Legacies That Can Be Re-Written in Super Bowl XLVII
Winning a championship has a way of changing the perception of an athlete, and for these players, the stakes have never been higher.
Over the balance of his career, Terrell Suggs has been a terror. Including playoffs, the man known as "T-Sizzle" has racked up 96.5 career sacks, and he won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in 2011. He's also a five-time Pro Bowler and won the 2003 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
What Suggs has been able to accomplish on the field this season is remarkable, considering he tore his Achilles tendon in late April. He is one of the true leaders of the Ravens, and upon his return, he provided a much-needed emotional lift.
Suggs' legacy as a superior pass-rusher is safe, but he's never really discussed as a potential Hall of Fame candidate. If he has a dominant performance in a Ravens victory, that will change.
His career stats speak for themselves; all that's missing is a Super Bowl title.
A championship would significantly elevate Suggs' legacy—to the precipice of Canton.
Frank Gore has been so underappreciated throughout his career that it's criminal.
He's the leading rusher in 49ers history, but fans speak more fondly of former San Francisco backs Roger Craig, Ricky Watters and even Tom Rathman.
Why? Because those players have Super Bowl rings.
When you play for a organization as rife with success and championships as the 49ers, you're measured by how much you win, and to be fair, Gore's 49ers haven't been much of a winner since he was drafted in 2005.
Now, is that Gore's fault? Certainly not.
It wasn't Gore who decided that the immortal J.T. O'Sullivan should start in 2008. It wasn't Gore who selected Alex Smith over Aaron Rodgers in the 2005 draft.
If Gore runs well and the 49ers beat the Ravens, he'll flip the script on his legacy. He would move out of Craig's shadow and be revered as one of the most important players in 49ers history.
Unlike Suggs, Ed Reed is already thought of as a sure-fire, first-ballot Hall of Fame selection. The nine-time Pro Bowler and 2004 Defensive Player of the Year is already considered one of the greatest ever to play the game.
The one thing missing from his resume is a Super Bowl title. If Reed makes game-changing plays in a Ravens win, his legacy changes from being one of the best safeties ever to being the best safety ever.
With rumors swirling around Reed's future, it's feasible to think that, if the Ravens win, he'll walk off into the sunset with a ring and a significant alteration to his legacy.
Patrick Willis is arguably the best linebacker in the NFL. He's one of the surest tacklers in the game and is as feared as he is respected throughout the league.
After the Super Bowl, the career of Ray Lewis (more on him later) will come to an end. Whether right, wrong or indifferent, Lewis is still considered by many to be one of the best linebackers in the game and certainly one of the greatest of all time.
If Willis outplays Lewis in Super Bowl XLVII and San Francisco wins, expect the talk of his legacy to be ratcheted up exponentially.
The game could very well churn out a passing-of-the-torch moment, with Willis taking over the title of "best linebacker in the world."
Readers who follow me on Twitter know that I'm #WackoForFlacco. I picked the Ravens to beat the Patriots solely because I believe in Flacco.
I'm already convinced that Flacco is "elite," despite what anyone else may say. However, many still doubt him. Despite all his postseason success, Flacco still doesn't get the credit he deserves.
That would all change with a Ravens victory in the Super Bowl.
If Flacco plays well and, say, wins the Super Bowl MVP, who will be able to say he's overrated? Will anyone still question his merits?
Make no mistake about it: Super Bowl XLVII is a legacy-defining game for Flacco. A win elevates him into the conversation with the top signal-callers the league has to offer.
More so than anyone on this list, the legacy of Randy Moss is very much in question.
While no one can question Moss' on-field dominance over the span of his 14-year career, his demeanor has always left something to be desired.
If the Patriots had held on to win Super Bowl XLII and complete a 19-0 season, Moss' legacy would be vastly different. He caught the go-ahead touchdown and was coming off a season where he broke Jerry Rice's single-season record for touchdowns with 23.
Quite frankly, I doubt Moss would still be playing had New England won that game, as his legacy would have been secure.
But it wasn't. And it still isn't. A win in Super Bowl XLVII would change all of that.
Moss' long road back to the Super Bowl is an incredible one. In 2010, he was traded from New England to Minnesota, only to be cut by the Vikings weeks later. He resurfaced in Tennessee for a cup of coffee with the Titans and then sat out the 2011 season.
When the 49ers signed him in the offseason, most were skeptical. But Moss has been a model teammate; he hasn't griped about being one of the lesser options on the team and has contributed where needed.
A Super Bowl championship will put Moss into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, no questions asked, and it also changes the narrative on his career. He will have won a title without being the No. 1 guy, without any of the distractions that have plagued him in the past.
While the 37-year-old's level of play has dropped as he's gotten older, there is no questioning the Hall of Fame credentials of Ray Lewis.
The man will enter Canton on the first ballot—that isn't up for debate. What is up for debate is Lewis' standing as the greatest linebacker of all time.
If Lewis claims another title in his final game, I believe he'd be cemented as the G.O.A.T. at his position, as well as the greatest inspirational leader in NFL history.
Nick Kostos is the executive producer of the "SiriusXM Blitz", hosted by Rich Gannon and Adam Schein, on SiriusXM NFL Radio. You can follow Nick on Twitter.