COAS Takes Over SSLYAR: Lucas’s Alternate History of the NFL (presented to you by Madden)

COAStakesoverSSLYARThe final week of the Confessions of a Sportscaster/Someone Still Loves You Alberto Riveron Pigskin Pick ‘Em challenge was as exciting as they come, with the outcome of the entire group hinging on the Sunday night Cowboys-Redskins game. Unfortunately, I took the Cowboys. Thus, as per our gentleman’s agreement at the beginning of the season, Lucas enjoys the spoils of sweet, sweet victory and gets to take over SSLYAR for a day. Surprisingly, his post doesn’t contain any violently anti-Bears propaganda – you’re a better man than I, my friend! Instead, let Lucas be your guide on a magical journey through an alternative NFL universe – a universe where Vince Young throws for 8,000 yards and the Bears turn into the Mexico City Rhinos. Take it away, Lucas!

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Summer 2010. New York City.

The NFL has just agreed to a drastic change for its upcoming season. Instead of giving teams their current rosters, they decide to take a groundbreaking new approach: refreshing every team’s roster. It’s a similar story to what happened in Nathaniel’s story where Robert Griffin III is tearing up the league as even rookies get reassigned based on where teams draft. Our story focuses on two legendary NFL franchises in the NFC North: The Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears.

In a random draw for order of a snake-style draft, the Bears got to pick 5th overall and the Packers 8th. It forces some long waits between odd and even-numbered rounds of the 49 round draft, but the closeness on the other side makes it worthwhile.

In no small surprise, quarterbacks and running backs dominate the early picks. That’s when the Bears commit an unforgivable sin: they take Aaron Rodgers, formerly of the Packers, whom Green Bay was looking to get back. Not liking the monetary prospects of the next few quarterbacks, Green Bay instead decides to shore up their running game by taking DeAngelo Williams as their first pick.

The Bears are able to surround Rodgers with some decent talent in Roddy White at wide receiver and Antonio Gates at tight end, along with Rashard Mendenhall to head the rushing attack. Green Bay felt it got lucky. Vince Young came to lend his services at quarterback, with a couple good veteran targets like Vernon Davis and TJ Houshmanzadeh gave Young people to throw to. The interesting pick was a young wideout named Lucas Mitzel who went to school at NIU. He was raw but seemed to have promise. Defensively, the Bears weren’t as strong as they were before while the Packers were able to get talent all over. Nnamdi Asomugha came to lock down the secondary while Patrick Willis solidified the middle of a 4-3 defense despite the remaining presence of Dom Capers.

In the end the two teams went in completely opposite directions. The Bears fell into mediocrity with a poor offensive line and no major playmakers on defense, while the Packers soared. They recorded only the second 16-0 season in NFL history despite losing Vince Young in the 2nd half of the season due to a shoulder injury. Rookie Tim Tebow led Green Bay into the playoffs and helped them get through the NFC, including a big win over the Arizona Cardinals, who would bud into the Packers’ biggest rivals for the top spot in the NFC. Charles Grant also had a resurgent year, breaking an NFL record with 45 sacks. Green Bay ended up in Dallas and won Super Bowl XLV.

The 2011 draft yielded good fruit for both the Bears and Packers, however. The Bears picked 4th in that draft, and got a stud outside linebacker named Chris Donaldson. Green Bay deferred its picks into the later rounds, where they would pick up major defensive players for the future like linebacker Andre Riddle, safety Wayne Addis, and defensive end Reuben Goosen. But the big prize for the Packers was wide receiver Gerard Byham, who the Packers immediately worked into a slot role.

The 2011 season was much better for both teams. The Bears finished with a much better record but were just shy of making the playoffs. Donaldson would have a rookie year for the ages, with 10 sacks, 6 forced fumbles, 4 recoveries and a pick.

Green Bay, meanwhile, got a full season from Vince Young, who was part of a record setting offense. Young threw for over 6,000 yards for the first time and had plenty of help as DeAngelo Williams became the first 3,000 yard rusher in NFL history while Lucas Mitzel became what Devin Hester never could, returning 11 kickoffs for touchdowns and breaking the NFL receiving record with 3,008 yards as the Packers went into Indianapolis against the Colts, who became the first team to ever play the Super Bowl at home. Green Bay was able to defend their title and bring the Lombardi Trophy back home.

2012’s draft was another excellent one for both teams. The Packers were able to pick up some more talent for their defense in cornerback Lance James and picked up a couple receivers to help out Lucas Mitzel and Gerard Byham, who became the new starter with TJ Houshmanzadeh’s signing with the Bears. The bigger additions for Chicago, however, came through the draft. Andrew Wrobel was taken 5th overall to help in the run game, while the defense was strengthened with the drafting of middle linebacker Paul Kline.

Wrobel didn’t see much action his first year, while Kline had a solid year patrolling the middle. Meanwhile the Packers went back to business as usual, even overtaking a rising rival in Arizona for the NFC title and winning yet another Super Bowl.

At this point the Bears and Packers diverged from their path together greatly. An ownership change the offseason before had been making plans and shocked the NFL world when in 2013 they officially announced they were relocating to Mexico City to become the Rhinos. The new management also decided it would be ideal to change the logo to that of a scorpion and the colors to a scheme similar to Oakland’s. It was devastating to Chicago, but also to Green Bay. Wideout Lucas Mitzel mourned the loss of the team he grew up closest to; even though he was never a fan of theirs, he was saddened by the death of the greatest rivalry the NFL had ever known. He immediately began lobbying to get NFL football back into Chicago and possibly away from Mexico City.

During the next few years, the Rhinos were never a threat, and Green Bay faced challengers new and old. Baltimore had risen the ranks with a young quarterback named Benjamin Harris, who led them to a Super Bowl. Miami drafted a young stud named Brenden Vincent and he turned the Dolphins into an elite team. Pittsburgh had one great regular season before an early playoff exit. Most notably though, it was former Green Bay backups who turned tides for a couple other strong teams. Tim Tebow left after his rookie contract and ended up in Denver in 2015, where he led the Broncos to the Super Bowl. 3rd stringer Josh Johnson matured under Vince Young and eventually went to Carolina, where their offense couldn’t pass at all, but they trailed only Green Bay in rushing yards between Johnson and Donald Brown. Through it all Arizona remained a threat to Green Bay with Carson Palmer and Chris Johnson, though Palmer would retire after the 2015 season and that same spring Chris Johnson left for Carolina.

Green Bay faced all those challengers, and never lost. There were plenty of shutout victories and staggering point totals, including games over 150 points. Some of the major players have come and gone, but a large core of that initial group is still there, developing together, playing together, and winning together.

It is now 2016 and the regular season winds down. Mexico City is guaranteed no worse than a .500 finish, but is likely to watch the playoffs from home with one final Green Bay matchup coming. Rumors of movement back to Chicago are constantly stirring, and Chicagoans are hopeful what happened to the Chicago Cardinals doesn’t permanently happen to the Bears.

Green Bay on the other hand is one game away from its 7th straight unbeaten season. Vince Young has already broken the single season passing yard record and is just a couple hundred yards away from becoming the first 8000 yard passer while also running for almost 800 yards at 33 years old in an illustrious career with over 800 touchdowns and 62 interceptions. DeAngelo Williams has lost a step at age 33, but is still over 2000 yards for the 7th straight year, but needs about 200 to surpass 2500 for the 7th straight season. Lucas Mitzel, meanwhile, needs a mere 122 yards to break his old receiving yard record, and in just shy of 7 seasons has racked up almost 20000 yards and 350 touchdowns. Lance James needs 3 interceptions to tie Nnamdi Asomugha’s single season record of 20 picks in a season. All around, it’s a phenomenal year in Wisconsin.

Fortunately here, in this timeline, there was no bounty scandal, no lockout, no replacement ref fiasco, no major black eyes to disgrace the shield. Only football.

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