- John Clayton, NFL senior writer
- 0 Shares
Reputation means a lot. So does team continuity.
Because of that, several deserving players were slighted during the Pro Bowl voting. Though the NFL does a decent job voting in deserving players, there are still oversights.
Here are the most blatant examples:
The Patriots were the league's most overlooked team. All season, the Patriots have been considered the league's best team even though they lost to the Steelers in Pittsburgh minus an injured Corey Dillon. That loss alone apparently cost them Pro Bowl votes. The Steelers ended up with six Pro Bowlers. The Patriots have only four -- quarterback Tom Brady, defensive end Richard Seymour, kicker Adam Vinatieri and special teamer Larry Izzo. What happened to Dillon? Again, reputation probably beat him out. Dillon is the AFC's third leading rusher with 1,430 yards in 13 games behind Curtis Martin and Edgerrin James, but lost out to LaDainian Tomlinson, who had 1,254. It's hard to criticize the selection of Tomlinson. He was slighted last year when he caught 100 passes and rushed for 1,654 yards. Guard Joe Andruzzi and safety Rodney Harrison were also Patriots who could have made the team.
The Eagles got plenty of love with nine players making the Pro Bowl, but how does Jevon Kearse not make it? Sure, Kearse lost out on the sack battle to several other NFC defensive ends because he has only 7½. Bertrand Berry, Julius Peppers and Patrick Kerney were clearly deserving, but Kearse made a major impact with the Eagles, giving defensive coordinator Jim Johnson a versatile tool to use all over the field. Kearse spied mobile quarterbacks, sometimes playing middle linebacker. He chased down running backs and wide receivers downfield. Many of the big plays created by the defense were created because of what offenses had to do to block Kearse and it's no accident the Eagles jumped from the 20th ranked defense to 10th.
In the NFC, Rod Coleman was a major oversight, and surprisingly, it was the vote of the players and coaches that foiled his bid to be a Pro Bowler. Coleman is the league's second leading sacker at defensive tackle with 8½. Coleman trailed only Kevin Williams of the Vikings, who made it with 10. But Coleman came over from the AFC. La'Roi Glover won the vote of the players and coaches and knocked Coleman out of the Pro Bowl. He has only five sacks and is on a 5-9 Cowboys team. The fans had it right. Williams led the final voting with 185,509, Coleman was next with 179,267 and Shaun Rogers was third with 142,919. Glover wasn't in the top five for voting but he got voted up for his reputation.
Jeff Saturday of the Colts faces tough competition every year for the center post in the AFC. Though Kevin Mawae of the Jets and Jeff Hartings of the Steelers are well deserving of their Pro Bowl selections, Saturday deserves a spot. That's usually been the case in the AFC. For years, the AFC have had more Pro Bowl centers than spots in the Pro Bowl. To make the Pro Bowl, it usually requires a waiting game. Mawae, for example, had to wait six NFL seasons to make his first Pro Bowl. It took him five years in Seattle and one with the Jets to establish himself as a Pro Bowler. Saturday is the next great one. He is naturally strong and can handle nose tackles single-handed. A former wrestler, Saturday knows leverage and how to use his strength. Hartings has been one of the league's best and highest paid interior linemen and it's hard to argue his value to the Steelers' offensive line.
Something might have to be done in the AFC because of the 3-4 defenses. The AFC has a half dozen 3-4 defenses. With only five linebacker spots -- two for inside linebackers -- and three for the outside, good linebackers are going to be left out. The same can be said for nose tackle. Jamal Williams of the Chargers clearly was the league's best nose tackle this year. Instead of going to the Pro Bowl, he finished as the first alternate. Sam Adams of the Bills and Marcus Stroud of the Jaguars were selected. There needs to be one more spot for a linebacker. There is no argument about the five who made it -- Joey Porter of the Steelers, Terrell Suggs of the Ravens and Takeo Spikes of the Bills on the outside and James Farrior of the Steelers and Ray Lewis of the Ravens on the inside -- but it's a disaster that Steve Foley of the Chargers was ignored. Foley didn't even finish among the top alternates. All he did was add a mean, tough, aggressive element to the Chargers' 3-4. He was among the leaders in sacks for linebackers with seven. He has 12 pass deflections and four forced fumbles. At 11-3, the Chargers are the new kids on the block with their surprise season. Foley and Williams were two of the main reasons, but they probably won't go to the Pro Bowl.
Another problem with the AFC voting and 3-4 defenses is that it doesn't reward a great season by a defensive end. Richard Seymour made it at defensive tackle even though he's a 3-4 defensive end. Aaron Smith had eight sacks at defensive end in the Steelers' 3-4 and should have made the team. That needs to be straightened out. Seymour is a deserving Pro Bowler, but Smith had one of the best sack seasons for a 3-4 defensive end since Bruce Smith was with the Bills.
It's hard for rookies to earn Pro Bowl votes, and that's what Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers and Sean Taylor of the Redskins found out. Taylor and Roethlisberger ended up as first alternates. Roethlisberger faced tougher competition than Taylor. He was going against Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Brady. With Brady being slighted in the Pro Bowl voting so often, it's hard to complain about his selection. Taylor lost out to the Eagles, which is what happened to everyone in the NFC East. Michael Lewis and Brian Dawkins were among nine Eagles who made it. Roy Williams has been established as one of the NFC's most physical safeties. Taylor is just the new kid on the block. Watch for him next season.
Brett Favre should at least get the sentimental vote. He's thrown for 3,527 yards, completed 64.3 percent of his passes and has 25 touchdown passes. He lost out to McNabb, Daunte Culpepper and Michael Vick. Vick was the one who beat him out. Favre has better numbers, but Vick has the better record.
More on the Pro Bowl
There were a few great stories. It was great to see Mark Fields of the Panthers come back from missing the 2003 season with cancer and be the first alternate at outside linebacker. The hottest new center in the NFC is LeCharles Bentley of the Saints, who moved from his Pro Bowl spot at guard. Bentley ended up being the NFC's first alternate, and may go if Matt Birk, who has had two groin surgeries this season, elects not to play. It was also good that Marcus Washington made it. He turned into a much better blitzer for the Redskins than most people thought.
The Chiefs ended up with an offensive line to remember. Willie Roaf made it at left tackle while Brian Waters and Will Shields made it as guards. It's the first time in six years that three offensive linemen from one team made the Pro Bowl. The last trio was in Denver in 1998.
Two offseason acquisitions turned into Pro Bowl defensive backs for the Broncos. John Lynch made it at safety, and Champ Bailey, despite having more passes thrown on him than many expected, made it as a cornerback. No surprise there.
John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.