Few figures remain from the last Super Bowl meeting between the Giants and Patriots, but the four faces of that game are once again the most important and featured members of this one. Giants head coach Tom Coughlin and quarterback Eli Manning are looking for their second Super Bowl together, while Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady are in search of ring No. 4 as a tandem.
And while there are still more than a few chapters to be written on guys like Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Jerod Mayo, Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul, Manning, Coughlin, Brady and Belichick are already locked in as legends of the game, with all four in the Hall of Fame conversation regardless of what happens the rest of the way.
So in anticipating of next weekend’s game, we have an opportunity to speculate on what a win would do for the legacies of those four men.
Coughlin: If he wins this thing, he’ll officially become the most under-appreciated two-win Super Bowl champion head coach in NFL history. There were calls for his head only months before the Giants won in 2007, and he was again considered to be on the “hot seat” as recently as this past December. Only Chuck Noll (4), Joe Gibbs (3), Belichick (3) and Bill Walsh (3) would have more championships than Coughlin, and the fact that he’d have beaten Belichick twice would have to be worth something.
Manning: He’d obviously pass his big brother on the Super Bowl wins list, which is amazing when you consider that Peyton has won 68 percent of his regular-season games, while Eli has won only 58 percent of his. Peyton’s numbers are also far better right across the board. Previously, there was never much of a debate as to which Manning was better. Now, the debate would become very active and very real. Only Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, Brady and Troy Aikman would have more rings than Manning, and you could probably make the argument that he never had the support those guys did. And again, beating Brady and Belichick in two Super Bowls — both as an underdog and in one case breaking up a perfect season — adds to the lore.
Belichick: He and Brady would become the second coach-quarterback tandem in NFL history to win four Super Bowls together (Noll and Bradshaw). Belichick’s already a Hall of Famer, but also consider that he earned two rings as a coordinator with the Giants and that might be enough to think of him as the most successful coach in NFL history. No one has ever won six championships in strictly coaching or coordinating roles.
Brady: He’s also obviously a Hall of Fame lock, but a win next Sunday would move him in front of Montana and into the top spot on the all-time postseason victories list with 17. He’d also tie Montana and Bradshaw with his fourth ring, giving him — and I’m guessing here — at least three or four more years to capture one more title and become the first-ever quarterback to win five. That 2008 game was still a blemish that’ll hurt him, especially considering that Montana and Bradshaw never lost in the Super Bowl, but 4-1 looks a hell of a lot better than 3-2. And if Brady can’t come through and win again as a favorite, he’ll take heat for having gone seven straight seasons in his prime without earning a Lombardi Trophy.