Former NFL player and scout Bucky Brooks knows the ins and outs of this league, providing keen insight in his notebook. In today's installment, he delves into who would benefit most from finishing this season on top.
The goal of every NFL player, coach and executive is as simple as it is obvious: win the Super Bowl. That confetti shower validates all of the hard work logged during the offseason, in training camp and throughout the six-month grind of a championship season. Hoisting the Lombardi Trophy puts you in rarefied air, having reached the summit of the sport.
As a player, I spent time with the 1996 Green Bay Packers, who would go on to win that season's title, putting an indelible distinction on the spectacular football careers of Brett Favre, Reggie White and LeRoy Butler. Though each would have been Hall-worthy without a Super Bowl win on the résumé, that 35-21 victory over the New England Patriots at the Superdome served as an exclamation point on all three candidacies. That ring is the ultimate bling, a reward with immeasurable meaning.
Heading into this weekend's Divisional Round, eight teams remain alive in the race for the ring. It goes without saying that each member of every organization would cherish a Super Bowl LVII triumph, but who needs it the most? Here are my picks, presented in alphabetical order by team.
The Bills star has done a lot to close the gap on Patrick Mahomes in the league's quarterback hierarchy, but he needs some hardware to really give the Chiefs signal-caller a run for his money. As a one-man show with A+ arm talent, rugged running skills and big-play ability, Allen is a dazzling playmaker who can put Buffalo on his back at any time. Moreover, the fifth-year pro showed the football world over the past few seasons that he can elevate his squad to contender status with his spectacular play inside and outside of the pocket. If Allen adds a Super Bowl win to his résumé, he'll significantly strengthen his case in the QB1 argument -- especially if he beats Mahomes along the way.
Yeah, choosing the entire franchise is kind of a cop-out, but hear me out. In its 55th year of existence, the organization has NEVER won a championship -- even going back to its brief AFL days -- despite three appearances in the Super Bowl, including a narrow loss last February. Though the team's recent rise to prominence has squashed some of the previous complaints about the ownership group, a Super Bowl win would help Mike Brown and family earn the respect of their peers as the leaders of a model franchise.
The two-time Pro Bowler has flirted with elite status throughout his seven-year NFL career, but Prescott would breeze past the velvet ropes with a Super Bowl win. The accomplishment would end the proud franchise's 27-year title drought and catapult the veteran into rare air as a player. While the most stubborn doubters would likely continue to debate whether No. 4 is a game manager or playmaker, carrying the label of Super Bowl champion would silence the critics questioning his entrance into the $40 Million Club.
A year after enduring taunts and jeers from Jaguars fans in the season finale, Baalke would command respect as a top executive for building Jacksonville's first championship team in just his third year with the franchise. Although he would share the credit with Doug Pederson for a remarkable rebuilding effort immediately following the Urban Meyer debacle, the Jags' worst-to-first run culminating in a Super Bowl title would force critics to put away the clown suits and throw flowers at Baalke's feet for a job well done.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Yes, Reid already owns the ring that will ultimately land him in Canton. But a second Super Bowl title would place him squarely among the best of the best in NFL coaching history. He already ranks top five in career wins, not to mention his outsized impact on the game as spectacular offensive mind and creative schemer. In his 24 years as a head coach, Reid's been involved in an innumerable amount of memorable moments. A second Super Bowl win would be a gigantic cherry on top.
NEW YORK GIANTS
As two of the most controversial draft picks in franchise history, Jones and Barkley have a chance to prove the Giants were absolutely correct in selecting them to serve as foundational pieces. While injuries and inconsistent play from New York's backfield duo have contributed to Big Blue's underachievement in the past, an improbable run through the playoffs would change the perception of the team's franchise players -- and force the Giants to open up the checkbook to retain both pending free agents' services for years to come.
After an awkward introductory press conference that led to extremely premature questions about his readiness for a head-coaching role, Sirianni can have the last laugh over the next month. The second-year coach has transformed the Eagles into a league heavyweight, overseeing an explosive offense and suffocating defense that has opponents running to the film room to steal ideas. With Sirianni also earning major kudos for his work in developing Jalen Hurts into an MVP-caliber quarterback, the addition of Super Bowl championship to his résumé would boost his reputation into another stratosphere.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
"Mr. Irrelevant" is on the verge of securing the starting quarterback job for San Francisco in 2023 with a spectacular late-season run, but he can put his name on the lineup card in permanent ink with a Super Bowl win. Purdy's poise, passing and playmaking skills have enhanced a 49ers offense loaded with hybrid big-play specialists on the perimeter. If the rookie seventh-rounder continues to direct the offense as a skilled symphony conductor, the Niners will undoubtedly hand the ball to Purdy as their QB1 for next season and beyond.