Casting the NFL as Game of Thrones Characters
Sometimes a television show is so captivating and deep that the characters and their complex storylines seep into your soul. Since Scandal and Ugly Betty have long expired, my brain cells have been on overdrive watching a little known show called Game of Thrones, which kicks off its final season Sunday night.
Turns out GoT has a little bit of everything: bloodied gladiators, slaves, lost limbs, an ongoing power struggle, extreme nepotism, whorehouses and a crapload of seemingly normal humans who accept it all. Sound familiar?
Yes, fast forward 1800 or so years and America’s most popular sport is just another savage era of shortened lifespans and cruel mismatches. The quest for the Iron Throne and the Super Bowl are dripping with similarity, as are the players. So let’s cast the NFL figures that most resemble key characters from Game of Thrones!
Jim Harbaugh as Ned Stark
Before Jon Snow’s character arc went bonkers, Season 1 Ned Stark was the closest thing GoT ever offered to a protagonist. Stark’s backstory was layered, his aesthetic was non-flashy to the point of intrigue, and while serving as “Hand of the King” under Robert Baratheon was hardly ideal, damn he was good at his job. Stark’s leadership prowess helped him thrive as Lord of Winterfell and his hodgepodge of schematics really took his Protector of the Realm role and whatever it is a Lord Regent does to the next level. Stark was a total gamechanger and conventional wisdom led us to believe that he had a bright future with many victories ahead.
Jim Harbaugh too was once the epicenter of his industry. The cameras loved his endless supply of meme-worthy expressions, his complicated relationship with fellow coaches made him more fascinating (What’s YOUR deal?), and his talent and offensive philosophy made multiple Super Bowl wins feel within reach. But like Stark, Harbaugh was stunningly axed by a petulant child who was handed too much power too soon. At least Harbaugh’s axing wasn’t literal.
The Patriots as the White Walkers
Confidently nestled in the North, the White Walkers are inherently designed not to lose. An emotionless, cunning Night King who will go to all lengths for a competitive advantage leads the charge. He deftly brings back the dead and reincarnates them into unstoppable baddies. Even if on paper you have a rare shot to defeat the White Walkers, once that army of piercing blue eyes appears before you, it’s game over.
The Patriots have long smothered the NFL with that some kind of psychological advantage. They have no interest in parity or a changing of the guard. They cheat. They have weird diets. Even when defeat looks like their destiny, they stymy opponents and mock them later. They have also brilliantly resurrected many dragons over the years, most notably Randy Moss in 2007 and offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia. But like the White Walkers, the Pats’ whole playbook has always been about world domination and nothing more, and thus they are not super intriguing as a people.
Rob Gronkowski as Tyrion Lannister
Like Tyrion, Gronk was the one redeeming figure from an otherwise evil family. While the rest of his cruel kinship spent their days plotting devious battle plans, Gronk offered comedic relief and a propensity to party in a charmingly harmless way.
Andy Reid as Daenerys Targaryen
Reid and the mother of dragons are the ultimate survivors. Sharing Dany’s immunity to fire, Reid thrived after escaping the flames of dysfunction in Philly. Daenerys has succeeded by ingratiating herself to a myriad of peoples who ultimately clamor to be part of her aura. Reid inspires a similar loyalty with a willingness to set aside any archaic system and adjust playcalling to his quarterback’s strengths.
Speaking of QBs, Reid followed in Dany’s footsteps removing the shackles from slaves, most notably Alex Smith from the prison of game managers. He also shares his counterpart’s strategy for domination, developing an able army while fostering the ultimate weapon – a dragon named Patrick Mahomes.
Frank Gore as Bran
Both Bran and Gore suffered early injuries that made their career prospects feel dire. Neither appeared destined for greatness yet in a show (and league) that knocks off its participants by the minute, both are still ticking with no end in sight. Bran may win the Iron Throne and Gore is likely headed to his own throne in Canton
How’d they do it? Turns out that Bran, as he REALLY likes to remind everyone, is indeed the super-magical three-eyed raven who flies around Westeros able to see the past and future. If you think a 35-year running back who has missed just two games in a decade doesn’t possess a similar super natural ability of his own, you haven’t paid attention.
Aaron Rodgers as Jon Snow
Brooding and introspective, both Rodgers and Snow were mischaracterized as bastards early on, Snow in his family lineage and Rodgers in the 2005 NFL Draft.
Snow and Rodgers have employed battleplans that can be idiotic (Snow’s hail mary idea to bring a White Walker to King’s Landing) or genius (Rodgers’ actual hail marys). Yet in the face of a dire situation, these are the dudes you want on the front line.
Each suffers from his fair share of family drama, a constant threat to their psyches, but both Rodgers and Snow are ultimately linked by generational talent that is worth resurrection. Will new Packers coach Mike LaFleur become the Melisandre of the NFL?
Larry Fitzgerald as Sansa Stark
Smart and beautiful, Sansa has lived a life mostly defined by cruelty and fledgling destiny. In Season 1, she was forced into an arranged relationship with a psychopath child who ordered the beheading of her beloved father. In Season 2 she was publicly beaten because her brother Robb won a battle against the Lannisters. In Season 3, Tywin Lannister orchestrated “The Red Wedding” which killed Sansa’s mother and brother. In Season 4, she received a gross, unwanted kiss from slimeball Littlefinger. In Season 5, Littlefinger brokered a marriage between Sansa and sadistic shithead Ramsay Bolton, who raped her.
It could be worse for Sansa, she could have toiled away more of her life on uninspired teams in Arizona.
Cody Parkey as Tommen
When faced with the intensity of their situations, neither could handle the pressure.