A free trip to Hawaii, and a pointless game where nobody plays defense -- this is the NFL's 'All Star' game. For years there have been questions on whether the Pro Bowl still has any validity. With ratings continuing to wane, coupled with more and more players electing not to travel, it's hard to argue for the existence of the non-contest, outside of counting towards player bonuses. With the NFL releasing the teams last night it was immediately clear that there wouldn't be any Panthers in the game, but dig a little deeper and you see a deeply flawed selection system with no rhyme or reason.
Like most of the NFL's biggest problem areas, there's no rubric for selection process outlining how players are given a spot. This results in year-in-year-out head scratchers where it seems like some players are rewarded for team success, others are given the nod because of an outstanding season on a losing team, and others make the roster purely on legacy alone. There are examples of all three this year, and yet Carolina wasn't the benefactor. Make no mistake, there have been plenty of years where members of the Carolina Panthers made the roster when they were wholly undeserving; lest we forget Charles Godfrey being named an alternate in 2010 -- a year he had five interceptions(four off tips), but led the league in missed tackles.
Plenty of Panthers had good seasons, but only four have a legitimate argument. Yes, the Panthers are a bad team, but lets not forget the Kansas City Chiefs have five members heading to Hawaii, and the New York Jets have two.
Since making the switch to middle linebacker there hasn't been a better 4-3 inside linebacker in the NFL. It's not just the tackle total, but everything else he brings to the table. This isn't a case of a player who racks up 100+ tackles quietly, but rather a rookie who is playing like some of the best 10-year veterans in the league.
Both Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman are outstanding linebackers, and without a doubt the best pair in the NFL. However, what criteria is being used to put them on the roster? If it's tackles then Willis shouldn't be headed to Hawaii, and if it's the entire picture then Bowman shouldn't be going. This comparison really isn't too difficult.
Is the lack of forced fumbles enough to discount more tackles, and almost three times as many stuffed runs?
Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson
Let's be clear: Both defensive ends shouldn't be playing in the Pro Bowl -- but depending on how players are selected, one needs to be going because naming Jason Pierre-Paul to the team is a travesty. JPP was the best defensive end in the league last year, but emphasis on 'last'. His 2012 season has been wholly unremarkable, in box scores, on film, and through advanced metrics.
If you value sacks then Hardy over Pierre-Paul is no contest, and if the argument is that JPP does all the little things even without the sacks, then Charles Johnson's seven forced fumbles have to play a role. Furthermore, if you want to make a 'more than the stats' argument, then it's vital to note that Pro Football Focus have CJ graded as the third most productive pass rusher in the NFL -- Jason Pierre-Paul isn't in the top twenty.
If he's being voted in on legacy, okay. However if that's the guideline, then shouldn't it play a role in the final snub?
In past years 'support' players have never been recognized. In fact, it has been one of the huge shortcomings in the selection system. However, in 2012 the league decided it was time to recognize Jerome Felton for lead blocking for Adrian Peterson, despite having just two unremarkable receptions to his name.
Felton has been an outstanding blocker for Peterson, and one of the primary reasons he challenged Eric Dickerson's rushing total -- but to choose him over Tolbert defies past selection.
Mike Tolbert's 404 all-purpose yards, and four touchdowns have not been his best season, but statistically there's no comparing Jerome Felton who has nothing.