It's unavoidable. So many people have differing opinions, not to mention there are often more superb and deserving players than there are roster spots. In fact, I think that's the problem every year. Not that undeserving players made the cut, but that there aren't enough spots to honor every player that had a great season.
But, either way I'm going to be discussing the players that I think should have made it over the players that I don't think should have been honored. Sorry, but that's just the way I'm running things around here. I guess you could say I have so much fun doing this. So here we go!
First off, I would like to congratulate the 49ers and Patriots who are sending eight players to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii (Ravens and Packers each sending seven), and the two rookies named to the first team–Cincy WR A.J. Green and Denver LB Von Miller. Congrats to Hall of Fame-bound Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis for joining an elite group as top 10 players with most Pro Bowl selections (his 12th career selection).
One more congratulations goes out to New York Giants' defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul for making it on the roster in his second career year. Even more impressive may be the fact that he made it despite not being on the fan ballot (which counts for 33% of the vote). Nicely done, Mr. Pierre-Paul.
But not all his well in the world of the NFL's Pro Bowl talk. This year the NFC has had a great group of linebackers (insider/middle to be more specific) and only so many roster spots. But with several deserving players that aren't necessarily all that well-known, it looks like the Pro Bowl continues to be more of a popularity contest–just like any other All-Star game in professional sports.
San Fran's NaVorro Bowman, St. Louis' James Laurinaitis and Green Bay's Desmond Bishop were all borderline Pro Bowlers, but names such as Patrick Willis and Brian Urlacher received the edge, simply because of their name, in my opinion.
Another unfortunate act was that Detroit's emerging star, quarterback Matthew Stafford (4,518 yards, 36 TDs, 96.6 QBR) was left off the roster. Dallas' Tony Romo (3,895 yards, 29 TDs, 102.2 QBR) was as well, but this wasn't the fault of voters, it was due to the simple fact that many have over-performed but not everyone can be honored. Despite great statistical seasons they were simply outplayed and outproduced by Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Eli Manning. Although I would have taken Stafford over Manning. But I wont get in to all of that right now.
However, I don't believe that Victor Cruz, one of Manning's targets in New York, was outperformed by NFC WRs Steve Smith, Larry Fitzgerald and Greg Jennings. Cruz, one of my candidates for Breakout Player of the Year, was third among receivers in yards (1,358 on 76 receptions), tied for ninth with eight receiving TDs and averaged 17.9 yards a catch. His YPC number is better than Larry Fitzgerald's, Roddy White's and tied with Steve Smith's. Another receiver who could've been considered as well is GB's Jordy Nelson, who caught 12 TDs and put up an 18.7 YPC average.
I could go on all day with these snubs, but biggest of them all, may be Washington's linebacker London Fletcher. Fletcher leads the NFL in combined tackles (solo and assists combined) with 163. Of course there were several others that were playing at his level or beyond, but what gets me is that he's been a consistent producer his entire 14-year career (1,239 tackles, 34.5 sacks, 18 INTs, 17 FF, 3 defensive TDs with Bills, Rams and Skins) yet has been named to just two career Pro Bowls, as an injured reserve.
It baffles me. The man has played 11 straight complete seasons, not missing a single game due to injury, or anything, since his rookie season with St. Louis in 1998. He was 23 and he started just one game because he wasn't the team's starter. He's the epitome of success and production.
All the other snubs in this year's Pro Bowl aren't comparable to a career full of snubs in Washington's Fletcher. Of course the Skins fans are currently in an uproar, but despite the notion that may lead one to believe they are complaining for the fact that not a single Redskins has been named to the NFC roster, you really can't blame them for being upset. He's been overlooked quite often in his rock-solid career.
It was just recent when Fletcher was finally recognized for his consistency (named to Pro Bowl roster in '09 and '10). Before then, nada. But, don't worry, Fletcher. You have the support from at least one other talking head that isn't a Redskins fan: me. Keep doing your thing out there, I'm sure your fans in D.C. will still love you regardless.
To avoid blabbering on and on I will simply list a couple more of my snubs below, and if any cares to further expand on them I will gladly do so in the comment section. This topic can get a bit heated, and could go on and on and on...
AFC: Reggie Bush/MIA RB, Aaron Hernandez/NE TE/H-back, Brian Cushing/HOU ILB, D'Qwell Jackson/CLE ILB, Brandon Flowers/KC CB
NFC: Matt Ryan/ATL QB, Marshawn Lynch/SEA RB, Steve Hutchinson/MIN G, Ndamukong Suh/DET DT, Sean Witherspoon/ATL ILB
Note: Some of these so-called snubs could still be called on by the league to fill in for a player who drops out of the game due to injury, or some other reason. So there's still hope!
Another note: Don't forget that all of these stats and numbers don't include the entire season, because this debate is taking place with one weekend of regular season games still to be played.
Victor Cruz: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
London Fletcher: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images