Bears in the Pros: Clash of the Cal quarterbacks
The Wild Card eliminated the team with the most Golden Bears and set up a signalcaller showdown.
Wild Card Weekend
Of the fourteen teams entering the NFL Playoffs, a whopping twelve of them featured at least one California alumnus on the roster or among the coaching staff—if you give each team an equal shot at winning (i.e., each game is a 50–50 toss-up), then there’s an 85.7% chance that at least one Golden Bear will gain a Super Bowl ring come February.
The Wild Card Weekend match-ups presented a fantastic opportunity to knock out those non-California teams and ensure a Golden Bear would be named the Superb Owl… but the weekend was not kind to us. Congrats to TheBuckeyeBear, whose Cleveland Browns beat the Pittsburgh Steelers and DL Tyson Alualu in the midst of the first-round pick’s breakout season. But the most tragic news of the weekend was when Tom Brady carried the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the reprehensible Antonio Brown to a victory over the Washington Football Team—which features the greatest number of former Cal players at the absurd seven.
Two former Golden Bears enjoyed first-round byes—QB Aaron Rodgers with the Green Bay Packers and the injured OL Mitchell Schwartz with the Kansas City Chiefs.
In some quieter news, QB Davis Webb did not see any action for the Buffalo Bills as they beat the Indianapolis Colts. Though he isn’t seeing game time, he has been recognized by the coaching staff for the “value” he brings to the team and his tireless work ethic—work ethic he was renowed for during his time here.
The Baltimore Ravens have seen OL Patrick Mekari in action for all 14 games with 8 starts at right guard and center; across the season, he’s helped the Ravens lead the NFL in offense and set a franchise record for rushing touchdowns. Against the Tennessee Titans, he started at center, meaning he was the only offensive player who touched the ball on every snap and was responsible for getting the ball to the ever-exciting Lamar Jackson, so I can’t think of a more important offensive player than Mekari. The Ravens rode this offense to a 20–13 win over the Titans.
DL Cameron Jordan was relatively quiet as the New Orleans Saints soundly defeated the Chicago Bears, 21–9, only tallying five tackles. The most prominent part of the game was its coverage on Nickelodeon rather than anything that happened on the field. Though he has a similar number of tackles as last season, Jordan somewhat underwhelmed in his bid to follow up on his career-defining 2019; he earned 15.5 sacks last year and couldn’t even muster up half this year, with just 7.5.
For the Los Angeles Rams, Jared Goff stepped up to be a Pac-12 hero and vanquish Pete Carroll and a team from Seattle. Less than two weeks after getting surgery on his throwing hand, Goff was thrust back into his starting job after his replacement, John Wolford, took a hard hit to the head in the first quarter. Goff took some time to get up to speed and was clearly not fully recovered from surgery, but was able to protect the ball and do enough to help the Rams get the win.
Quarterback duels are dumb and so is forcing an elimination between two prominent Golden Bears.
But that’s where we are.
Unfortunately, the NFC is stacked with notable Bears—meaning they’ll have to knock each other out on the way to the Super Bowl.
Cleveland Browns vs. OL Mitchell Schwartz (who is “not going to be back” due to a back injury) and the Kansas City Chiefs
OL Patrick Mekari and the Baltimore Ravens vs. QB Davis Webb and the Buffalo Bills
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. DE Cam Jordan and the New Orleans Saints
QB Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams vs. QB Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers