When the late great Dennis Green was coaching the Arizona Cardinals and went on his epic rant after a Monday Night meltdown at the hands of Devin Hester and the Chicago Bears, the context of his immortalized ‘They are who we thought they were!’ quote was directed towards just one team; the Bears. Stretching the limits of Green’s imagination, however, applying that quote to two different teams seems possible, and after this weekend, appropriate. 

The Green Bay Packers were destined towards dynasty status after winning the Super Bowl in 2010. They had it all; a 27-year-old All-Pro quarterback in Aaron Rodgers, weapons galore surrounding him, and a top-notch defense to round it out. The cleanest and quickest way to sustain being competitive in the NFL is to have the young and dominant quarterback, and the Packers had it. However, the nature of the game itself and the NFL single-elimination postseason makes actually winning in this league all the more difficult. You have to constantly be on your P’s and Q’s all the time in the NFL postseason, and the Packers have repeatedly fallen short in this regard every year from 2010 onward. The year after the Super Bowl, there was a meltdown against the eventual champion New York Giants. There was getting run over like a snowplow by Colin Kaepernick in Lambeau Field twice in a row (almost seems like this Kaepernick fellow is pretty good and good enough to be in the league). The NFC Championship game against the Seahawks was the most heartbreaking after then-Head Coach Mike McCarthy got shook with conservative playcalling and then Brandon Bostick happened. There was the Rodgers’ Hail Mary against the Arizona Cardinals that the team squandered by not going for the win and eventually losing in overtime without getting the ball back, exactly what happened the year prior in Seattle. Those were the team’s best chances at winning the whole thing. Rodgers carried the Packers to another NFC Championship against the Atlanta Falcons, but that team had no business being there (just ask LaDarius Gunter trying to guard Julio Jones that day). Injuries to Aaron Rodgers robbed the Packers’ chances of competing the next two seasons and eventually cost Mike McCarthy his job as Head Coach. Once Matt LaFleur was hired as Head Coach of the Packers in 2019, his new offensive scheme, though it came with growing pains in year one, got the team back into the NFC Championship game only to get run over yet again by the San Francisco 49ers (this time by Raheem Mostert). Though the Packers were a candidate to regress in 2020, Aaron Rodgers wouldn’t let it happen, turning back the clock like Doc Brown in his DeLorean to add another MVP season to his illustrious title belt. Yet for a multitude of reasons, the chance was all for not yet again.

Like the numerous previous playoff fallouts, it’s hard to pin the blame on Rodgers. That isn’t to say he’s above criticism; the interception (though a clear and obvious hold on Sean Murphy-Bunting) was a bit late and a throw Rodgers didn’t need to force. He missed chances in the red zone, including a chance late in the game down eight to possibly scramble around the pilon. He and star receiver Davante Adams were not clicking on all cylinders the way they’ve been accustomed to. The ball met Rodgers’ target, but the pass was broken up by multiple Bucs converging on the Packers’ receiver. What happened next, however, was nearly as inexcusable as letting Scotty Miller get behind the secondary at the end of the first half when a deep bomb was literally the only thing that could hurt the Packers in that situation: Matt LaFleur opted for a field goal instead of going for it on fourth down. Down 8. With two minutes to go. Regardless, the Packers needed a touchdown. Sure, you kick a field goal, hope for a stop (the Packers did have all three timeouts plus the two-minute warning to their disposal), then hope Rodgers carries the team like he had all game. If anyone could do it, it’s him. But it wreaked cowardice to not let the MVP of the league take another shot at the end zone there, something Packer fans like myself have become way too accustomed towards these last 10 years.

If you have read my work, you’d know that I am a Lakers fan to go along with being a Packers fan. What made the Lakers’ championship run in the bubble so special and fulfilling was not that it was the Lakers’ last chance at competing for a title, but that it was their best shot. They may win it again this year; I happen to think this year’s team is and has the chance to be better than last year’s team. But the Clippers improved, the Nets just added James bleeping Harden to Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Nikola Jokic and Luka Doncic are playing at MVP levels in the Western Conference. The Utah Jazz are humming. The Bucks added Jrue Holiday to go with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton. The Miami Heat basically brought back the team that pushed the Lakers to six games in the Finals. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons finally have shooting to surround them. The Lakers are still the best of this bunch. They *should* win it all again. But even if they don’t, they already added a championship in LeBron James and Anthony Davis’ window. This run is already a success if they don’t ever win another title.

What makes the Packers’ loss yesterday so difficult is not the many previous runs that fell short, not just that it was the Packers’ best shot, but that it might be their last shot. Undoubtedly, this was the Packers’ best chance to get back to the Super Bowl. They finally had an NFC Title game in Lambeau Field, the first one since 2007 in what wound up being Brett Favre’s last game as a Green Bay Packer. Though the Packers had turnovers and mistakes of their own, they failed to forgive themselves after picking off Tom Brady three times, twice by All-Pro Jaire Alexander. Though the Packers deserved to lose the game, they still had chances to win the game, and arguably should have, yet fell short again. Now, will come questions of Aaron Rodgers’ future after drafting Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 Draft. Spoiler alert: Rodgers is not going anywhere at least for the next year, probably two. Yet after using the word ‘gutted’ multiple times in his post-game press conference, it’s hard not to empathize and disagree with Aaron Rodgers after watching his best shot at getting back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2010 get flushed down the toilet.

Meanwhile, in Kansas City, the Chiefs are looking every bit the part of an ongoing dynasty. Remember what I said about constantly having to be on your P’s and Q’s in the playoffs? Well, that’s what Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Tyrann Mathieu, Andy Reid, Eric Bieniemy, and Steve Spagnuolo have done the last three seasons. Including the playoffs, the Chiefs’ record in the Mahomes era is 42-9 in games Mahomes has started. Somehow even more incredible, courtesy of Emmanuel Acho on Twitter, the last time Patrick Mahomes II has lost a game by more than one possession was in November of 2016 while still in college. Think how crazy that is for a second.

This Chiefs team’s margin for error is the largest I’ve ever seen in the NFL, reminiscent of the 2015-19 Golden State Warriors where you look up, Golden State goes on a 15-0 run in two minutes and the game ends in the blink of an eye. Mahomes is doing that in football! Last year, the Chiefs fell down 24-0 against the Houston Texans in the Divisional Round, only to outscore the Texans 51-7 afterward. They dropped 10 straight points to open last year’s AFC Championship Game against the Tennessee Titans in the next round only to go on a 35-7 run to put that game away. The Chiefs trailed by 10 in the Super Bowl a year ago with 2:35 left in the third quarter but responded by scoring three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to take out the San Francisco 49ers that steamrolled the Packers the round prior. This year, the Bills jumped out to a 9-0 lead that the Chiefs made quick work of, outsourcing the Bills 38-6 before the Bills added nine additional points in garbage time. It was likely the Chiefs’ best game of the season so far. The Chiefs have been held below 20 points just twice in the three years of Mahomes as the starting quarterback. In the playoffs, Mahomes teams have scored 31, 31, 51, 35, 31, 22, and 38 points, and the 22 against the Cleveland Browns was in large part due to Mahomes getting injured during the third quarter. Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy continue to push the limits of what is possible with Mahomes at the helm. They’re always on their P’s and Q’s. They’re always in control. They always stay aggressive. At this point, the Chiefs are like Thanos; they are inevitable.

The crazy part is that the Chiefs’ window is about as extensive as what Green Bay’s was after Rodgers won his first Super Bowl, yet the Chiefs under Mahomes are already more accomplished. They’ve made two consecutive Super Bowls and should’ve been three if not for an offsides call on then-Chief Dee Ford and Mahomes losing in Rodgers-like fashion by not getting the ball back in OT. Mahomes is only 25. Andy Reid isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Seeing that the NFL never hires black coaches, Reid pulled a heady play to promote Eric Bieniemy to Offensive Coordinator knowing he won’t get hired (I kid, but it really is ridiculous he hasn’t gotten a head coaching job somewhere. At this point, Bieniemy should just say bleep all of you and stay in Kansas City and take over once Andy Reid calls it a career. Why not?). Tyreek Hill is just 26. Travis Kelce is 31 years old, but he can still play into his mid-to-late 30s. Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates did; why can’t Kelce? Every play he gallops into open grass 20 yards at a time. Mahomes has already taken down his biggest competition in the playoffs before in Deshaun Watson and Josh Allen, great quarterbacks themselves who will be in the thick of things in the AFC as long as they play. Lamar Jackson will have a say in these matters too. We’ll see if Justin Herbert, Joe Burrow, and Trevor Lawrence can raise their franchises out of the abyss, as well as Watson if he stays in Houston or gets dealt elsewhere in the conference. Baker Mayfield revitalized the Browns, who built a perfect offense to complement Mayfield’s strengths and weaknesses. But none of them are Mahomes. Again, he is inevitable.

The Packers were destined to be a dynasty. I’d fall short of saying the Packers ‘wasted’ Rodgers’ run, but winning just one Super Bowl during his time as a starter surely stings as a fan when it could have been more. The Chiefs already can double the number of rings the Packers won during Rodgers’ watch. Perhaps it is fitting the Chiefs are now required to do the Packers’ dirty work in the Super Bowl instead of getting the chance to see Rodgers and Mahomes duke it out in the Super Bowl two years in a row. Because that great dynastic team the Packers could have been? The Chiefs are actually that now. To paraphrase Dennis Green: the Chiefs are who we thought the Packers were.

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