The Pro Bowl's Jokes
It shouldn’t get to me like it does. After all, the Pro Bowl is in essence a popularity contest.
Which players play in the biggest market… are championed most in the media… have the kind of stats that stand out.
But it does bother me. Contracts are negotiated with it in mind, and reputations are built upon these selections. Heck, when the Hall of Fame nomination process rolls around it matters how many times you were sent to Hawaii.
So, here’s my initial reaction looking at the 10 biggest jokes of the 2013 Pro Bowl, and if you want to see our selections — based on actually watching every player on every play — here’s our AFC and NFC rosters.
– Logan Mankins makes it despite playing only eight games before votes were tallied, and he was terrible in the first three.
– The big plays of Julio Jones and Victor Cruz see them make teams when guys like Roddy White and Vincent Jackson were far more consistent.
– You’ll struggle to find a bigger Johnathan Joseph fan than me, but injuries slowed him down in 2012.
– Chan Gailey is doing his utmost to ensure C.J. Spiller doesn’t get nominated. Even so, Spiller is scarier than any of the backs the AFC is bringing with them.
– Edit: In all my outrage I forgot to include how ridiculous it was that DeMarcus Ware got in over Anthony Spencer. The free agent has outplayed his peer this year in every phase of the game and is a victim of the dreaded reputation and sack number confusing of the voters.
10. Elvis Dumervil Gets a Nod
Kicking things off with a topic close to my heart. The abuse of the sack stat. Sure, Dumervil has 12 of them. Good for him… on 12 of his 480 pass rushes (2.5%) he made a play. What about the rest? He’s 14th in our 4-3 defensive end Pass Rushing Productivity rankings with his big games coming against bad tackles.
Then there’s his run defense. It’s not great. Meanwhile, Muhammad Wilkerson is a force in that Jets defense that has to be accounted for on every down, and with far fewer playmakers around him. Even if you just want a pure pass rusher, then how about you start watching how much pressure Derrick Morgan generates?
9. Screw the Right Tackles
Von Miller, Cameron Wake, and J.J. Watt. These guys all made the Pro Bowl, yet none of the guys charged with slowing them down got selected — to either the AFC or NFC team. Look, I know we’re all in love with the idea of a franchise left tackle, but it’s insulting that the right tackles aren’t getting any credit. Pressure in your face is damned disruptive, and they often make a far bigger impact on the run game. Guys like Tyson Clabo and Andre Smith can feel seriously neglected.
8. Dumbing Down the NFC Defensive End Spot
If you were going to name three NFC defensive ends to the Pro Bowl before the start of the year you’d probably have got the names we ended up with: Jared Allen, Julius Peppers and Jason Pierre-Paul. Classic Pro Bowl delivering on reputation.
In truth, the work of JPP in the run game means we endorse his selection. He’s an every-down guy who has generated his fair share of pressure as well, but Peppers hasn’t shown up big this year despite what the sacks (three of which came after voting) would tell you; same goes for Allen who took a step back this year. So, with a lack of quality 4-3 defensive ends why not look at the 3-4 end market? Calais Campbell makes his presence felt in every game and Jason Hatcher has quietly emerged into a quality starter. Failing that — and if you insist on having 4-3 defensive ends — take a trip to the NFC South where John Abraham and the Panthers’ pair of Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy are more deserving.
7. Houston Has a Problem
Tamba Hali has been one of the league’s best pass rushers in recent years. Robert Mathis has done some excellent things in Indianapolis. But neither has had the kind of year to keep Justin Houston from making the team.
Houston is our third-ranked 3-4 outside linebacker on the year. He’s fourth among his peers in Pass Rushing Productivity and he plays the run — and drops into coverage — pretty damn well. Hali and Mathis do not, with the bigger insult being that Mathis has managed only 590 snaps this season in a true down year.
What’s more, the fact Hali and Mathis were chosen makes a mockery of the 4-3 outside linebacker spot. Sure, Von Miller got his rightful nod but he did so for his pass rushing. What about the work of Kevin Burnett who is more than just a one-trick pony?
6. Ngata Good Choice
We get that Haloti Ngata is a pretty bad dude and when he hits you it hurts. But he hasn’t done an awful lot of hitting this year, clearly playing at less than 100% because of injuries. So don’t give him the sympathy selection, he’s better than that.
Ngata picked up a defensive stop on 5.5% of his running plays, a number that was 16th out of 20 3-4 defensive ends (where he spent most of his time). He generated the sixth-highest Pass Rushing Productivity rating among his 3-4 end peers, and when you add the defensive tackles into the mix, he fits in even lower. I know Kyle Williams plays in unfashionable Buffalo, but his tape is leagues better than Ngata, while guys like Jurrell Casey should also feel aggrieved at this pre-ordained pick.
5. Where’s the Mathis?
People seem to think that because we applaud the play of Evan Mathis that we’re overstating how good he has been. To those people I say just put on the tape and watch how he plays. There’s a reason why he is dominating our grading system for guards.
Seriously, I get the Jahri Evans pick, but Chris Snee? Where the heck did that come from? He’s not had a bad year, but it’s a crime that Mathis won’t ever get the respect he deserves because he plays for a poor Philadelphia team and doesn’t have a reputation. If you still think we’re overdoing it, let’s talk about another player, like our third-ranked guard this year, Alex Boone. He’s a huge reason that line went from good to great so quickly.
4. The Wrong Pouncey
And so it was written. A Pouncey should enter the league and he would be one of the best centers around. Only the wrong Pouncey came into the league first and as such we’re now sick to death of hearing how Maurkice is not just better than Mike, but the best center in the league.
He’s not, and it’s brutal to hear people blaspheming the OL Gods like such.
Maurkice is having, in our system, the best year of his career. He’s not a guy who makes a lot of mistakes and he’s been making some bigger contributions in the run game one-on-one. That said, he’s still only ranked 14th, while Mike is ranked equal fifth with Chris Myers. I understand being cautious over Ryan Wendell and his pass-blocking woes, and Nick Mangold hasn’t had his best year. But it really should have read Mike Pouncey when the votes were tallied.
3. Where’s the Richard Sherman?
I’ve heard a lot of people tell me Richard Sherman didn’t make it because he wasn’t eligible. Well, that’s not true. He could have made it. Only people didn’t vote him in. Maybe the suspension loomed in peoples’ mind, but in an age of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ there’s no excuse for the best cornerback currently in the NFL to not make the team.
Sherman leads our cornerback coverage rankings, has allowed just 47.6% of balls into his coverage to be completed, and has seven interceptions and 15 pass deflections. He’s a beast at the cornerback position and the Pro Bowl has failed to recognize that. Bad Pro Bowl.
2. When Saturday Comes
You know who Jeff Saturday is. A legend. He seems like a nice guy and he’s handled himself really well throughout his career.
You know what he shouldn’t be at this stage in his career? A Pro-Bowler. The Packers thought as much since they benched him because he gets next to nothing going in the run game. He still gets the job done on his heels in pass protection, but in a stacked NFC he had no right being the choice. I mean John Sullivan is the best center in football but won’t be at the Pro Bowl. Will Montgomery has developed into a top tier player and won’t be going to the Pro Bowl. Both Brian De La Puente and Jonathan Goodwin open up running lanes for their backs and won’t be going to the Pro Bowl.
There should be a common sense veto somewhere so that stuff like this doesn’t happen.
1. AFC Safeties
And so we come to the most ridiculous selection, because at one position they’ve managed to mess up three picks so very, very badly.
Jets fans will tell you LaRon Landry is one of the Top 5 safeties in the league. We’ll respectfully disagree because for all the big hits there are some bad angles, missed tackles, and a lot of plays made after the offense has essentially won the play.
That, incredibly, is the best choice of the three. I’ve watched Eric Berry regain some form recently, but who didn’t see him getting abused by tight ends earlier in the year? And who thinks Ed Reed has anything remotely close to one of his better years? He’s gone on a missed-tackle spree and isn’t the playmaker he once was, gambling too much in coverage and getting exposed on more than one occasion.
What makes it so bad is that the AFC was loaded with excellent safety play. Eric Weddle is the most complete safety in the game, Jairus Byrd the best cover safety, and Reshad Jones a huge playmaker. If you’re looking for some leadership, then how about Ryan Clark, and if you want a heavy hitter in the box, T.J. Ward is your guy.
The bottom line is: the AFC had seven of our Top 10-ranked safeties and none of them made it to the Pro Bowl.
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled