Lords of the Super Bowl rings
Posted February 4, 2013
Legacy, it is a word that carries a lot of weight.
For some players, winning the Super Bowl means more than holding a trophy and getting a ring, it is an achievement that creates or cements a legacy that will last forever. For players getting close, it opens a career that for most can only be validated with a championship. Super Bowl winners are viewed different, when the "Best Ever" debate is brought up, champions have a permanent seat.
Case in point, John Elway had a Hall of Fame career but was 0-3 on Super Bowl Sunday. Elway erased the conversation about his big game failures with two titles to end his career – that put him in the rarefied air. Then there is Dan Marino, despite better numbers than 99 percent of quarterbacks who have played the game, right or wrong, in the minds of most people, no ring keeps him out of the pantheon of the "Best Ever." Winning Super Bowls defines a player's place in NFL history regardless of how fantastic the regular season and post-season numbers are.
This Super Bowl would change the perception or legitimize the career of several figures in this contest. The two quarterbacks in this game were at the top of the list.
A few years ago, Ravens QB Joe Flacco was asked if he was the best in the league. When he answered that he believed he was indeed the top QB, the laughter and scoffing could be heard around the country. After an MVP performance in Super Bowl XLVII, not many people will dismiss Flacco's assessment. The Ravens had been built on defense for years, but for the past few seasons it has been Flacco and the offense leading the way. Flacco had a playoff run for the ages; he bested rookie sensation Andrew Luck, dispatched Peyton Manning and out-played Tom Brady. Eleven touchdown passes with zero interceptions, placing him with Joe Montana as the only men to throw that many scores without a pick in the post-season, still he had to play well in New Orleans.
The numbers will show that Flacco did. He was 22 of 33 with three touchdown passes in the first half and 287 yards. While there are still many years to go in his career, Joe Flacco’s performance in the Super Bowl will give him a smoother ride down that road. This off-season go into your favorite watering hole and I promise you that Joe Flacco’s name will be brought up as a top five quarterback in the NFL today.
In a losing effort, Colin Kaepernick validated Jim Harbaugh’s decision to let him start the final 10 games of the season. A win Sunday night might have placed him on a path that we have already seen – an unknown QB takes over for the former number one pick and leads his team to the Super Bowl; see Tom Brady. After a shaky start throwing a costly interception, Kaepernick threw for 302 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 62 yards with a score. If Flacco has years left in his career, Kaepernick has eons in NFL terms, and might have a bigger impact on the game, even in a loss.
The unheralded pick out of the University of Nevada will now be the player that coaches everywhere are looking at to be their signal caller. Just watch in the next few seasons at how many NFL, college and high school teams turn to an athlete like Kaepernick to run their offense. The pistol won’t be a gimmick; it will be a staple in almost every playbook in America. The success of players like Russell Wilson, Cam Newton and RGIII have helped, but it was the 49ers QB stealing the spotlight this post season that will change the type of player that defines the most glorified position in sports. There are no questions about his ability to play in the NFL. Although some critics of that style of play are silenced, Kaepernick doesn’t have the trophy and his career will have a void until he does.
No player had more talk this week than the emotional leader of the Baltimore Ravens, Ray Lewis. The linebacker was retiring after a 17 year career that has had him applauded for being one of the best ever to play the position. Lewis is respected like few others for what he does on the field and in the Ravens locker room, but he is a polarizing figure for his involvement in an off-field incident in 2000 where two men were murdered. More controversy surrounded Lewis this week as a report about him using deer antler spray to help him recover from a triceps injury popped up. No matter your perception of Ray Lewis the person, with two Super Bowl rings, Ray Lewis the player is cemented as one of the greats to step in between the lines.
There are a few others that will be held on a higher pedestal this week than last week. Baltimore safety Ed Reed now has his Super Bowl ring. After the game, he said that it is the exclamation point on his career. A title being the only thing that was missing from a resume that less than a handful could turn in. Ray Lewis might get the front page, but it is Reed playing at high level that keeps quarterbacks up at night. There isn’t a long list of the best safeties ever to play the game, after Sunday night the list of players taken before Reed shrank even more.
John Harbaugh also steps into a higher-rent district with this Ravens' victory. He becomes just the 30th head coach to win a Super Bowl and he had to beat his brother to earn the Vince Lombardi trophy. If there was any question about John Harbaugh taking his team to the next level, it was answered with the 34-31 win.
Winning a Super Bowl doesn’t make you one of the best ever, but in the minds of most sports fans it does put you ahead of the ones who don’t.