The Super Bowl is where players go to become legendary. Dan Marino might be the best pure passing quarterback of all time, but when the topic is “Who’s the best QB of all time?” you rarely hear his name. Why? Simple: he never won a Super Bowl. So while being a champion is a good enough reason to want to win this game, for some people there’s a little more on the line…
For Aaron Rodgers, he gets the chance to exercise the demons of number 4. For 3 years now Rodgers has walked around with a big Brett Favre shaped monkey on his back. Rodgers has done everything right in his 3 years as starter. He’s won, he’s passed for a mind boggling number of yards and touchdowns, he’s done everything a QB can do to get rid of the shadow of his predecessor, except for one thing. This Sunday, Rodgers will get his shot at doing that one thing, winning a Super Bowl. Fair or not, it’s the one thing keeping the shadow of Favre around, and fair or not there’s only one way to get rid of that shadow. Win.
For Donald Driver there is just one thing missing on a stellar career resume: a Super Bowl championship. Driver already has numerous Packer records at the receiver position. He’s seemingly done it all. Rising from a little known 7th round draft pick out of Alcorn State to one of the best receivers in Packers history. It’s been a very impressive career for Donald. But a Super Bowl has always eluded him. The closest he got was in the 2007-08 season when the Packers lost to the Giants in the NFC Championship. Driver was the intended receiver on Brett Favre’s game losing interception. He literally had the best view in the house as what could’ve been his last shot at immortality fell into the hands of Corey Webster. Now Driver has finally gotten there. After so much disappointment Driver stands 4 quarters away from a championship. Nobody, not Corey Webster, not anybody, is getting in his way this time.
For Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher their story is much the same as Driver’s, it’s just less heralded. Clifton and Tauscher have been the anchors of the Packers offensive line for years. They’ve blocked for Ahman Green and Brett Favre, they’ve blocked for Ryan Grant and Aaron Rodgers, but some would argue that all that time they were taken for granted. Probably still are. Tauscher will miss the Super Bowl, he’s been on IR most of the season and rookie Bryan Bulaga starts in his place, but Clifton will get his first and possibly last chance this Sunday to block in a Super Bowl. And Tauscher will stand on the sidelines cheering the team he’s been a part of for so long. Sunday will be a gigantic test for Clifton. Pittsburgh boasts one of the best pass rushing linebacker corps in the NFL. But he’ll do what he always does, quietly go about his business and let the flashier guys have their moment in the sun. For 2 unsung veterans rarely mentioned when talking about the Packers, they’ll be more than happy to quietly block for (or in Tausch’s case, cheer for) Aaron Rodgers, James Starks, and company as they, hopefully, lead this team to victory.
For Clay Matthews it’s been a long road to the top. Football’s in his family’s blood, but nothing came easy. He had to walk-on at USC, he had to fight to be a starter, and now here he is in his 2nd NFL season fighting for a championship. Matthews had a stellar 2010-11 and was considered a frontrunner for the Defensive Player of the Year award. It was even reported for a short while that he’d won the award. Instead, the honor went to the Steelers Troy Polamalu. There’s no doubt in anybody’s mind that if Matthews sets his sight on that award, he’ll get it eventually. Hard work has gotten him this far. But for right now, Polamalu can have the award, because Matthews has bigger things in mind. Football is in Clay Matthews’ blood. He hopes soon that a ring will be on his hand.
For Charles Woodson it’s been a long, strange trip. He’s one of two Packers with Super Bowl experience, having been here years ago with the Oakland Raiders. He lost that one. Years ago Woodson was on a very good Raiders team that lost to the Patriots in the Playoffs because of the infamous Tuck Rule play. Towards the end of his run in Oakland Woodson was hampered by injuries and elected to leave via free agency. He didn’t get much in the way of suitors. His only viable option ended up being Green Bay. Woodson was on that 07-08 team that lost in the NFC Championship. There’s been extraordinary ups in the career of Charles Woodson. He won the Heisman Trophy when he was at Michigan, a rare feat for a defensive player. But his pro career has been marked by stellar play, but disappointing team results. Sunday is a chance to change that. A chance, for once, to come out on top in the pros. Disppointment drives Woodson, but on Sunday he has his chance for glory.
For Mike McCarthy it’s been a much scrutinized tenure as head coach of the Packers. His time here has become marked by a very schizophrenic playcalling style. There’s the genius playcalls that remind you why he’s the guy for this job, and then there’s the 3rd and 1 handoff to John Kuhn that everyone in the building knows is coming. McCarthy isn’t the most expressive guy, he’s not the most emotional, he’s fairly even kiel. Packers fans have been pretty indifferent on him for years. Some wondered if McCarthy was the guy to take this team to that next level, that next plateau. On Sunday, McCarthy will get the chance to prove his doubters wrong and endear himself to Packer Nation. Sunday, potentially, is the day Mike McCarthy gets his own street in Green Bay.
For Ted Thompson it’s been a tumultuous tenure as Packers general manager, and that’s putting it lightly. Being the guy to get rid of a beloved legend isn’t going to make you popular. Being the guy who doesn’t go out and throw money at the best free agents isn’t going to make you popular. Being the guy that doesn’t make the kneejerk trade to placate fans isn’t going to make you popular. Thompson doesn’t care. He does it his way, and if the fans don’t like it, tough. Sunday is Thompson’s vision for this team coming to fruition. It’s him proving he’s smarter than you, but he won’t say that. He’s just going to let the players on the field do his talking for him. And on Sunday his players, his team, his vision, may finally return Lombardi back to where it belongs: Green Bay.
The Super Bowl is where players and staffs go to create a legacy. Without a championship you’ll always be known as, at best, a really good player who could never win the big one. Well Sunday is the chance for the people on this list. Sunday is their chance to win the big one.
Sunday is where legacies are created. Sunday is the final step to football immortality.
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