Two quarterbacks. Two legacies. Two levels of pressure to win this game.
The first is Russell Wilson, the Seahawks signal-caller who is paid more than any other player in the NFL. Wilson just completed one of the finer seasons in his likely Hall of Fame career, earning an All-Pro nod after posting 31 touchdown passes against five interceptions.
The 31-year-old already has one Super Bowl win and another Super Bowl appearance. He’s in the conversation for the next-best quarterback of the decade behind Tom Brady. A third Super Bowl appearance, let alone a second win, would cement his place among the all-time greats, and you can bet he wants it badly.
But the other quarterback? He needs it.
That would be Aaron Rodgers, the Packers signal caller with the greatest career passer rating (102.4) in NFL history. Rodgers just completed a middling season in his surefire Hall of Fame career, finishing with the 12th-best passer rating in the league. The 36-year-old also has a Super Bowl win and two regular-season MVPs. But like Wilson, he hasn’t separated himself from a herd of other quarterbacks with similar credentials.
At this point, you can’t say that either of them have distinguished themselves from someone such as Drew Brees, a fellow Super Bowl winner with the most touchdown passes in league history. The same is true of someone such as Ben Roethlisberger, who has two Super Bowl titles and six Pro Bowl appearances.
Rodgers can’t yet claim to have surpassed three-time MVP Brett Favre in Packers lore, either. And he is running out of time if he wants be remembered as part of that top tier of all-time quarterbacks.
It’s hard to say that a guy with a Super Bowl MVP has a disappointing résumé to this point, but if you’re talking about Rodgers in the postseason, that’s exactly the case. Once considered the best quarterback in the league by the NFL Network and ESPN rankings, Rodgers and his Packers have regularly flamed out in the playoffs, reaching the NFC Championship Game just once since their Super Bowl after the 2010 season.
Remember, this team didn’t make the playoffs last year. And it had a relatively easy schedule this year. Rodgers might not again be in a position where his squad is hosting a playoff game after a bye week.
If having a “sense of urgency” is really a factor in the NFL, Rodgers has it.
Then again, Wilson will tell you that he has that same urgency every time he takes the field. Perhaps that’s why he has the most fourth-quarter comebacks in the NFL since he came into the league, and why he has the second-best passer rating (101.2) behind Rodgers.
Wilson has proved that he doesn’t need a dynamic running game to win, as was evidenced by last week’s victory in Philadelphia. He has shown he doesn’t need an elite defense, either, as was evidenced by most of the games this season.
But there is still another echelon above him, one that includes players such as Peyton Manning and John Elway — quarterbacks who have proved they are among the best in the league during the regular season and have multiple Lombardi Trophies to go with it.
Wilson isn’t at that level yet. A few more victories, and he would be. He’d instantly be regarded as an all-timer despite having played less than a decade in the league.
But he also will have plenty more opportunities to do so if the Seahawks fall short Sunday.
The same can’t be said about Rodgers.
The career Packer is similar to Wilson in ways beyond their Super Bowl wins and Pro Bowl selections. Both have been among the more elusive QBs in the league, and both throw an otherworldly deep ball.
But while the second half of Wilson’s career looks auspicious, the second part of Rodgers’ career has not gone as hoped.
Two quarterbacks, two legacies, two levels of pressure.
Wilson wants to win Sunday so as to get him closer to the greatest to have ever played his position. But Rodgers? He pretty much has to win to do so.