The 2011 Pro Bowl rosters were released Tuesday and there were some players left off the team that deserve a spot. Overall, the voters (a combination of fans, coaches, and players) did a pretty good job identifying the players who deserve to be on the roster. But of course there were some head-scratching selections, and a few close calls that we would like to address.
We realize that half the players will pull out of the game because of injury, lack of desire, or because they’re in the Super Bowl, but we still need to do this so people understand who really deserves to be in the game. Without further ado …
AFC QB: Matt Cassel over Peyton Manning. I’m not saying Peyton shouldn’t be there as an alternate, but the reality is he hasn’t had a great season and Cassel has outplayed him. Peyton’s 17 interceptions are my biggest issue while Cassel only has thrown five.
NFC QB: Aaron Rodgers over Matt Ryan. Ryan has enjoyed a strong season and has led Atlanta to the top record in the NFC, but Rodgers has been slightly better and more directly responsible for his team’s success than Ryan. Rodgers has done it all this year without a running game. Actually, he has been Green Bay’s running game.
NFC TE: Vernon Davis over Tony Gonzalez. I love Tony, and he gets in on reputation, but he simply is not the same game-changer he used to be. Vernon Davis isn’t the strongest blocker around, but he makes big plays in the passing game, and has done so despite having weak quarterback play.
AFC G: Ryan Lilja over Logan Mankins. I can’t in good faith put a player into the Pro Bowl who only has played in eight games this season. On the other hand, Lilja has managed the right side of the line that’s helped generate the most productive rushing attack in the NFL.
AFC DT: Tommy Kelly for Richard Seymour. We all thought Al Davis was crazy when he signed Kelly to a huge contract a few years ago. It’s paid off; Kelly’s made 56 tackles and seven sacks. He gets the nod over Seymour who’s missed a few games.
NFC DT: Barry Cofield for Jay Ratliff, Sedrick Ellis for Justin Smith. Cofield has benefited from the presence of excellent pass-rushing ends, but he still deserves the spot because of his production. Smith meanwhile is an end and therefore shouldn’t make it as a tackle when he isn’t one. Ellis is a true tackle and should be there based on what he’s done for New Orleans.
AFC CB: Brandon Flowers for Darrelle Revis, Alterraun Verner for Nnamdi Asomugha. Revis and Asomugha get in because of their reputations, but they’re undeserving this year. Revis missed the start of the season because of his holdout and then hurt his hamstring. He was brilliant last year but hasn’t been great this year. Asomugha has missed a few games and not played well since spraining his ankle week eight. Flowers has been close to a shutdown corner this year while Verner has been great for the Titans, making tackles and big plays.
NFC CB: Terrell Thomas for Asante Samuel. I know Asante Samuel leads the league with seven picks, but Thomas can’t be denied this year. Thomas has made 91 tackles, forced four fumbles, and intercepted five passes. That kind of play-making ability needs to be there.
NFC FS: Kerry Rhodes for Nick Collins. Rex Ryan may not have liked Kerry Rhodes, but the guy is always by the football. He’s had 87 tackles, four interceptions, and four forced fumbles including two returned for touchdowns.
NFC SS: Roman Harper for Adrian Wilson. The oxygen masked old man may have run out of gas late in the year, but he played well the entire way. Wilson is one heck of an athlete but he was overshadowed by Rhodes who made more plays.
AFC FS: Antoine Bethea for Ed Reed, Pat Chung for Brandon Meriweather. I love Ed Reed, but he missed half the year with a hip injury and simply hasn’t earned it (as good as he’s been). Bethea has been there all year and helped clean up the linebackers’ mess for Indianapolis. Meriweather being selected is an absolute joke. He’s not even the best safety on his team — Chung is, and he’s the one who should be there.
AFC kick returner: Brad Smith over Marc Mariani. Mariani’s returned a punt and kick for a touchdown this year, but Smith also has returned two kicks for touchdowns and holds the highest average of any regular returner.
AFC PK: Rob Bironas over Billy Cundiff. Cundiff has had a very good season, but Bironas has been outstanding. Rob has gone 22/23 and made all nine of his attempts from 40 yards or longer. His near perfection has to be rewarded.Google+