In game about legacy, No. 12 will prevail
What exactly does it mean? In the NFL, players play for different reasons. Some play for money, some play for the love of the game and some play for the fire of winning. Granted, some players play for more than one reason and the best of the best play for all three.
But what exactly are players remembered for when their careers are over? I’ll tell you right now I classify the best players in league history by performance on the biggest of stages, under the brightest of lights, when everyone was watching.
Last season we were given one of the greatest Super Bowl storylines at the quarterback position—perhaps ever. We had ‘old father time,’ the sheriff—Peyton Manning on one sideline. On the other, we had young sensation Russell Wilson, who was looking to begin his dominance in the league—to start writing his legacy.
Wilson won and Peyton lost; big time: not just in the game, but his legacy in big-time games was subject to even more questioning.
In this season’s big game, we are blessed yet again with a premier matchup between two great complete teams, let alone at the quarterback position. But in a quarterback-run league, it is hard not to dissect the gunslinger matchup and what Sunday’s showdown means for each of them.
There is no disputing Tom Brady’s legacy. The three-time Super Bowl champion is back in the Super Bowl for the sixth (sixth!) time in his career, more than any other quarterback and tied for most of any player in NFL history. After an absolute meltdown at Kansas City in the fourth game of the season, Brady’s legacy was questioned.
Is this the end of No. 12? Should he retire?
Those questions, which are now distant thoughts well in the rearview mirror, seem absolutely and utterly ridiculous now that Brady is back in the big one.
How about Wilson? Seattle’s young dual-threat quarterback is certainly raising eyebrows. But what is most impressive is the success he has had in his first three seasons in the NFL. Wilson is looking to become the first quarterback to win the Super Bowl twice in his first three seasons since, well, “Tom Terrific” himself.
There is no questioning the bright future Wilson has in this league. While everyone is drooling over what Andrew Luck has done in his first few seasons in Indianapolis, people are losing sight over what Wilson has accomplished. Yes, he has one of the best running backs and the best defense in the league, but it takes a quarterback to lead a team. Wilson is doing that. Wilson is the glue to Seattle’s success. When the “Legion of Boom” is off running their mouths, Wilson is right there to ground the team.
So who adds to his legacy on Sunday?
Does Brady legitimize his place in NFL history and perhaps finally be recognized as the greatest quarterback of all-time? Or does Wilson put himself in the record books by becoming just the eighth quarterback ever to win it all back-to-back?
I’ll tell you right now, it’s going to be Brady, in a reassuring 27-17 defeat of Wilson’s Seahawks on Sunday in Glendale, Ariz.
For the same reasons he bounced back after the worst game of his career in Kansas City and for the same reasons he turned his team’s season around after that game when all the doubters said he wouldn’t, he couldn’t.
He did it, and he will do it again on Sunday. The same people who said it was time for Brady to retire are the same ones who are now saying the Patriots cannot win without a deflated ball (see Thomas Duffy’s column).
Please. Guys like Wilson will run this league soon enough. But for now, Sunday especially, it is Tom’s time—to solidify his legacy and bring a fourth Super Bowl championship to New England.
David Heim can be reached at david.heim@student..shu.edu or on Twitter @davidheim12.