With the tenth anniversary of the New England Patriots’ triumph over the St. Louis Rams just two days away, it seems like an appropriate time to take stock of the legacies of the teams and the players involved in Super Bowl XLVI (46). Over the past decade, the Patriots have won three Super Bowls, and made an appearance in the big game an astounding four times. Bill Belichick has cemented his place in NFL lore as one of the great masterminds ever, and his quarterback, Tom Brady, has emerged as a candidate for the title of best quarterback of all time.
With a win, the Patriots would push their number of Lombardi trophies to four, behind only the Steelers (6), Cowboys (5), and 49ers (5). In a results driven league, trophies are everything, and the Patriots have already proven themselves as a fundamentally sound and stable organization.
That’s where the Giants came in back in February of 2008. The then undefeated Patriots were on the brink of wrapping up the first 19-0 season in the history of the league when the Giants shocked the world by pulling one of the greatest upsets in NFL history in one of the most entertaining games ever to boot. No, the loss didn’t destroy all the Patriots had built, but it just hasn’t been the same since that day. Their legacy as one of the great teams has since felt like the Athenaeum, unfinished yet still a masterpiece. Unlike Gilbert Stuart, the Patriots intend to finish what they started.
Their foe, ironically enough, is once again the New York Giants. Like the Patriots, the Giants haven’t appeared in the Super Bowl since they cemented their place in the history books by knocking off the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII (42). The Giants legacy is far different than that of the Patriots, and yet, somehow nearly as great. A win this Sunday would be the start of a question that could be debated from now to the end of time. Is Eli Manning a Hall of Famer?
True, Manning’s numbers aren’t earth-shattering when you compare them to the great quarterbacks of all time, but two Super Bowl victories tend to do wonders for your Hall of Fame resume. A second ring would move Eli past older brother Peyton in Super Bowl wins. I’m not expecting any family quarls from such a development, but it’s still a hard fact to swallow. Eli Manning may win more Super Bowls than Peyton.
Super Bowl XLVI should be “one for the ages part II.” The Giants knocked off the Patriots earlier in the season in a thrilling last minute victory that was eerily familiar to Super Bowl XLII’s finish. These teams are equals. There’s no other way to cut it. There will be a winner, and there will be a loser. Both teams have much to gain and much to lose. That’s the nature of legacies. Their construction is tenuous at best, but once they’re finished, they stand forever.