One game for one legacy. Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning all have a lot to prove as the New England Patriots and New York Giants meet in Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium at 6:29 p.m. EDT on Sunday.
Brady and Belichick have already proven themselves as winners. In fact, the two are all-time greats. But there's more to it than that. Sure, the pairing have won three Super Bowl titles already, but there's something special about the fourth.
Winning that fourth Super Bowl would change the legacy of Brady and Belichick. Two men who are already greats would take that final step towards becoming immortal. Brady would have the most ever playoff victories and be tied for the most Super Bowl victories. Belichick, meanwhile, would join Chuck Noll as the only coach to ever win four rings.
As for Manning and Coughlin, they're fighting to establish their own legacy. Both would put themselves into an elite category with a second Super Bowl victory. No longer would they be one-time winners or flukes. They would be greats.
Manning continues to pave out his own legacy, separating himself from older brother Peyton Manning. A victory in Super Bowl XLVI would go a long way towards that, as it would give him one more ring than the elder Manning, who may have played his last game in the NFL. Fair or not, Eli will always be tied to Peyton, and this would help Eli's legacy a lot.
Coughlin's story is peculiar. He's a great coach in his own right, yet it seems that he's always on the hot seat. Win a second ring, and that hot seat would be removed for quite a while. The former Boston College coach would join the ranks of the few coaches who have appeared multiple times and won in Super Bowls.
Currently, there are eight coaches with just two Super Bowl victories and 12 with two or more wins in the big game. Again, Coughlin would no longer be just a good coach. He'd be a great.
Of course, there are other players who would benefit greatly from a victory on Sunday. Namely, all of the players on both rosters. Add a Super Bowl ring to your resume and your price tag in the free agent market goes up considerably.
Players like Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Steven Gostkowski, who are already permanently apart of Patriots' lore, would take that next step in franchise history. They would all be remembered as champions.
Then there is Deion Branch, who would pick up his third Super Bowl victory. Branch, who had 11 catches for 133 yards in Super Bowl XXXIX against the Philadelphia Eagles and was named Super Bowl MVP, would further cement his greatness, too. Branch was the first wide receiver since Jerry Rice to win Super Bowl MVP. That's pretty good company.
On the Giants side, there are plenty of players who would cement their legacies, too. Hakeem Nicks, Ahmad Bradshaw, Brandon Jacobs, Jake Ballard, Lawrence Tynes, Antrel Rolle, Jason Pierre-Paul. The list goes on and on.
Giants and Patriots players with local ties would get a huge legacy boost, too. Mark Herzlich, Mathias Kiwanuka, Chris Snee, Will Blackmon, Dan Koppen and Rob Brace -- all of whom are Boston College graduates -- would get their time in the sun. Victor Cruz, a UMass graduate who is having a breakout year, would also stand to benefit greatly, legacy wise.
It's all there for the taking. At the end of the day, it comes down to this: who wants it more?