INDIANAPOLIS -- A Super Bowl can be a defining moment in the career of a player or coach. It can turn good players into great ones. It also can separate those who are Hall of Fame worthy and those who are not.
I see nine people involved in Super Bowl XLVI who have to be discussed for enshrinement in Canton. Here's where I think they stand:
Bill Belichick: The man has won three Super Bowl titles, five conference crowns and nine division championships, while leading his team to 11 straight winning seasons. There are only three men with three Super Bowl titles and they are all in the HOF -- Chuck Noll, Joe Gibbs, and Bill Walsh. Belichick has more wins (135) in a 10-year span (2001-2010) than any coach. Belichick also has two Super Bowl rings from 1986 and 1990 when he was the defensive coordinator with the Giants.
Tom Brady: He was the field general during the great Super Bowl run under Belichick. A victory this week would give him four championships. His 16-5 playoff record is tied for the most in league history with Joe Montana. He is tied with John Elway for the most Super Bowl starts with five, and he has posted a 140-40 career record as a starter.
Robert Kraft: Mr. Kraft is the owner of one of the great franchises in NFL history, and he was instrumental in resolving the labor dispute. He has been a major influence in the negotiation of the 10-year television contract.
A win away
Tom Coughlin: He could win his second Super Bowl this weekend and that puts him in elite company. He has put together seven straight winning seasons, and has three division titles and two NFC championships with the Giants. In Jacksonville, he was in the playoffs four different seasons with an expansion team. He has 153 career wins, and his seven postseason road wins tie Tom Landry for the most in NFL history.
Eli Manning: He is gunning for his second Super Bowl win after an MVP performance in his first appearance four years ago. With a chance to win a second MVP, he could be keeping company with Terry Bradshaw and Bart Starr. Manning's five postseason road wins are the most by any quarterback in history, and his 15 fourth-quarter touchdowns this year in the regular season were the most by any QB ever. Manning has 24 fourth-quarter comebacks in his career.
Brian Waters: He has played in 175 games, starting 165. A six-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time All-Pro, he has allowed just 18 sacks in his whole career. He was an undrafted rookie from North Texas State who was cut and signed by the Chiefs and now plays for the Patriots. He is also a standout off the field, winning the 2009 Walter Payton Man of the Year award.
Wes Welker: He bounced around the league, making stops in San Diego and Miami after being undrafted, but he found a home in New England and has amassed 650 receptions in 124 games (69 starts). Over five years with the Patriots, he has 554 receptions and 31 touchdowns. If he keeps that pace up for four more years he will reach 1,000 receptions and 50 touchdowns. Art Monk is in the HOF with 940 receptions and Steve Largent is in with 819 receptions. It's a long shot, but you never know.
It's obviously way too early to tell, but the start to the careers of these players indicates they should be on the radar screen for future consideration.
Rob Gronkowski: The second-year tight end already has 132 receptions and 27 touchdowns. It took future HOF tight end Tony Gonzalez five years to score that many touchdowns, and three years to catch that many balls. Gronkowski is off to a fantastic start.
Jason Pierre-Paul: In 12 career starts, JPP has 21 sacks, 83 tackles and four forced fumbles. At 22 years old, he only has played five years of organized football. Bruce Smith had 21.5 sacks, 68 tackles and zero forced fumbles in his first two years. Richard Dent had 20.5 sacks, 40 tackles and zero forced fumbles in his first two years. Both are in the HOF.