Hasselbeck, Brady left off teams

Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson, who leads the league in yards from scrimmage, is among the Pro Bowl snubs.

Originally Published: December 17, 2003
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

The balance of voting among the fans, coaches/general managers and players has been successful in creating a representative Pro Bowl team.

Hot teams are rewarded. Disappointing teams aren't. Most of the players with no previous Pro Bowl experience who have hot seasons often get in under these new voting procedures. Still, there are snubs.

Here are some of the main ones.

LaDainian Tomlinson
1.LaDainian Tomlinson, halfback, San Diego: Sure, it's easy to argue that Jamal Lewis (1,747 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns), Clinton Portis (1,591 yards and 14 touchdowns) and Priest Holmes (1,311 yards and 22 touchdowns) are most valuable parts to three playoff teams. But L.T. is a two-dimensional back putting up equally incredible numbers behind a banged up, bad offensive line and a quarterback position that has struggled all season. Tomlinson's 2,011 combined yards tops the NFL. He has 86 catches and it's not out of the question for him to have a 100-catch season as a running back. What's a guy have to do to make the Pro Bowl? He was the first alternate.

2. Matt Hasselbeck, quarterback, Seattle: Sure, his receivers rank among the worst in the NFL in dropped passes, which has taken his completion percentage from around 65 to 60. Sure, he's on a team that can't buy a win on the road unless they travel to Arizona. And maybe the Seahawks' 34-7 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in the Metrodome may have given the edge to a deserving Daunte Culpepper. But Hasselbeck has had a Pro Bowl season. He's been incredibly tough against hard pass rushes. He's showed great leadership for a team on the fringe of the playoffs. He finished enough votes shy of the Pro Bowl to be a first alternate in a conference that has Brett Favre, Donovan McNabb and Culpepper. Favre and Hasselbeck were teammates in Green Bay, and Favre skipped out of the past two Pro Bowls because of injuries. Maybe Favre can do his old buddy a favor and give Hasselbeck the chance to play in his first Pro Bowl.

3. Sam Adams, defensive tackle, Buffalo: Adams put on an impressive Pro Bowl run in the final couple of weeks in stuffing the run and getting his sack total to five, second among AFC defensive tackles. He's on the league's second-ranked defense, and earned a lot of votes from offensive linemen he played against. He finished as a second alternate for a couple of reasons. Casey Hampton was a surprise Pro Bowl choice who probably deserved going more last season than this year. Second, Adams and teammate Pat Williams probably cost each other votes. Williams earned first alternate. While they have emerged as the AFC's best one-two defensive tandem, neither is going to the Pro Bowl.

4. Keenan McCardell, wide receiver, Tampa Bay: McCardell caught 77 passes for 1,049 yards and seven touchdowns and had some of the prettiest highlight catches of the season. He makes tough catches across the middle. Torry Holt, Randy Moss, Anquan Boldin and Terrell Owens each deserved their spots, but how does McCardell lose out as the second alternate to Laveranues Coles, who caught eight fewer passes and three fewer touchdowns and got first alternate honors? On paper, Coles is the better receiver. But the reality was he was on an offense that watched quarterback Patrick Ramsey get battered and had to switch to Tim Hasselbeck, who wasn't on the roster until midseason. Maybe it wasn't Coles' fault he caught fewer passes than McCardell, but he did.

5. Mike Rucker, defensive end, Carolina: Something's wacky in the NFC at defensive end. Last year, Julius Peppers had 12 sacks in 12 games before getting a four-game suspension for using a supplement, and apparently his sack-a-game numbers weren't good enough to get him to the Pro Bowl. Rams defensive end Leonard Little missed four games with a partially torn pectoral muscle and he got 12 sacks in 10 games. Well, Rucker had 12 sacks in 13 games and doesn't go, finishing as the first alternate. Peppers finished as the second alternate, giving you the impression that Peppers and Rucker took votes away from each other. There now seems to be no question that the Panthers moved into first place with having the league's best defensive line. Rucker and Peppers are top alternates at end and Kris Jenkins made the Pro Bowl at defensive tackle. Too bad only one of them, Jenkins, goes.

6. Tom Brady, quarterback, New England: Finally, it is a shame Brady didn't get any honors. In an AFC that has Peyton Manning, Steve McNair and Trent Green, somebody had to be passed over for a trip to Hawaii. Still, Brady was well deserving of the trip. He's a better quarterback and leader than he was two years ago when he won a Super Bowl ring for the Patriots. He's 7-0 against teams with winning records this season. Too bad he's sitting out the Pro Bowl.

John Clayton is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer