These days, so much of a quarterback’s legacy comes down to the question of how often they were able to win the big games. There is no bigger game than the Super Bowl, so Colin Kaepernick and Joe Flacco each have an opportunity to get their first Super Bowl win in this year’s Harbaugh Bowl in New Orleans and cement their legacies among the great names in professional football.
But which quarterback needs the win more?
For Kaepernick, it’s important to keep his narrative going. The second-year signal caller took over midseason for the San Francisco 49ers when the steady and unspectacular Alex Smith was forced to the sidelines with a concussion. Kaepernick took hold of the job and never let go, leading the 49ers all the way to Super Sunday while a melancholy Smith looked on from the sidelines.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the same career arc that Tom Brady took, replacing Drew Bledsoe following a nasty injury and leading the New England Patriots to the Super Bowl, on his way to his first Super Bowl title and jumpstarting the Pats dynasty of the 2000s. Kaepernick has the chance to mirror that first title run, which Brady followed up with two more titles and put himself in the conversation of greatest of all time. That’s certainly the direction San Francisco would like their quarterback of the future to be headed.
For Joe Flacco, he leads the Baltimore Ravens as much with his own bravado as his big right arm. Often seen as a complement to the Baltimore offense, Flacco anointed himself “elite” and talked about himself as the best quarterback in football. Other people outside of the Ravens’ locker room have been slower to come around to Flacco’s impressions of himself, and the easiest knock to make against him is that he hadn’t won “the big one.”
With a Super Bowl win, he’d be much harder to ignore. While the argument over who is or is not “elite” can vary depending on who you talk to, winning a Super Bowl is a big point in a quarterback’s favor. It would also benefit Flacco financially to win this game, as he enters contract negotiations with the Ravens. Nothing says “pay me more” like some Super Bowl bling.
So who needs it more? That would be Flacco. The Ravens have been on the doorstep for years with Flacco under center, so he needs to get over the hump now that he’s finally broken through that AFC Championship ceiling. Flacco is likely as good as he will get in his career at 28-years old, so these are his prime years to win a title. The window for this Ravens team is closing with the age of the defense forcing Ray Lewis to retire and putting Ed Reed‘s future in doubt. The supporting cast is in place for Flacco to get his title now and give his argument about being “elite” some validity.
Kaepernick, on the other hand, still hasn’t played a full season. The San Francisco core is still young enough to be held together for the next three to four seasons largely intact. The window is just opening for this Niners team and the opportunity to get another shot isn’t that unlikely. There are no guarantees, of course, but there is a much greater sense of optimism about San Francisco maintaining a Super Bowl caliber club.
The time is now for Flacco and the Ravens to seize the opportunity before them. If they come up short, Joe Flacco will unfairly get labeled with the “can’t finish” tag that haunted great quarterbacks like Dan Marino or Donovan McNabb throughout their careers. Flacco needs this championship to turn his image from a cocky quarterback who doesn’t know when to stop talking into one of seven active starting quarterbacks with a Super Bowl ring.
That bling would make the “elite” argument for Flacco so he can stop trying to make it for himself.