As if we needed additional confirmation that the NFL’s Pro Bowl has become a complete joke, this year has taken things to a new level.
Consider this number tweeted by ESPN’s Adrienne Lawrence: 47 players who were healthy and not going to the Super Bowl turned down Pro Bowl invites this year.
Old pal Kevin Seifert, also of ESPN, writes: As of Tuesday afternoon, the official number of players either voted to the Pro Bowl or added as an alternate had reached 133. That’s the highest number in NFL history, according to Elias Sports Bureau research, and well beyond the previous high of 119 set after the 2009 season.
That’s an amazing number, and at some positions it’s worse than others. Only 1 of the 6 QBs originally selected to the Pro Bowl is still playing in the game (Russell Wilson). Cam Newton has a good excuse: he’s playing in the Super Bowl. The other four: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Carson Palmer and Ben Roethlisberger, have backed out for various reasons. Writes Seifert:
That has forced the league to push far down its list of alternates to fill some positions. Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston, named Monday as a replacement, was the eighth player at his position to be either invited or announced in addition to the six quarterbacks voted in. … Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, the first alternate, couldn’t play because of a thumb injury that caused him to miss the playoffs. The San Diego Chargers’ Philip Rivers declined an alternate invitation and the New Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees is presumed to have done the same. That left this collection of quarterbacks for the game: Wilson, the Oakland Raiders’ Derek Carr, the New York Giants’ Eli Manning, the Buffalo Bills’ Tyrod Taylor, the Minnesota Vikings’ Teddy Bridgewater and Winston.
This is particularly relevant to the Vikings and their fans. Out of the 86 players originally selected for the Pro Bowl, the Vikings had just one: Adrian Peterson. Now they have five, with Everson Griffen, Harrison Smith, Anthony Barr and Bridgewater having being added as replacements. I’m not here to say those guys aren’t worthy of going to the Pro Bowl. All of them were critical to the Vikings’ success this year.
However, it is probably a good idea to stop using the Pro Bowl as a measure of big-time success. For example, in the news release the Vikings sent out announcing Barr and Bridgewater had been added this week (keep in mind, the game is Sunday), these facts were included: The 5 Viking Pro Bowlers are the most since 2012 when the club sent 7 players to Hawaii. It also marks 11 different Vikings drafted by GM Rick Spielman to earn a combined 17 Pro Bowls.
Those seem like impressive numbers at face value. But given just how far down the depth chart we’re apparently going to fill out Pro Bowl rosters, it’s much less so.
Let’s dissect in particular that last figure about Spielman. Again, this isn’t to say he hasn’t done a good job identifying talent. Many of the players he drafted were key contributors this season for an 11-5 team. But the Pro Bowl stuff — which I wrote about a couple years ago in comparison to Packers GM Ted Thompson — needs to be laid to rest.
Yes, the Vikings have had 11 Pro Bowl players since Spielman took over the room starting with the 2007 draft. And yes they’ve combined for 17 Pro Bowl appearances. But Adrian Peterson, a regular invitee, accounts for seven of those. The other 10 players have made one appearance each (so far), and the vast majority were not originally named. Here are those other 10 Vikings who were drafted by Spielman and have made the Pro Bowl:
Sidney Rice, 2009 Pro Bowl, originally selected
Percy Harvin, 2009 Pro Bowl, replacement
Kyle Rudolph, 2012 Pro Bowl, replacement
Blair Walsh, 2012 Pro Bowl, originally selected
Matt Kalil, 2012 Pro Bowl, replacement
Cordarrelle Patterson, 2013 Pro Bowl, replacement
Harrison Smith, 2015 Pro Bowl, replacement
Anthony Barr, 2015 Pro Bowl, replacement
Teddy Bridgewater, 2015 Pro Bowl, replacement
Everson Griffen, 2015 Pro Bowl, replacement
Rice and Peterson were both drafted in 2007. Walsh is a special-teams player. So the Vikings haven’t drafted a position player from 2008-present who was an original Pro Bowl selection for them. Now, I have a hunch that at least a couple of the four guys added this year will make it as original selections at some point in the near future.
But still, let’s not get too excited about being named to the Pro Bowl. Enough players back out now that it’s a reward for good-ness not greatness.