Eli Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner. Those seven names represent the quarterbacks who have started in the Super Bowl since 2008, but it might as well read as a “best-of” list. The teams with the best signal callers are the ones who play deep into January, and recent history tells us that an elite veteran quarterback is what takes a team to the Super Bowl. That is is why this year’s matchup of Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick is the most intriguing storyline headed into the big game.

Every recent Super Bowl has featured at least one quarterback who is unanimously hailed as top-tier at their position—from Tom Brady to Aaron Rodgers, the big game never fails to deliver an elite signal caller. This is an especially interesting thought to consider because of Joe Flacco’s make-it-or-break-it season that began with him proclaiming his status as an elite quarterback. He was solid but unspectacular for much of the 2012 season, but excellent postseason play is beginning to justify Flacco’s proclamation. Flacco is looking to play himself into the conversation of the NFL’s top-5 quarterbacks, but it would be a hell of a stretch to put him in that category today.

On the other side, Colin Kaepernick presents an even more intriguing situation. The most comparable Super Bowl quarterback scenario that comes to mind is Ben Roethlisberger, who took his Steelers to the Super Bowl in his second season. Kaepernick is in his second season, but his circumstances are much different. Not only did Kaepernick take just a handful of snaps in his rookie campaign last season, it wasn’t until halfway through this year that he took over starting duties. Kaepernick’s unexpected breakout season, which could almost be considered his rookie year, is ending in a Super Bowl journey. That doesn’t happen. First-year starters don’t take their teams to the Super Bowl, and they certainly don’t win them.

So on one side we have a 5th year pro who has been “good” to “very good” for much of his career, but who has been unspectacular enough to warrant some doubts. Going against him is an electric youngster who has the potential to become one of the game’s best, but who hasn’t even played a full season in the NFL. When compared to recent matchups of Brady/Manning, Rodgers/Roethlisberger, and Brees/Peyton Manning, the 2013 Super Bowl presents a quarterback duel that is deviating considerably from the norm. We don’t have two excellent veteran quarterbacks, or even one for that matter, but Flacco-Kaepernick is a refreshing change that is sure to usher a new quarterback into the upper echelon of NFL passers.