We’ve reached the critical juncture of the NFL season that will see four teams battle it out to represent the NFC and AFC in Super Bowl LIV on Championship Sunday.
The Tennesee Titans, Kansas City Chiefs, Green Bay Packers, and San Francisco 49ers all look to punch their ticket on Sunday and build towards something they all dream of — winning a Super Bowl championship.
They say this opportunity doesn’t come around all too often and if the NFL gods only pick one champion, then it comes down to who can further their legacy through 60-minutes of grueling, physical football for the next two games.
Ryan Tannehill, Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, and Jimmy Garoppolo will try to cement their legacy by winning their next two games. But the cruelty of sports will only allow one to stand tall at the end.
Which begs the question: What’s at stake for each quarterback?
Championship Sunday: The Stakes
Out of the four quarterbacks remaining, only Rodgers has been past Championship Sunday, played, and won a Super Bowl (Super Bowl XLV). While Tannehill and Garoppolo will make their debuts and Mahomes will have a second shot at it.
Each quarterback has won a number of different ways in these playoffs. Tannehill has most relied on Derrick Henry on offense, Mahomes poured on 51 points on the Houston Texans, Rodgers surgically carved up the Seattle Seahawks defense, and Garoppolo got a stout performance from his defense against the Minnesota Vikings.
Each team has benefitted greatly from their supporting cast and has shown the ability to take charge when needed. They say football is a team game and all four teams will need next to complete efforts from everyone if they’re headed to the Promised Land.
It’s Been Awhile
While adding a Lombardi Trophy to each franchise would be monumental, it has been almost an eternity for the four remaining teams.
The most recent was Green Bay’s Super Bowl victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV in 2010 to give Rodgers his first and the only ring so far — a mere decade ago for Green Bay.
Tennesee’s lone Super Bowl appearance came in 1999 when they made it as a Wild Card team — before falling one-yard short against the St. Louis Rams in the final seconds.
Kansas City trumps the remaining teams in terms of waiting for a championship since the last Super Bowl they were in and won … came back in 1970 in Super Bowl IV when they defeated Minnesota, 23-7. Some teams wait a while and some teams wait an eternity to get back to the big game.
San Francisco, perhaps one of the greatest dynasties in the history of the NFL, saw their last Super Bowl win in 1994 in Super Bowl XXIX when they obliterated the then-San Diego Chargers, 49-26. Despite coming close a few times, San Francisco only made it to Super Bowl XLVII, when they lost to the Baltimore Ravens.
However, the 2010s have been mostly kind to the four teams remaining to make it at least to Championship Sunday: Green Bay (4), San Francisco (3), Kansas City (2), and Tennesee (1).
What Will it Take?
Can Tannehill air it out with success as he achieved against the Baltimore Ravens without having to make Henry a one-man show?
Can Mahomes prove that last week’s trouncing of the Houston Texans wasn’t a fluke and they really are the most explosive, dangerous offense remaining? Not to mention they lost to the Titans in Tennesee earlier in the season.
Can Rodgers return to the scene of the crime where his team suffered their worst loss of the season and bounce back with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line?
Can Garoppolo prove that he is the quarterback that studied under Bill Belichick and Tom Brady to bring that championship-winning culture to San Francisco for years to come?
All four signal-callers will put the game on the shoulders knowing so much is at stake on Sunday — and that’s what you’d expect from the faces of a franchise.
It may not be fair, right or wrong, but they know what’s expected of them.
To be leaders of men on and off the field is an honor and privilege many NFL players wear proudly, but giving that extra promise of a championship brings a unit even tighter.
Legacies are forged in moments such as this Sunday and beyond. Knowing that you have one final chance to do something special is an incredible feeling for an organization.
Which quarterback will continue their legacy and which one will fall?
The opportunity to represent their conference in the Super Bowl is not one that is presented often, but for one of these four quarterbacks, one will go down in history who got the job done.
Buckle up as we enter the final stretch of 2019 NFL season where nothing has gone according to script and everything can be flipped at a moment’s notice.