Among the many storylines developing in the the round of eight is that there are some very deserving figures closing in on winning their first Super Bowl ring. Here are five people on NFL teams, sidelines, front offices, and in stadiums who have a chance to win their first Super Bowl ring headed into the Divisional playoff round, presented in alphabetical order:
The Buffalo Bills are one of three teams remaining in the postseason that have never won a Super Bowl, joining the Cincinnati Bengals (who Buffalo hosts Sunday) and the Jacksonville Jaguars as franchises searching for an elusive first title. While each fan base, of course, yearns for the Lombardi Trophy, no group of fans deserve to finally see a Super Bowl win more than the Bills Mafia. They’ve suffered for so long and saw four straight Super Bowl losses 30 years ago. This is a fun, wild, rabid and charitable group of table-breaking zanies. Just think what a Buffalo Super Bowl parade would be like? These people deserve to win it all.
She is the Executive Vice President of the Bengals. Blackburn, the daughter of team owner Mike Brown, has immersed herself in the family business for more than 30 years. She was the first woman in the NFL to work hands-on negotiating player contracts, and she has worked in every key facet of the front office. In a league that is seeing women getting more opportunities in several areas, from front offices to coaching positions, Blackburn is a pioneer and a leader in that movement. Seeing her play a key role in bringing Cincinnati its first Super Bowl championship would be a historic moment.
Twenty-six years ago as a senior in high school, Shanahan worked the sideline as his father, Mike Shanahan, won his first Super Bowl as the head coach of the Denver Broncos. In his 20th year of his own NFL coaching career, Shanahan, 43, has a legitimate chance to secure his own first Super Bowl ring as the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.
Shanahan has come close twice to winning the Super Bowl, losing both in bitter blown-lead defeats. The first was as the Atlanta Falcons’ offensive coordinator (in his final game before taking the head coaching role in San Francisco) in the infamous 28-3 game to the New England Patriots, and then losing to Kansas City in 2020 as the Chiefs outscored the 49ers 21-0 in the fourth quarter to win 31-20. Shanahan has done a tremendous job leading the 49ers through injuries and leading his third quarterback, seventh-round draft pick Brock Purdy, to the Divisional round. At some point, Shanahan is going to get a ring of his own and it might be this year.
Smith has been an anchor of the Dallas Cowboys’ offensive line since he was drafted with the No. 9 overall pick in 2011. He’s been a mainstay of a strong offensive line. Smith, 32, has dealt with a string of injuries in recent years and has missed a total of 33 games since the start of the 2020 season. He missed 13 games this season after he tore his hamstring and suffered an avulsion fracture in his leg. But he is now healthy and a big part of the Cowboys’ offense. His career may be winding down. Getting his first Super Bowl ring would be special for this great player who has persevered through a lot.
This is another great tackle. Let’s put it this way: Williams is the best tackle in the game. He is a leader of the 49ers and truly deserves to win a Super Bowl. The 13-year veteran was part of the 49ers’ 2020 Super Bowl heartbreak. He has also dealt with a lot of turmoil as part of the Washington Commanders organization that drafted him at No. 4 overall in 2010. He had a bitter, difficult parting from Washington. He had a cancerous growth removed from his head that was he said was originally downplayed by the team’s medical staff. Williams has found a stable home in San Francisco and winning a Super Bowl could be a nice cap on a Pro Football Hall of Fame career.