Super Bowl 2013: What's at Stake for Ravens' and 49ers' Most Important Players
Players that win the Super Bowl get more than just rings; the game changes legacies.
After winning a championship, John Elway went from a "talented player who could not win the big game" into "possibly the best quarterback of all time." There are many more who have received similar boosts in credibility after this game.
This year's showdown between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers has a lot of interesting storylines, most notably between coaches Jim and John Harbaugh. While the brothers fighting for bragging rights at the holidays will be fun to talk about, there are a number of players with much more on the line.
These men have the most to gain at Super Bowl XLVII.
In case you have been under a rock for the last month, Ray Lewis is retiring at the end of this postseason. An original Raven, the linebacker will soon end one of the greatest careers a defensive player has ever had.
The 13-time Pro Bowl player has already won a Super Bowl, but the team has rallied around its leader in an effort to get him one more title before he calls it quits.
Lewis also proved in these playoffs that he still has value on the field. He transformed the Baltimore defense when he returned to the active roster, leading the No. 17-ranked defense during the year to three great performances in the postseason.
A win would truly allow him to leave the game on top as he cements his legacy as a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Jim Harbaugh made a risky decision in November that few would have made, but it changed the course of an NFL season.
The 49ers head coach chose to start second-year player Colin Kaepernick at quarterback instead of Alex Smith, who had led the team to the NFC Championship Game a year before. San Francisco was already a Super Bowl contender and this risked jeopardizing the entire season.
Kaepernick has since shown that this was the right decision as he has built up a 7-2 record as a starter and led a great comeback to win the NFC Championship.
However, this is still only the beginning. The young player is now not only representing himself, but all mobile quarterbacks around the league.
Dual-threat quarterbacks have sprung up around the league and they have been fun to watch, but none of them has won a championship. Although Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger have good agility, Kaepernick is the type of player that can use his legs as a true weapon.
Finally, he can join Joe Montana and Steve Young on the list of 49ers quarterbacks to win a Super Bowl. That is pretty good company to be around on any list.
For the past couple of years, there has been a debate as to whether Joe Flacco is elite.
His numbers have not been near the top of the league throughout his career. This season, he was No. 25 among qualified players in Total QBR, which ranks everything a quarterback does to help or hurt his team.
On the other hand, he has proven himself as a winner that can take his team deep into the playoffs. He has won a postseason game in each of his five years in the league and currently has an 8-4 career record in the playoffs.
Of course, this debate will actually take on importance this offseason. Flacco is a free agent and would like to get paid like one of the best quarterbacks in NFL. A championship would certainly help him at the negotiating table.
While there have been plenty of below-average quarterbacks who have won a Super Bowl, Flacco's consistency sets him above the rest and a win would change how people view him forever.
Throughout his first few years in the NFL, Patrick Willis has resembled Ray Lewis. Not only do both players wear No. 52, but they each showed the ability to cover the entire field while leading an elite defense at a young age.
San Francisco's defensive star has been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his first six seasons in the NFL and has been named first-team All Pro five times.
This is slightly better than Lewis, who only had five Pro Bowl appearances by this time, but the linebacker also won the 2000 Defensive Player of the Year and the Super Bowl MVP of the same season.
While Willis does not necessarily need to be named MVP to match the veteran, winning a Super Bowl would solidify him as the best linebacker in football. With more sustained success, he can approach Lewis as one of the best in recent history.
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