorious over the Cleveland Browns.

However, the second elimination game did not go our way—making it clear which team is the enemy of the 2021 NFL Playoffs. The last non-Cal team standing in the NFL Playoffs is Tampa Bay, led by Tom Brady and the cavalcade of controversies known as Antonio Brown. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the New Orleans Saints and Cam Jordan in what might be Drew Brees’s final season. Jordan attributed the loss to the Bucs’ ability to run the ball and took responsibility that the D-line should have stopped the run and the defense for not securing some key takeaways.

Sea shanties and wellermen be damned—the Buccaneers are the enemy and must be downed.

Championship Round

The AFC Championship game could have been so interesting for California if Mitchell Schwartz were uninjured and actively joining the Kansas City Chiefs in their bid to repeat as Super Bowl champions. Instead, the Cal involvement will be minimal with an injured Schwartz unable to play for the Chiefs against the Buffalo Bills, where Davis Webb will likely be on the sidelines. I guess all I’m hoping for in this game is for Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes to be relentlessly pressured from the right side of the line and for fans and analysts to miss Schwartz’s blocking.

It is a much easier decision in the NFC Championship game—may Aaron Rodgers and the Packers sink the Buccaneers en route to another Super Bowl and MVP for the former Golden Bear.