In the middle of Mike Van Diest’s incredible run of six NAIA National football championships between 2002 and 2010 at Carroll College, his name was mentioned in connection with multiple jobs at bigger schools.
One time his name was being floated as the next coach of Montana State, and I brought it up to then Montana Tech coach Bob Green as if that was good news for his Orediggers.
“It sure would be nice to get Van Diest out of the Frontier Conference,” I said.
Of course, Montana Tech fans would have agreed with that sentiment at about a 100 percent rate. Aside from one Saturday in October of 2004, Van Diest turned the great Tech-Carroll rivalry into a one-sided affair.
As far as rivalries during those years, the Orediggers played the nail to the Saints’ hammer, albeit a very stubborn and uncooperative nail.
So, logically, you would think that shipping the most successful football coach in the history of the conference to the Big Sky Conference would be a welcome idea to Green, who had once ruled the Frontier. Right?
Well, wrong. Dead wrong.
“No,” Green said, matter-of-factly. “No. I want to beat Mike.”
Coach Green was a competitor, and he could not stand that Van Diest got the best of him over the last decade of Green’s legendary career on the hill. Green had some years when he knew what it was like to be the hammer in the same rivalry, so he figured beating the Saints because the Hall of Fame coach left town would not have been the same.
That is how I feel every time I watch or read another story about the drama between Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
Over the years, I have jokingly advocated for contraction in the NFL and completely doing away with the Packers. But the truth is that the hope of beating the Packers is what carries me through each football season.
Yes, I am a Bears fan, even after my meltdown that followed the Andy Dalton signing. At that point, I was as down on my team as I have since I first fell in love with the Bears in the 1970s.
The drafting of Justin Fields, a real quarterback from Ohio State, flipped the script 180 degrees. Once again, I am living with the hope that this next season will be the one when the Bears finally get the better of their arch rival.
Sure, most psychologists will call that being delusional. My belief that the Bears will turn the tide might actually fall under Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity.
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Yep, that sounds exactly like me with the Bears. Well, until they drafted Rex Grossman. I mean Mitch Trubisky. I mean Justin Fields.
The Packers have owned the Bears for the better part of the last three decades. They went from one Hall of Fame quarterback who tormented me and ruined my Sundays to a quarterback who is even better.
If the Saints became the hammer to the Orediggers’ nail, then the Packers and Bears turned into the windshield and the bug.
Sure, bugs will annoy you to the point that you have to pull over and wash them off the windshield. Sometimes you really have to push down on the squeegee and scrub.
But the bug is hardly a rival.
While there have been some notable exceptions, most Packers fans have been unbearable during the Brett Favre-Aaron Rodgers years, too.
They have been smug and arrogant. They have sowed off this amazingly unfounded sense of self-importance all because the Packers beat the Bears about 99.9 percent of the time.
In short, they are exactly the way Bears fans were for those few years of greatness in the 1980s.
Rodgers, the disgruntled quarterback who allegedly said he will not return to the Packers, could change that for the Bears. While there is general fear that the next quarterback to take over in Green Bay will be even better, as was the case when the Packers went from Favre to Rodgers in 2008, that is very unlikely.
The truth is that Rodgers might be the best quarterback I have ever seen play. I stand by my previous statement that the Bill Belichick’s Patriots would have won 12 Super Bowl titles if New England had Rodgers instead of Tom Brady.
During his 2020 MVP season, Rodgers completed 70.7 of his passes for 4,299 yards, 48 touchdowns and just five interceptions. Imagine how good he could be if he is gruntled.
Part of me takes great comfort in knowing that the Packers have nearly completely wasted Rodgers, in terms of Super Bowl titles, that is.
If Rodgers leaves the Packers, Green Bay could be headed back to the Lynn Dickey days. It might even be worse. It could be more on par with the Red Sox giving away Babe Ruth, even if Rodgers will turn 38 in December.
That the news of Rodgers wanting out broke on the same night that the Bears traded up to get the steal of the draft in Fields made it all more enjoyable.
Without Rodgers, the Packers are probably the third best team in their division. With Rodgers they are contenders to win the Super Bowl. Bears fans would agree at a nearly 100 percent rate that getting Rodgers out of the NFC North would be, in a word, un-fricking-believable.
Not me, though. No, I want the Bears to beat the Packers with Rodgers.
I want Rodgers shaking his head and yelling at teammates because Fields and Darnell Mooney are an unstoppable combination.
(On a side note, 1989 Butte Central graduate Kevin Peoples recruited Mooney, the speedy-and-tough receiver, to play football at Tulane University.)
Sure, I did not feel bad when the Bears beat the Packers in Green Bay in 2013 because defensive end Shea McClellin broke Rodgers’ collarbone early in the game. But the win did not compare to Thanksgiving night in 2016 when the Bears won in Green Bay after Rodgers threw four straight incompletions in the redzone.
A win over the Packers is a win over the Packers. You do not have to qualify them. You do not have to apologize for them.
On the very rare occasion that happens, I just feel really good.
But seeing the Bears win because Rodgers is playing in Denver would not be the same. It would be like, as Jerry Seinfeld said, finding out Mickey Mantle corked his bat.
Like with Bob Green and Mike Van Diest, the competitor in me would like nothing more than to see the Bears beat the Rodgers-led Packers, even if my psychiatrist tells me to knock it off.
I am 100 percent serious, and I know that I might pay for these words, but I hope Rodgers plays for the Packers until his is 50.
However, I reserve my right to laugh when he is shipped out of town.
— Bill Foley, who longs for the Lynn Dickey days in Green Bay, writes a column that appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74