The NFL announced the 2012 Pro Bowl rosters yesterday and the San Francisco 49ers found themselves with numerous honorees. The 49ers had six starters announced along with a pair of reserves and ten alternates. The six starters matched the most starters in team history, which last occurred in 1971. The eight starters and reserves equaled the New England Patriots total for a league high.
The 49ers Pro Bowl honorees include the following:
Starters: Carlos Rogers, Justin Smith, Joe Staley, Patrick Willis, David Akers, Andy Lee
Reserves: Dashon Goldson, Frank Gore
Alternates: NaVorro Bowman, Ahmad Brooks, Blake Costanzo, Vernon Davis, Ted Ginn Jr., Jonathan Goodwin, Mike Iupati, Ray McDonald, Bruce Miller, Donte Whitner
Ideally the 49ers will have nobody playing in the Pro Bowl. The Super Bowl participants do not get to play in the Pro Bowl because it is the week before the Super Bowl. Whether it happens or not, this is still a tremendous honor and further evidence of just how big a turnaround the 49ers have made this season. Last season Patrick Willis and Justin Smith made the Pro Bowl, while Vernon Davis and Frank Gore were alternates.
David Akers made an excellent comment in his remarks following his selection: "A rising tide raises all ships and that's really the truth around here." The 49ers Pro Bowl selections show to a certain extent how much team success can help. People will say what they want about some of the selections, but these definitely weren't "reputation" picks since the 49ers have numerous first time Pro Bowlers.
Whatever arguments you want to make for or against any of the 49ers honorees, the inclusion of numerous players was a good sign of just how far this team has come along this year. Whether you think the right players were snubbed and the wrong players were included, or whatever, the 49ers are 12-3 because of the total team effort.
This is particularly true when looking at the defensive unit. There are numerous standouts, but as is the case with football, the entire team makes it happen. Dashon Goldson has his share of picks, but how many have been the result of either a great pass rush or great coverage by another corner? Patrick Willis has piled up the tackles while healthy, but how much does he benefit from the defensive line occupying blockers and keeping them away from him? That's not to say they don't deserve recognition, but rather that they have benefited from a great team effort.
This is just as true when talking about Andy Lee's Pro Bowl selection. The Death Star (I'm gonna give that nickname a whirl) has a huge leg with tremendous accuracy, but he also benefits from great work by the punt coverage unit. He has avoided out-kicking his coverage too much this year, but even still, without his coverage unit Lee has no success.
If the 49ers are unable to make it to the Super Bowl, they could add several other players to their Pro Bowl contingent. Bruce Miller is unlikely to get in because Michael Robinson is the first alternate at fullback. NaVorro Bowman would need either Patrick Willis or Brian Urlacher to drop out to get a spot. It wouldn't surprise me if Patrick Willis was that guy, but we'll have to wait and see.
We'll have updates as changes happen after the season.