Super Bowls can define careers. Perhaps no one knows that better than former Jets quarterback Joe Namath. While he was a ahead of his time as far as passing is concerned, Namath probably wouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame if not for Super Bowl III and his role in the greatest upset in the history of pro football.
Namath’s pregame guarantee of a Jets upset — and he and his teammates backing it up with a win — only added to his legend and undoubtedly contributed to his gold jacket and bronze bust in Canton, Ohio. He is one of several players whose place in the Hall of Fame can largely be attributed to their performances in Super Bowls.
Several players will look to make a similar impact in Super Bowl LVIII, which will be broadcast on CBS and Nickelodeon and you can stream it on Paramount+ (here’s how to watch). While a few players who will play on Sunday are already locks, several more can bolster their future case for Canton by putting together a strong performance on sports’ biggest stage. Winning the game matters, too, which is something every member of the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers will try to do when the ball is kicked off from Las Vegas.
Here’s a look at several significant players on both teams and their current Hall of Fame status, in my humble opinion.
Hall of Fame locks
He’s only 28, but Mahomes’ legacy as one of the greatest quarterbacks is NFL history is already secured. At this point, Mahomes is working towards entering the argument as the greatest of all-time, a mantle Tom Brady currently holds. Mahomes can help strengthen his argument by winning his third ring.
Like Mahomes, Travis Kelce’s place in Canton, Ohio is already secured. One of the most prolific tight ends in NFL history, Kelce is also one of the most productive pass-catchers in playoff history. He recently surpassed the immortal Jerry Rice in career playoff catches.
Williams seems to only get better with age. A Pro Bowler each of the past 12 years, Williams has been tabbed as an All-Pro each of the past three seasons. A ring would further cement his legacy as one of the greatest tackles of all-time.
Close, but not there yet
Jones is closer than you might think. He’s a five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro with 75.5 career sacks under his belt. His two Super Bowls only strengthen his future case for Canton.
Like Jones, Bosa is close to joining Mahomes, Kelce and Williams as a future Hall of Fame lock. He’s already a Defensive Player of the Year winner along with being a four-time Pro Bowler. More success — both team and individually — will get Bosa to the top category. A Super Bowl win would help, too.
Like Kelce, Kittle is one the best tight ends of his era. But in order to be considered an all-time great, Kittle still has a little more work to do. Really, he probably just needs to string together a few more Pro Bowl seasons to solidify his case for a gold jacket. A big performance in a winning effort on Sunday, though, could be good enough to vault Kittle into the category above.
I struggled with the decision to put McCaffrey here or in the below category. He got the better spot because, like Kittle, a big performance in a winning effort on Sunday would go a long way in determining his future Hall of Fame status. A Super Bowl MVP, especially for a running back, can be a gold ticket to Canton.
It’s hard to make the Hall as an inside linebacker (just ask Zach Thomas and Patrick Willis), so Warner has his work cut out for him. Thomas and Willis were unable to win a Super Bowl, and that may have contributed to Thomas’ wait and Willis still waiting for his Hall of Fame phone call. A win on Sunday would give Warner a ring while also strengthening his Hall of Fame chances.
That being said, Warner appears to be on his way to a Hall of Fame career, anyway. The NFL’s best inside linebacker today, Warner proved it this past season by filling the stat sheet with four picks, four forced fumble, 2.5 sacks and 132 tackles.
Juszczyk’s Hall of Fame situation is unique. He certainly has the bonafides as an eight-time Pro Bowler. But he plays a position that is all but extinct and is one of the hardest positions to make as far as induction into the Hall of Fame. A win on Sunday would help, but Juszczyk’s future Hall of Fame chances may very come down to the voters and how much or how little they value the fullback position in today’s NFL.
Has potential, but more work needs to be done
While his career is still in its infancy, Humphrey is already making a strong Hall of Fame case for himself. He’s already been named to two Pro Bowls and is one win away from his second Super Bowl ring. His presence since coming to Kansas City has done wonders for Mahomes and the rest of Kansas City’s offense.
Thuney has the rings but is lacking individual accolades that voters often look too much at. He won two rings as a starter with the Patriots, but the didn’t start getting Pro Bowl or All-Pro recognition until his past two years with the Chiefs. If he can add a few Pro Bowls to his list of bonafides, Thuney will have a convincing Hall of Fame case when his career is said and done.
What makes Samuel so good is what may also hurt him as far as Canton is concerned. His versatility makes it hard for him to pile up a lot of receiving stats. He has one 1,000-yard season, for example, and that has also contributed to him only being named to one Pro Bowl so far. Those are two strikes Hall of Fame voters may one day hold against him.
That’s why a Super Bowl win is paramount for Samuel and his future Hall of Fame odds. Samuel has been a big reason for the 49ers’ playoff success in recent years. A Super Bowl win would highlight that while giving the Hall of Fame voters something to consider beyond his regular season stats.
Hargrave has been an impact player since his rookie season with the Steelers in 2017. But he didn’t receive much fanfare until 2021, when he earned his first Pro Bowl as a member of the Eagles. Hargrave helped Philadelphia reach the big game last year after recording a career-high 11 sacks.
In San Francisco, Hargrave has continued to produce and was named to his second Pro Bowl in three years. He’ll have to continue to stack Pro Bowl selections if he is going to make a serious case for Canton one day.