Found January 20, 2013 on Beyond The Whistle:
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The Quarterback. The most magnified, glorified, and crucified position in all of professional sports. Today's NFL conference championship match ups will be no different for Tom Brady, Colin Kaepernick, Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan as they vie for spots in Super Bowl XLVII. At today's conclusion, the public's perception of each of these men will undoubtedly be skewed for better or for worse.The most pressure is on the arms of the first and second selected quarterbacks of the 2008 draft in Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco (picked third and 18th overall).Ryan finally got over the hump last Sunday. His Atlanta Falcons found themselves down 27-28 late in the game, against the Seattle Seahwaks. Ryan rallied his team to a comeback drive that led to an eventual game-winning field goal, ultimately winning 30-28. A loss would have gave Ryan an 0-4 records in the playoffs after averaging 11 regular season wins the last three years. Today will be his biggest test yet as he goes up against Jim Harbaugh's reinvented San Francisco 49ers. The underlying question is, is Ryan elite or just another quarterback that the big game eludes?Ryan's draft class mate in Flacco is in a similar situation although he's had mixed results in the playoffs with a record of 7-4. Flacco's dilemma is having to face a New England Patriots team that sent them home last year on the way to a Super Bowl appearance. Flacco is hoping the third time is the charm this AFC championship appearance, as he attempts to silence critics and prove he can catapult his name to the top tier of NFL quarterbacks. For whatever it's worth he is has the most active playoff wins without a Super Bowl appearance, a distinction I'm sure he would rather go without.     Tom Brady is at the point in his illustrious career where he is merely keeping toe with the great of greats. He is only chasing Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw for the most Super Bowl victories with four. He already has the best playoff record of all-time standing at 17-6 (.739 win percentage) and is fifth all-time in regular seasons wins for a quarterback with 136. A win today would put him in sixth Super Bowl. Oh and in case you haven't noticed, the Giants failed to make this season's postseason party. Brady can most afford to lose today since it won't change the fact that he is already an all-time great.The most exciting story this playoffs has been the coming out party for Colin Kaepernick who dazzled fans across the country with his record breaking 181 yard rushing performance last week against the Green Bay Packers. A loss from Kap and the 49ers would not be too disappointing, because not many expected them to be at this point in the first place with a second year quarterback who was thrust to the forefront of an already successful team.For the 49ers to reach the same point as last season is an ode to Jim Harbaugh and his risky move of swapping Kaepernick for the seasoned veteran in Alex Smith. A win however, would put great expectations on Kaepernick and Harbuagh to perform well into the future. The last coach to pull such a move was Bill Belichick with Tom Brady and Drew Bledsoe back in 2001 and we see how that turned out for the tandem. For Kaepernick, this game is a pace-setter for a blossoming career, only time can answer our many questions.Prior to today's games who do you think will be forgotten, kept in the discussion, or on the verge of being immortalized?
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