Remember a couple seasons ago, when Allen Iverson was an All Star despite being only the seventh best player on his own crappy team? He scored 5 points a game off the bench, faked multiple injuries, and missed 63% of his shots. Yet he started in the All Star game, ahead of guys who were scoring 22 a night and leading their teams to the playoffs. That's what the NFL is quickly becomming. A joke. Yesterday, the Pro Bowl rosters were announced. And they made me cringe.
Just like in the NBA, making the Pro Bowl has nothing to do with your performance. It used to, a couple seasons ago, but apparently those days are done. Now it's a freakin popularity contest.
The only reason it upsets me is because players' legacies are at stake. When Iverson retires, they'll call him an "11 time All Star," when really they should say "he played about 6 great seasons, 2 mediocre seasons, and then he sucked the life out of his teammates for 3 years." He'll make the Hall of Fame because of his many All Star appearances, even though the last 4 of them were a farce!
Now it's happening in the NFL. Guys made the Pro Bowl simply because of the size of their name. I'm surprised Favre and his sub-70 passer rating didn't make it. It's unbelievable.
No wonder it's so hard to predict the NFL during the preseason. You look at the Cowboys and say "Wow, this team has five Pro Bowl starters! They must be good!"
But Gurode and Ratliff had HORRENDOUS seasons. You could argue that Andre Gurode was the worst offensive lineman in the entire NFL. His bone-headed penalties cost the Cowboys not one, but two games! And he's starting in the Pro Bowl?? Those morons made the team for one reason: because they have a big blue star on their helmet. Jason Witten and DeMarcus Ware had pretty good seasons, but they shouldn't be starting ahead of Vernon Davis and Justin Tuck. Even the Cowboys' punter made the team! What a stupid outrage!
The Cowboys have more Pro Bowlers than the entire NFC West!! Okay, maybe that's not a good example...
Around this time, each and every year, the pundits and analysts love to talk about one topic above all topics: Pro Bowl Snubs! It gets people reaaally riled up. Their faces turn red as they read impressive stats and complain about their favorite player missing the team. I did it a couple years ago when Calvin Johnson was snubbed despite being the best receiver in the NFC, statistically and in real-life.
But this year ... what's the point? I mean, I could moan about how Dominic Raiola deserves the Pro Bowl over Gurode, or how Stefan Logan should have made it instead of Hester, or how Kyle VandenBosch could have made the team ahead of Justin Smith or Ware. But why? It's not going to change the stupid system.
But here's what really bugs me: calling a guy a Snub who wasn't actually a snub. This year, it's happening all over the place, especially at the skill positions.
Peyton Hillis. Aaron Rodgers. Hakeem Nicks. Matt Cassel.
Yes, they all had very solid seasons. Yes, they all technically "deserved" to make the Pro Bowl, meaning the played very well and had great numbers. But guess what? There were at least 3 guys at their respective positions who simply had better seasons. Sorry. Don't give me a Snub without telling me which Pro Bowler to omit.
People want Hillis on the Pro Bowl team. I can see why, he was amazing. But who are you going to take off? Foster (1st in rushing years), Charles (2nd) or Jones-Drew (4th)? Hillis ranks 10th. He also plays for a 5-10 team, and his YPC isn't as good as those three. Come off it.
The skill positions are generally easy. Just take the guys with the best stats. It rarely gets confusing. This year the only mistake was Reggie Wayne making the team ahead of Mike Wallace. Wallace had twice as many TDs and half as many drops. Wayne was a liability most of the season.
But overall, the skill positions were okay. It's the linemen and the defensive players that are so outrageoulsy chosen. Without futher ado, here are the 12 worst Pro Bowl selections, followed by who should have been chosen in their stead. These are in no particular order.
1) Let's start with Darelle Revis. Since when can you miss three games with injury, record only 26 tackles, have zero interceptions, and yet make the Pro Bowl? I know he's got a cool nickname and a lockdown reputation, but let's see at least one big play before we make the guy a Pro Bowl starter. Jets fans would contend that he wasn't even their best cornerback. Who should have made it: Champ Bailey! He played for an awful defense, but still reclaimed his role as a Lockdown corner. He had one of the best seasons of his Hall of Fame career.
2) Ray Lewis. Is he a future Hall of Famer? No doubt. Is he the best middle linebacker of all time? Yes. If he the best defensive player since Lawrence Taylor? Absolutely. But that doesnt mean he has to make the Pro Bowl every year. He was once again dominant, but he shouldn't have made the team over Steelers linebacker Lawerence Timmons.
3) Staying in Baltimore, let's go with Terrell Suggs. Just like Lewis, he made the team mostly because of his name and the reputation of the Ravens as an elite defense (they actually ranked just 8th overall). One Raven definitely deserved to make the team. That was DT Haloti Ngata. But Suggs should have been passed over for KC's Tamba Hali, who had more sacks, more forced fumbles, more tackles, and didn't have the benefit of playing next to Ngata and Lewis. Hali was probably the biggest Actual Snub.
4) Maurkice Pouncey, center for Pittsburgh. Did you see the Steelers play this year? Their offensive line was a joke. Absolutely horrendous. Pouncey made the team simply because he was the only guy who didn't get hurt. But no way he should have made the team over Baltimore's Matt Birk. That's just stupid. Kudos to the voters for not electing Jeff Saturday, however. Normally he gets in just on reputation. This season the Colts O-line was atrocious, so I'm glad he didn't make it.
5) The NFC Safety position. Nick Collins for Green Bay was a good pick, but Antrelle Rolle and Adrian Wilson made the team because they are household names and have big contracts. But they absolutely didn't deserve it, especially not Wilson, who by his own admission had a horrible season. Instead, Quintin Mikell, who according to profootballfocus.com was the best overall safety in run defense AND led all safeties in passes broken up, should have made the team, along with Malcolm Jenkins from the Saints.
6) Charles Woodson. Last year he won defensive player of the year despite being only the 4th best choice. This year, he starts in the Pro Bowl despite being the second best cornerback on his own team. Dare I say, my favorite college player of all time is becomming overrated? Antoine Winfield should have made the team. And for that matter, DeAngelo Hall only made the Pro Bowl because Jay Cutler tossed him 4 INTs in one game. Hall should be switched with Atlanta's Brent Grimes, who had an outstanding year.
7) Let's get to the offensive linemen. I already touched on Andre Gurode, possibly the worst Pro Bowl choice of all time. He should immediately be replaced by Harvey Dahl from Atlanta. Then there's Jason Peters, who makes his second straight undeserved Pro Bowl thanks to his large contract. Instead of Peters, how about Kareem McKenzie from the Giants, who was quietly better than teammates O'Hara and Snee, both of whom did make the Pro Bowl. Last but not least, Jordan Gross. He is a great player stuck on the 2-13 Panthers, and I feel bad for him. But he should not have made the Pro Bowl ahead of Tampa's Donald Penn, who had a terrific season protecting Josh Freeman. The fact that no Bucs made the Pro Bowl is an outrage.
8) Moving to the AFC, Joe Thomas and Jake Long were obvious picks, and should continue to be Pro Bowlers for the next five years. The other tackle position is occupied by D'Brickashaw Ferguson, which I'm okay with. I do believe that Ferguson would be a nobody if his first name was something normal like Dan. But that spot isn't a major conern to me, though Cincinnati's Andrew Whitworth deserved it too. Making the Pro Bowl in the AFC at the tackle position is going to be extremely difficult until Long or Thomas switch conferences.
At guard, I'm fine with Dielman and Waters. Great picks. They should be the starters. Congrats to the voters on getting that right. But Logan Mankins? Seriously? All he did was miss the first 8 games with a contract holdout. Yes he came back and played great, but you can't be a Pro Bowler if you play just half the season. Sorry. If you could, LaRon Landry and Aqib Talib and Dallas Clark and plenty of others would make the team too. Mankins made it on reputation, because he's a Patriot, and because, well, he is extremely good. But let's give the honor to somehow who played all 16 games. Like Ben Grubbs (BAL). Or Vince Manuwai (JAC). Or Brandon Moore (NYJ). Or even Eric Steinbach (CLE). Any of those guys over Mankins. I'd go with Grubbs.
9) One last offensive lineman, and that's Jahri Evans of the Saints, also known as the highest paid offensive lineman in NFL history. His contract made him famous, and his fame made his a Pro Bowler. He'll likely make the next 10 Pro Bowls. But unlike Thomas and Long, he's not a dominant player on every snap. He's been inconsistent, he's been penalized 10 times, and he's struggled - and that's putting it nicely - in the running game. Let's ignore contracts and give the starting job to someone who earned it. Like Josh Sitton from the Packers, who hasn't allowed a sack all season, and ranks as the #1 overall guard on PFF.com.
10) Tony Gonzalez. I kind of touched on this earlier, but Gonzo making the team ahead of Vernon Davis was a travesty. Just look at the stats, they speak for themselves:
TG - 64 catches, 603 yards, 5 TDs, 9.4 YPC,
VD - 53 catches, 818 yards, 6 TDs, 15.4 YPC.
Add in the fact that Davis missed two games with injuries, and the fact that Davis is a much better blocker, and you have a legitimate skill position Snub. Gonzalez will get plenty of much-deserved acclamation when he's inducted into the Hall of Fame, but let's not take away the Pro Bowl from a young player who earned it.
11) Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. The Colts duo of DEs combined for 20 sacks and 6 fumbles forced. But 5 of those fumbles were Freeney's, and he also faced more double teams. Mathis's spot should have gone to Houston's Mario Williams, who had a modest season with 8.5 sacks, but faces a double team on every single snap and plays on an awful defense. Mario should be similar to Jake Long, Joe Thomas, Nnamdi Asomugha, Troy Polamalu and Patrick Willis - a Pro Bowler every season, as long as he stays healthy. Pretty close to joining that list is Ndamukong Suh. The other DE spot in the AFC correctly went to Jason Babin of the Titans.
12) Lastly, I'm going with Jay Ratliff. I already mentioned him earlier. He has more reputation that he knows what to do with, but he anchored the Cowboys' mediocre 14th ranked rush defense. Suh and Justin Smith were the correct choices at interior linemen in the NFC, but Ratliff should be replaced by Kevin Williams of the Vikings. Or Trent Cole, who is a DE, but could be moved to DT, since he is the best run-stuffing DE in the league. Either way, Ratliff belongs at home, not in the Pro Bowl.
So there you go. My two cents on the stupid Pro Bowl.
As for the year-end awards, MVP is easy (Brady), ROYs are easy (Bradford, Suh), and Comeback Player is super easy (Vick.)
D-MVP is a tough battle, as is Coach of the Year. Lots of deserving candidates for both. I'll wait until after week 17 to make my final picks, but for now these would be my top 5 lists for each:
1. Clay Matthews - 12.5 sacks, 2 fumbles, 1 INT - despite lingering shin problems.
2. Troy Polamalu -Missed a couple late games due to injury, but anchors the league's best defense.
3. Cameron Wake - Leads the NFL in sacks, but his team isn't going to the playoffs.
4. Tamba Hali - Like I said, this is my ballot. No way he could actually win.
5. Haloti Ngata - Absolute beast, but DTs rarely win this award.
1. Bill Bellichick - Smart enough to trade Moss before he self-destructed; good enough to have the league's best record.
2. Andy Reid - Smart enough to start Vick. Enough said.
3. Raheem Morris - He should win the award IF Tampa beats the Saints next week. That's a very big if.
4. Mike Tomlin - Navigated the trials of a Rapist QB, an injured O-line, and a skin-and-bones receiving crew. Still went 12-4.
5. Mike Smith - Atlanta's going to finish 13-3. That's pretty good right?
If Rex Ryan or Todd Haley wins the award, I'm going to scream. Haley won the AFC West because nobody else was above .500, and Ryan won 10 games but went 2-4 against playoff teams.
Predictions: Polamalu for D-MVP, Reid for Coach.
Stay tuned for week 17 picks.
BTW: I went 10-6 last week for a 129-107-4 overall record.
Also, stay tuned for the Top 50 NBA Players list, which has been changed to a Top 75.