The Brady-Manning storyline didn't really excite me since it was the 100th time they met and although it turned out to be a very exciting game, I was really very interested in the NFC title game with Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers.
There are many reasons for this: they were wire-to-wire the best teams in the NFC and each team has an exciting offense paired with tough, hard-hitting defenses. They also have plenty of likable characters: Cam Newton, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, Greg Olsen, and Charles Tillman (even if he is on IR; For more on Tillman read my wonderful colleagues piece from earlier this month).
Anyway, that game didn't quite go as I thought it would with the Panthers jumping out to a 24-7 lead en route to a 49-15 win.
The coaches on either sideline also got me thinking about their Bears connections: Ron Rivera, the Panthers head coach was both a Bears player and former assistant. His dismissal just weeks removed from the Bears' Super Bowl XLI appearance was the first big disappointment of the Lovie Smith era and in hindsight was a huge setback until Rod Marinelli came along.
On the other sideline was Bruce Arians, the longtime assistant who finally got a shot with the Cardinals after taking over the Colts when Chuck Pagano got sick. He went to the Cards but not before he was in Halas Hall, talking with Phil Emery, very interested in the job and open to working with Jay Cutler at the time when he was perceived to be about as toxic as ever in his career.
Two coaches, two diversions in Chicago Bears history. As frustrating as it is to think about, it isn't all bad because as things has worked out, the Bears could be in a lot worse position than they are with John Fox, Vic Fangio, Ryan Pace and Dowell Loggains.
So it is with that present sight that I tweeted out:
While we're on #Bears regrets, choose one and only one: Ron Rivera stays after the SB & takes over after Lovie OR Bruce Arians over Trestman— Sam Householder (@SamHouseholder) January 25, 2016
Since few answered me on the Twitterverse, I will ask you:
Would you rather have Ron Rivera stay on after the Super Bowl and eventually take over after Lovie Smith or that the Bears hire Bruce Arians over Marc Trestman?
Each has coached their teams to the postseason the past two seasons. Rivera has as many postseason berths in five seasons leading the Panthers as Smith had in nine in Chicago. Arians quickly turned around the wayward Cardinals and has had them in contention in one of the toughest divisions of the NFL.
Again, I ask, with hindsight and revisionist history, would you take Rivera or Arians?
P.S. If that makes you sad, just remember that the Panthers' turnaround has coincided with GM David Gettleman coming in, who was hired by none other than consultant Ernie Accorsi, who hired Pace.