Pro Bowl selections were announced on Tuesday (December 19th) and once again it was one of the most controversial events of the NFL calendar. With the balloting over the debating can begin as players, coaches, and fans have reason to celebrate or question picks. The game will be played in Honolulu on Feb. 10, a week after the Super Bowl, so there will be plenty of time for everyone to chime in on who was snubbed or deserving. Remember the selection process like baseball’s All Star Game is affected by the fans (1/3 of the vote) voting based on popularity. Reputation sometimes sways voters to pick players that may not “deserve” to go (ex. Cowboys Safety Roy Williams). A recap of the selections shows once again that the teams with the best records (12-2, AFC – Chargers: 9 and NFC – Bears: 7) have the most players selected as a starter or reserve. The San Diego “Super” Chargers’ contingent includes record-setting running back LaDainian Tomlinson and quarterback Philip Rivers, who was thought to be a green prospect earlier in the year after sitting behind Drew Brees for two seasons. The Chargers decision to start Rivers has paid dividends for themselves and the Saints, who signed NFC Pro Bowl starter Brees as a free agent this past summer. The Chargers did have their own controversy as LB Shawne Merriman was selected despite missing four games for flunking a steroid test.
The Bears special teamers led the way as they had three of the four special teams positions sewn up with kicker Robbie Gould, specialist Brendan Ayanbadejo and rookie return man Devin Hester making the trip over to Hawaii. Hester who set an NFL record with six returns for touchdowns was one of 12 first time selections on the NFC team along with this years biggest surprise player Dallas QB Tony Romo. Romo’s selection completed a season long journey from Drew Bledsloe’s backup at the beginning of the season to Pro Bowl reserve. Romo, who has led the Cowboys to 6 wins in 8 starts, took advantage of a lack of quality NFC QB’s (Injuries – McNabb and Ineffectiveness – Delhomme, E. Manning, etc). The NFC team will also include the Barber twins (Tiki of the NY Giants and Ronde of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) for the 3rd straight time. With their selection they now join the Sharpe brothers (Shannon and Sterling) in making the Pro Bowl for three straight seasons (1993-95).
Another deserving first timer is Indianapolis Colts WR Reggie Wayne (3rd in NFL with 1129 yards receiving). Wayne will be joined in the AFC receiving core by Chad Johnson (Bengals), Andre Johnson (Texans), and teammate Marvin Harrison. Another notable selection is QB Peyton Manning, who will be making his 8th Pro Bowl and we know he will be holding court at the hotel pool joking with other players and enjoying himself. Manning will be joined at the QB position by the previously mentioned Rivers, Romo, Brees, Marc Bulger, and “comeback kid” Carson Palmer
One of the best stories of the selection process was the selection of 49ers running back Frank Gore. Gore as a rookie in 2005 was a reserve behind the underachieving Kevan Barlow. The Niners seeing something in Gore dealt Barlow to the Jets before the season. Gore responded running for 1,491 yards with a 5.5 yards per carry average and helping the 49ers stay in the NFC West race until the end. The Pro Bowl selection is the icing on the cake for a player that has overcome two reconstructive knee surgeries in college at Miami. The 5-9, 215-pounder is now looking to break Garrison Hearst’s club record set in 1998 (1,571 yards). Guard Will Shields of the Kansas City Chiefs will go for the 12th time, tying a mark held by former Minnesota Viking Randall McDaniel.
The process does have the problem of “snubs” and I have listed some players that will not be making the trip to Hawaii in February. The biggest problem areas always seem to be at RB (Fred Taylor) and WR (Terrell Owens), because there are so many deserving candidates. These guys shouldn’t be sad because injuries, playoff worn down players, alternates, coaches picks, etc will factor in non-selected players being able to take in the NFL’s All Star game/vacation week.
RB: Brian Westbrook, Eagles – Sorry Andy Reid but this was not a slam dunk with the voters. Westbrook has the numbers (1,092 yards w/ 5.1 ypr, caught 74 passes for 664 yards 11 combined touchdowns), but I guess carrying the team while McNabb has been out is not enough.
WR: Terrell Owens, Cowboys – Stop spitting and acting up in the media and maybe voters will remember your NFL leading 11 receiving touchdowns.
OT: Marcus McNeil, San Diego – My number two rated offensive tackle in last year’s draft. McNeil has swung over from his college right tackle position to anchor the line from left tackle position after Roman Oben went down. LT got many of his yards behind him and Rivers know McNeil will keep him clean.
FB: Ovie Mughelli, Ravens – Is an unknown outside of Baltimore, but Ovie is a good blocker and worker.
WR: Roy Williams, Lions – Who else has stepped on offense for the terrible Lions. Williams has 1127 yards through 14 games, which is more receiving yards than every NFC receiver other than Green Bay’s Donald Driver.
DE: Trevor Pryce, Ravens – Went to a new team, but was an established an established Pro Bowl player in the past for the Broncos. Had 12 sacks for the AFC’s best defense, but was bypassed.
DT: Warren Sapp, Raiders – Started slow, but has been a rock in the middle for Oakland’s underrated defense. Has eight sacks too.
LB: DeMeco Ryans, Texans – The Texan’s tackling machine with over 130 tackles (leads rookies) and 3.5 sacks. Being the best player on a team that selected another higher profile defender should have earned him the trip.
LB: Bart Scott, Ravens – Scott and Thomas are now the best playmaking OLB duo in the NFL in the 1985 Bears Wilson/Marshall mold. Scott seems to be everywhere racking up nine sacks, eight pass defenses, and the hardest
CB: Nnamdi Asomugha, Raiders – Another victim of the Raiders overall bad play and record. Asomugha deserved a trip with the NFL’s 2nd most picks (7 INT’s)
S: Kevin Kaesviharn, Bengals – Come on he was on BPR 50, so he has to get our props. Besides he led all safeties with six interceptions and is a ferocious hitter.
- After watching the Packers beating the Vikings 9 to 7 on Thursday, I though all of the final game and retirement talk for Brett Favre was premature. My gut tells me that Favre will be back and that we will not have another off-season of flip-flopping again.
- Hall and Owens to put ‘spitting’ feud behind them – After Terrell Owens spit in DeAngelo Hall’s face in Saturday night’s game, Hall insisted he’d have nothing to do with the Dallas receiver. Owens was fined $35,000 by the NFL, but kept trying to contact Hall. It took ex-Falcons’ star cornerback Deion Sanders to finally convinced Hall to take a three-way telephone call from Owens and accept his apology. Afterward Hall “said” the feud was over.
- Johnson respects Champ Bailey – Calling Bailey the ‘best in the game’, Johnson refused to utter one word of smack against Denver’s Champ Bailey (8 INT’s, the league co-leader). “He is the best man to ever wear a uniform, period. I mean, besides Deion (Sanders)” Johnson said. However we all know that once the game starts Johnson will be squawking at Bailey.