All offseason, we run into lists, rank them, and complain. On Tuesday evening, the rosters for the Pro Bowl were announced, and, naturally, there were some omissions. It’s one thing to complain, argue, and scream into the abyss that Player A should have made it. In doing so, you have to take Player B off the roster.
If the NFL is going to have awards and accolades, why not attempt to get the process right? If you’re in the “who cares, they’re going to make the Super Bowl” crowd, that is irrelevant to this discussion. Players care. Most of these guys growing up watched the Pro Bowl back when it meant something, and it was their dream to make it to this game and play in it. Not to mention a lot of players have bonuses in their contracts if they make the Pro Bowl. Richard Sherman received $1 million in incentives, and another $1 million was added to his 2020 base salary for making the Pro Bowl. You can’t tell me he doesn’t care about the process.
The 49ers had four players selected to the Pro Bowl. I know the team has suffered some injuries, but when you’re third in the NFL in point differential and the next closest team is 42 points away, you probably deserve more than four players. Eight others were selected as alternates, but there’s no way some of those players should be alternates. Let’s get into the snubs, and make a case as to why some alternates should be a starter instead.
First things first
The way the Pro Bowl designates linebackers is a problem to start. The “linebackers” that made it besides Bobby Wagner and Luke Kuechly were Chandler Jones, Khalil Mack, and Shaquil Barrett. The latter three all put their hand in the ground every snap. The Pro Bowl has a defensive end category, why in the world are they not categorized there? Because we are still in the 1990 train of thought thinking that a 3-4 outside linebacker drops back in coverage more than twice a game. It’s a simple fix, but there are no signs of that changing. All it’s doing is hurting the game.
The designations need to be fixed first and foremost, and that will help the process of getting the players that deserve to be in the game.
Let’s look at some numbers
I want to start by saying all of these players are good. Very good, actually. Shaq Barrett and Chandler Jones have a billion sacks between them. They don’t have the team success that the others do, but when you lead the league in sacks, and they’re not faulty, I have no qualms with them making it. Khalil Mack, on the other hand, was selected by name and not by play, and that’s a problem. Has Mack played poorly this season? Of course not. He’s still a great player, but he hasn’t had the same impact as Armstead.
Armstead should have made it over Mack. You mean to tell me with 162 more snaps Armstead wouldn’t get to the quarterback two more times or come close to pressuring him 11 times? I’d bet on that every day of the week. Armstead is arguably the best player on one of the best defenses in the league. No matter what theory you subscribe to, he should be a starter in the Pro Bowl.
Linebacker is a little more difficult as it is, but the lack of edge rusher designation really screws the players that actually play the position more than anything. It’s easy to rack up volume stats like tackles, especially if you are playing more snaps than other guys. Here are five deserving linebackers below side by side:
I’m big on adjusting, and when you factor in the snap counts, it’s evident that Wagner shouldn’t be here. Truthfully, it should be Davis and Kendricks. Warner should be rewarded for being the biggest playmaker, though. Warner has six combined sacks and forced fumbles. Those are drive enders. Kendricks, Wagner, and Davis both have three combined. Kuechly has zero. We’re probably a year away from Warner making it without needing to be an alternate.