Wes Welker was one of the most productive wide receivers of his era, and played a key role in some of the NFL’s best ever offenses. But despite reaching the Super Bowl twice with the New England Patriots and once with the Denver Broncos, Welker has no championship ring to call his own: the Patriots were defeated in Super Bowls 42 and 46 by the New York Giants, while the Broncos stood no chance against the 2013 Seattle Seahawks.
Now, Welker is getting another shot at a title albeit in a different role: the 38-year-old took on a job as the San Francisco 49ers’ wide receivers coach last spring, and as such is currently preparing his men to take on the Kansas City Chiefs on the game’s biggest stage. Obviously he knows just how difficult it is to take that final hurdle, and how agonizing the taste of defeat is when coming away as the losing team on Super Bowl Sunday.
“I express it all the time — shoot, I expressed it even in the spring: how bad of a feeling it is to not win it,” Welker said on Monday during the so-called Super Bowl Opening Night when asked about the own disappointments he experienced in this setting (via NESN’s Zack Cox). “Now we’re here; now we’ve just got to hone in and be on top of everything and make sure we’re ready to go when the lights are on on Sunday.”
Welker certainly came close to getting crowned world champion in the first two of his attempts. The Patriots were ahead late in the fourth quarter in both games against the Giants, only to surrender late touchdowns to eventually lose. Along the way, New England’s all-time receptions leader was his usual productive self, catching 11 passes for 103 yards in Super Bowl 42 and an additional seven for 80 yards four years later.
However, the play that stands out from Welker’s title game résumé is one he did not make: in Super Bowl 46 and with the Patriots trying to put the game out of reach, he was unable to come down with a difficult but still catchable pass from quarterback Tom Brady. It was eventually the closest the wide receiver ever came to winning a Super Bowl, as his return with the Broncos two years later ended in a 43-8 debacle for his team.
“Probably,” said Welker when asked earlier this week whether or not a win against the Chiefs on Sunday would therefore feel particularly different within the context of his previous teams’ shortcomings in the Super Bowl. “But at least when people ask me, ‘How many Super Bowls have you won?’ I can at least say one. They don’t know if I got it as a player as a coach. So I can check that off the list.”