Now that we’re down to the “Fantastic Four,” we’re going to look at a few players on each team whose legacy would be enhanced significantly with a Super Bowl ring, or veterans who we’d just like to see rewarded for their hard work over the years.
New England Patriots
There are a lot of Patriots with rings, as they won just two years ago in Arizona. Aside from the very obvious beneficiaries being Tom Brady and Bill Belichick who would move into even further rarified air with rings No. 5, there’s one player who many can get behind getting ring No. 1.
Defensive end Chris Long has “suffered” on losing teams for much of his career as he was drafted in the first round by the St. Louis Rams and spent the first eight years of his career there. Long is certainly on the back-nine of his career and much of his accomplishments have been glossed over playing with subpar talent, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
Long signed a one-year deal with New England prior to the 2016 season and the hope for taking a severely discounted deal ($2 million) was to have the opportunity to play in the postseason and for a championship. It would be nice if that came to fruition.
There are numerous reasons to hate the Patriots, but Chris Long is not one of them.
Although the Steelers have a pretty recent title (2009 season), there are still many in the organization who would benefit greatly from hoisting the Lombardi.
Head coach Mike Tomlin already has a Super Bowl ring, but this title run would take away all talk that he “won with Bill Cowher’s players.” Tomlin might go down as the greatest “cheerleader” ever with a pair of titles.
Ben Roethlisberger is already tracking a Hall of Fame career, but with a third Super Bowl title there will be no question and he will be enshrined in his native Ohio five years after his playing days are over.
For wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell, arguably the two best players at their positions, winning their first Super Bowl ring in the first postseason when both are healthy would legitimize their claim of being the very best at the respective positions and now we can look at the overall sum of their accomplishments and begin talking about the Hall of Fame.
Finally, outside linebacker/defensive end James Harrison is currently a borderline Hall of Fame candidate. A second Super Bowl for him, following his amazing performance in Super Bowl XLIII just might be enough to get him enshrined in Canton.
Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers has already won a ring, but adding a second one to his dresser would certainly elevate him in the pantheon of all-time greats. Rodgers already plays the quarterback position like nobody in history has with his ability to make any and every throw, in the pocket or on the run and make it look easy. With a second title, we can begin talking about whether he might be the greatest of all time.
Julius Peppers has been one of the greatest defensive ends in NFL history, but he has no real postseason moments. The nine-time Pro Bowler has a Defensive Player of the Year Award to his resume as well as a Defensive Rookie of the Year award all the way back in 2002. If Peppers wins a title, this would mark the first of his career and strengthen his case for the Hall of Fame, and at 37 years of age, he could go out on top like Ray Lewis did four years ago.
There was a time earlier this season when Packers head coach Mike McCarthy was on the hot seat. It seems like forever ago. McCarthy will never be considered an all-time great coach because he’s had the benefit of coaching up Brett Favre and now the great Aaron Rodgers, but a second Super Bowl title will buy him a certain amount of equity in terms of job security and likely a sizeable raise in salary.
There are very few Atlanta Falcons that have Super Bowl rings and the franchise is yet to win one. With the team moving into the beautiful Mercedes-Benz Stadium next year, this would be a perfect way to send out the old Georgia Dome.
The first player that a ring would legitimize is quarterback Matt Ryan. Ryan was known as a great fantasy quarterback prior to this season and a Super Bowl title would allow us the opportunity to debate all summer whether he is “elite.” A playoff run culminating in a title would take a lot of the pressure off Ryan and erase memories of his current 2-4 postseason record.
It’s a shame that Roddy White still isn’t on the Falcons because that would have been a great story, but his replacement Julio Jones is widely regarded among the best receivers in football. Having a big postseason run would enhance his legacy.
Defensive end/outside linebacker Dwight Freeney is probably going to the Hall of Fame based on his body of work through the prime of his career with the Indianapolis Colts, but to add a second ring to his bio would certainly make Canton a cinch. Even though Freeney isn’t as a big of a contributor as he was during his prime, he will be lauded for his leadership throughout this season for a mostly young Falcons defense.