Super Bowl XLVII has plenty of storylines to follow.
From the Harbaugh brothers to Ray Lewis' swan song, the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens will provide us with plenty of juicy material that has nothing to do with the actual performance of each team on the field.
When we do get back to the playing surface, though, it will reveal that both of these starting QBs—Ravens embattled star Joe Flacco and 49ers young ace Colin Kaepernick—are both playing for something very different on Feb. 3.
The two QBs have had very different journeys to their first Super Bowl appearance. Flacco was a highly-touted high-schooler who had to take his talents to Delaware in college, only to claim the starting QB job in Baltimore as a rookie in 2008.
Kaepernick was the star for Nevada and head coach Chris Ault, running the Hall of Famer's pistol offense both in college and now all the way towards a potential sixth Super Bowl win for the franchise that gave him a chance as a draft pick in 2011.
They run different offenses and had different paths to success, but these two QBs will square off with long-term effects on the line. Here's a look at what's at stake for each when this year's final NFL game will commence.
2012 Regular Season
136-of-218, 62.4 %, 1814 yards, 10 TDs, 3 INTs, 98.3 Rating — 415 Rushing yards, 5 TDs
33-of-52, 63.5 %, 496 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT, 105.9 Rating — 202 Rushing Yards, 2 TDs
2012 Regular Season
317-of-531, 59.7 %, 3817 yards, 22 TDs, 10 INTs, 87.7 Rating — 4 GW Drives, 4 4Q Comeback
51-of-93, 54.8 %, 853 yards, 8 TDs, 0 INTs, 114.7 Rating
What Super Bowl Win Would Mean for Kaepernick
Since becoming the starter over incumbent Alex Smith in Week 11 against the Chicago Bears, Kaepernick has been a national talking point. Smith led the 49ers to the NFC Championship game in 2011, and head coach Jim Harbaugh took a lot of flak for his decision.
Super Bowl appearance now in their sights, 49ers fans have to recant previous statements regarding Kaep's place as a starter.
The second-year QB is one of the hottest names out there in sports right now, and he's even filed for a trademark for his touchdown dance—known to the outside world as "Kaepernicking" (h/t ESPN.com's Darren Rovell).
Should he and the 49ers take over the Lombardi trophy, it could have far-reaching effects for his career and the prototypical "NFL" offense we see today.
The ball is already rolling on change when it comes to offenses and NFL head coaches. Chip Kelly is taking over in Philadelphia next season, and dual-threat monsters Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III and Kaepernick all figure to make other teams drool when watching highlights each Monday morning.
With scintillating runs in the option game and downfield passes with his powerful right arm, Kaepernick has the San Francisco 49ers back in the NFC championship game for a second straight year and has given more credibility to the offense designed by his college coach less than a decade ago.
Sure, the 49ers have an incredible defense behind him, but if Kaep wins a Super Bowl out of the pistol offense, won't it start to give other owners and GM's pause to what you can do with the right personnel in place?
Personally, Kaepernick is poised to strike it big next season, anyway. He'll likely get a contract extension for his performances this season, and there will be no doubt about his place as this team's starter going forward—win or lose.
Kaepernick has a chance to be the first "running" QB to lead a team to the Super Bowl. Say what you will, but this win could be a turning point in the way teams think, draft and even transition their rosters moving forward.
What Super Bowl Win Would Mean for Flacco
CBS Sports' Will Brinson knows where this conversation is going:
Underdog storyline that you'll be sick of in two weeks: Is Joe Flacco elite?— Will Brinson (@willbrinson) January 21, 2013
It's the most important question of the hour for the Baltimore QB, but it's not the only one that will be asked during the course of the Super Bowl festivities.
In this great look at the QB clash set to take place on Feb. 3, The Baltimore Sun's Peter Schmuck notes that this is a matchup that pits old school learning and taking lumps against today's "anyone-can-win" mantra that leads teams to switch to faster that can do two things well:
There's certainly room in the sport for more than one style of quarterback, but Kaepernick has come almost out of nowhere to alter the NFL landscape. Flacco, meanwhile, has spent five years building his Super Bowl resume, one that includes more road playoff wins than any other NFL quarterback in the post-merger era and more combined regular and postseason victories in the past five seasons than any of his peers.
On one hand, we will never be rid of the traditional NFL QB. There are too many guys that are too good at their job to completely scrap an offense that has produced countless Hall of Famers and multiple Super Bowl champions.
Flacco is one of those guys. Baltimore expects him to lead the team on offense, defer to running back Ray Rice 20-25 times per game and make the necessary throws that offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell calls down the stretch of games.
He's done that and more this season.
Where is Joe Flacco in your evaluation of NFL QBs?
Look no further than his performance in the AFC divisional round, when he both orchestrated a double-digit comeback and made a key throw with little time left on the clock to tie the score. Throw in his role in getting the team into field goal position for Justin Tucker's game-winner, and Baltimore's win over Denver will be one of the best in his career when it's all over.
Does that make him elite? Many pundits say yes, but this one final test has the chance to tear down a full season's worth of progress towards proving he is a top-five guy.
It's unfair, but it's the nature of the beast. With a win in the Super Bowl, Flacco takes on a whole new set of expectations both personally and professionally, and the Ravens will be a perennial favorite from now on as long as he's in his current position.
Needless to say, Flacco and Kaepernick are ready to battle for Super Bowl XLVII. Winning the game is the only focus for the next week and a half, but we can't help but look forward to consequences for both in the event of a win.
The stakes are high, but these QBs can take it. That's why they captained their teams into this position.
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team. Check him out on Twitter.