Pro Bowl: The Undeserving

| December 28, 2011

Each year the Pro Bowl roster comes out and each year I lose a few brain cells smacking my head against the table.

To be honest that is how stupid some of the picks are.

I really can’t put it any other way. Now I know the PFF staff and I have an advantage. We have a system designed to capture more than stats, and that can (in our opinions) compare players at the same positions. As a benefit to spending about 24 man hours (spread amongst three people) per game, you also actually watch a lot of football and really see what’s going on all over the field. Not just the ball.

It’s why we love giving out praise. Great players deserve recognition, so the Pro Bowl should be something to be celebrated. Instead, it’s a joke. Because if some of the players mentioned in this article can get selected then quite frankly the idea of a Pro Bowl at some positions, is worthless since it’s got nothing to do with what happens on the field, and everything to do with reputation, hearsay and how much someone is earning.
 Here are the worst Pro Bowl selections of this year.

 

Logan Mankins, G, New England Patriots

PFF Rating: +0.4

PFF Conference Ranking: 16th

Analysis: If you watched Mankins play last year you saw a man with a chip on his shoulder. The Patriots weren’t paying him what he wanted and he was proving his worth to them with a string of stellar displays. Fast forward to this year and gone are those dominant displays. Instead we’re seeing a whole lot of ‘meh’, and a high number (seven) of penalties. It’s not that Mankins has been terrible, he just isn’t having a huge impact on the game like say what Andy Levitre has managed in his 11 starts at left guard.

Key Fact: Mankins has the 15th highest run blocking grade of all guards. And that’s his strong suit with pass blocking ranking leaving him in 42nd place.

 

Jake Long, LT, Miami Dolphins and D’Brickashaw Ferguson, LT, New York Jets

PFF Rating: +4.4 (Long) and +4.5 (Ferguson)

PFF Conference Ranking: 13th and 12th

Analysis: Along with Joe Thomas, Long and Ferguson have formed a trio of excellence at the top of the left tackle tree over the past four years. However, that doesn’t mean they deserve automatic selection to the Pro Bowl every year, especially when others are more deserving. Ignoring for a second the total discrimination against right tackles, Long (who started the season off looking less than 100%) and Ferguson, have been outplayed by guys like Duane Brown, Andrew Whitworth and Branden Albert. Decent years for both men but nowhere near their best, and nowhere near the best. Their reputation may grow with another Pro Bowl spot, but it’s at the expense of peers who have truly earned it this year.

Key Fact: While Long and Ferguson have given up a combined 13 sacks, Duane Brown hasn’t given up a single one.

 

Maurkice Pouncey, C, Pittsburgh Steelers

PFF Rating: +1.8

PFF Conference Ranking: 12th

Analysis: Steelers fans will be up in arms about this (as they always are) and accuse us of hating on the younger Pouncey. Nothing could be further from the case. It’s just when you compare Pouncey to his peers there’s absolutely no way any player with a sane mind could pick him over some of the excellent centers in the AFC. That doesn’t mean Pouncey is a bad player, but just because we’re told he should be a once in a generation player doesn’t make it so. You only need to watch him to see how little impact he has on games, while players like Chris Myers are creating the kind of consistent running lanes that sees your team finish with two guys close to or above the 1,000 yard rushing mark.

Key Fact: Pouncey isn’t even the best Pouncey in our eyes. His grade is inferior to that of his twin brother Mike Pouncey (+2.9).

 

Vince Wilfork, DT, New England Patriots

PFF Rating: +4.8

PFF Conference Ranking: 15th

Analysis: To be fair Wilforks’ rating is a bit misleading; he actually has a +8.0 for his run defense and that’s his main function. Even then he’s a mile off the run disruptor that either Sione Pouha or Brodrick Bunkley has been, and has made nowhere near the impact Geno Atkins has. Clearly he still has the ability to dominate, but whether it was the shift to a 4-3 or just a down year, Wilfork hasn’t played nearly as well as he did last year on one of the worst defenses in the league. It’s interesting, with the Patriots defense struggling so much this year then I’m hearing people lambast Wilfork, as they did Kyle Williams in 2011.

Key Fact: Has played more snaps than any other defensive tackle. Maybe spelling him will help – especially taking him out of pass rushing situations.

 

John Kuhn, FB, Green Bay Packers

PFF Rating: -1.4

PFF Conference Ranking: 6th

Analysis: I like John Kuhn. I like his chant, I like his running style, and I like what he brings to the Packers offense. You know what else I like? Blocking fullbacks. Guys who will regularly blow up a linebacker with their lead blocking. Kuhn, is a glorified situational running back, leading all fullbacks in carries and playing a third down back role at times. With Jim Kleinsasser lining up more from the fullback spot than ever before it would have been great, and deserved, for his 2011 play to be recognized.

Key Fact: Of all fullbacks Kuhn has the 16th highest run blocking grade.

 

Joe Staley, LT, San Francisco 49ers and Jermon Bushrod, LT, New Orleans Saints

PFF Rating: -1.0 (Staley) and +6.6 (Bushrod)

PFF Conference Ranking: 12th and 7th

Analysis: I hate writing about two players whose improvement has impressed me, but these are both nods to their teams winning so much more than their own individual performance. Bushrod has certainly got better, but he has benefited from a system that sees Drew Brees so adept at getting rid of the ball before the pressure gets to him, while Staley is an average at best pass protector. It goes back to this debate about right tackles being ignored, because the NFC has had some truly excellent displays at the RT spot. I’m looking chiefly at guys like Bryan Bulaga, Tyson Clabo and Tyron Smith who all warranted selection. This paragraph may be a little harsh on Staley and Bushrod, but they’re the victims of some stereotyping that right tackles are an inferior breed to their brethren on the left. It’s not as if they have to deal with the Jason Babins, Clay Matthews and Von Millers of this world right?

Key Fact: Bushrod isn’t even the highest rated tackle on his own team with Zack Strief earning a +9.8 rating.

 

Davin Joseph, G, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

PFF Rating: -5.9

PFF Conference Ranking: 20th

Analysis: As long as I live I’ll never quite understand why people feel the need to defend Davin Joseph. Here’s a guy who gets paid a lot of money to do a job, and not even do it that well. Now sure the change in schemes has resulted in better play, but, even with the massive improvement, he’s still a below average player, who loses far too many battles at the point of attack. This isn’t some theory I developed, but rather through seeing it with my own eyes. It’s all there on the tape – you just need to watch number 75 on each and every play (not just the good ones) and you’ll see what I’m saying. There have been times this year when he’s looked really good, especially against Chicago. For the most part what you get with Joseph is a subpar run blocking. It’s one of the reasons LeGarrette Blount isn’t picking up much yardage unless he breaks a few tackles. I can’t imagine what Josh Sitton and Evan Mathis are thinking that they can play so much better than a player and yet receive so little praise for it.

Key Fact: Joseph has a negative run blocking grade in 10 games this year.

 

B.J. Raji, NT, Green Bay Packers

PFF Rating: -15.6

PFF Conference Ranking: Last

Analysis: Raji started off the year hot but since then? Well he’s our lowest rated tackle in the NFC so that should tell you everything. He doesn’t get off blocks to make tackles, and rarely penetrates into the backfield with his play being bad enough to result in a reduction in playing time. Gone are those dominant displays and now you rarely notice that he’s on the field. That is what has become of Raji so his selection, more than any other, discredits the Pro Bowl. Sure Kevin Williams isn’t the player he once was, and sure Alan Branch doesn’t have a big reputation, but those guys are actually influencing games. Heck, we’ve criticized Ndamukong Suh before but at least he consistently generates pressure on the QB. Raji, in 2011, has done so little on so many snaps he shouldn’t even been in the conversation. A real fail on this front.

Key Fact: Has made 10 defensive stops all year. That’s less than a player like Isaac Sopoaga.

 

Lance Briggs, OLB, Chicago Bears

PFF Rating: +5.2

PFF Conference Ranking: 14th

Analysis: It’s nice to see a 4-3 OLB receiving a selection. It’s just a shame that it’s the wrong one. Briggs has played well enough this year, but has he set the world alight? Has he made the plays Sean Weatherspoon has, got pressure like Aldon Smith or Brian Orakpo, or been as consistent in every phase as Erin Henderson. Sorry Briggs lovers, but the answer is a big fat no to all of them. The Bears weakside linebacker is a good player no doubt, but being good and having a reputation shouldn’t equate to a free trip to Hawaii. Not when you’ve got plenty of players outperforming you.

Key Fact: His 11 missed tackles are 5th highest of all 4-3 OLBs.

 

Charles Woodson, CB, Green Bay Packers and Charles Tillman, CB, Chicago Bears

PFF Rating: -2.2 (Woodson) and +4.4 (Tillman)

PFF Conference Ranking: 18th and 8th

Analysis: Woodson is a lot of things to the Green Bay Packers, but he’s not even their top cover corner. He’s now just the kind of difference maker that can be a liability in coverage, as evidenced by the nine penalties given up along with the 566 yards. Tillman is up at the 841 yard mark on the season and while he’s had some great moments (notably the second encounter with Detroit) he hasn’t consistently dominated the opposition as many would have you believe. Instead guys like Brent Grimes and Chris Gamble have made plays and allowed less than 45% of balls thrown their way to be complete. There really isn’t a comparison.

Key Fact: Chris Gamble has allowed just 284 yards all year.

 

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  • motorcycle

    Raji isn’t been taken off the field due to bad play, it’s too improve his energy for when he is on the field. Raji has been on the field for 80% of snaps this season and this should (in theory) enable him to make more of an impact in those 80% of snaps. Playing a predominately 2 man line and then having someone play 90%+ of those snaps isn’t a good idea. That being said, I don’t think Raji has had a good season and don’t think he should go to the pro bowl.

    Also as I said in the refocused Packers Bears article, Woodson isn’t a pure cornerback and to compare him to players who are isn’t fair. No corner rushes the QB as much as Woodson by a large margin. He may not have a high PRP, but defences have to account for Woodson rushing on every snap he’s inside. Other corners, you don’t need to by the same extent. I voted Woodson because he’s an all round defender, not just an outside corner. Also with Woodson you take the penalty yardage knowing his interception ratio will also be high. He’s 35 years old and plays to what his body allows him to do. He’s not as fast as others, but he’s a lot better at age 35 that many who reach that age will be at that time during their careers (if indeed they are still playing at that age) (:

    • windwounder

      As a Packer fan I think Raji looks fat and slow. It is like he thought he needed more weight to hold the point when staying the same size, improving his strength with another year, and keeping the explosiveness would do the job far better.

  • elkman8102

    How about mentioning Fletcher, Bowman, Tulloch, and Daryl Washington all being more deserving than Urlacher?

    • Neil Hornsby

      You could (and we have in other articles) but after a while I think people just assume we have an agenda.

      • FootballFan

        I noticed a trend on forums concerning this website, the grades are still a point of contention and a lot of people still rubbish the site. A lot of this is still due to perception, for example during Maurkice Pouncey’s rookie training camp the only thing reporters seemed to care about was Pouncey (probably because of their well documented oline issues) these prompted Casey Hampton and co to continuously hype him up by commenting on his strength and speed etc, so before he even played a regular season snap he had already become a future HOFer in the eyes of Steelers fans.

  • tom

    As a Pat’s fan, I second the “popularity contest” that got Wilfork and Mankins in. Vince has never been anything but a gap controller and Mankins is getting outperformed by Brian Watters.

    I have a hard time getting my head around any Steeler OLinman making the pro bowl. Pouncey got kudos last year for stepping in as a rook and may have a perpetual free pass here.

    This Pro Bowl popularity contest got me down back in 2002-2004 when Rodney Harrison was putting up ridiculous numbers and not get in, but would make first team All-Pro!?!

  • sgtrobo

    oh, for crying out loud. “Steelers fans will be up in arms about this “as they always are”"

    no, perhaps we’re up in arms because you ranked Pouncey 32nd in the NFL in pass protection last season. I’ve gone play for play, out of curiosity on a few occasions, and found that

    1. You misattributed sacks to him when they should’ve been attributed to Kemo (multiple times in one game, in fact)
    2. You misattributed plays to Pouncey when, in fact, it was Doug Legursky playing Center, not Maurkice Pouncey

    For the record, I didn’t vote Pouncey for Pro Bowl last season or this season. However, saying he was the 3rd worst C in the NFL last year in pass protection goes hand in hand with saying there’s, what, 70 CBs better than Ike Taylor this season?

    • Neil Hornsby

      If you’d let us know which plays those are we’d be happy to look at them and amend them if we were wrong.

      • sgtrobo

        as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t have the games DVR’d. However, you do see how a Steelers fan might express chagrin at rating 70+ CBs better than Ike Taylor and saying that Pouncey was the worst starting center in pass protection in the NFL, right?

        It’s not that “we all think he should be a Pro Bowler”, it’s that we disagree with your assertion that he was the worst in the NFL last year.

        excuse me, 3rd worst.

        • drgarnett

          If you can’t be bothered to DVR or get Game Rewind and point to actual plays, you can’t expect anyone to take your complaints seriously.

          • sgtrobo

            sorry, wasn’t aware that NFL offered Game Rewind in Afghanistan. Besides, the 2 instances I mentioned regarding Pouncey were rectified somewhat. They removed the sack from Pouncey, although they left it as an “unblocked” when in reality it was definitely Chris Kemoeatu’s responsibility, and they fixed the Legursky positional screwup.

            Now then, it doesn’t take NFL Rewind and a play by play description to understand that there aren’t 71 CBs better than Ike Taylor (who somehow, despite being less than starting caliber, manages to maintain one of the lowest passer ratings allowed) and I don’t even know what to tell you if you think that Pouncey was truly the worst center in the NFL last season.