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Dan Daly: Pro Bowl picks worth kicking around a bit
Question of the Day
Few things are more entertaining than scanning down the list of Pro Bowl picks every year. They can be funnier than listening to Ed Hochuli announce a penalty.
Take two of the NFC specialists, kicker John Carney and punter Jeff Feagles, both of the Giants. Their combined age (86) is greater than Joe Paterno’s (turns 82 on Sunday). But make no mistake: They’re totally deserving. Anybody who can have a career year - or close to it - in his 40s should absolutely go to Hawaii … and be left behind to drink mai tais and collect retirement checks.
Feagles beat out the Rams’ Donnie Jones - no small accomplishment. Jones, after all, has a shot at being just the second punter in NFL history to average 50 yards a kick for a season. (He’s averaging 50.2 with two games to play.) I mention this mainly because the first - and so far only - punter to do it was Redskins icon Sammy Baugh in 1940.
Let’s not forget, though: Baugh’s 51.4 average was inflated by a number of quick kicks, so what Jones is doing is pretty sensational.
Too bad he isn’t 42 years old like Feagles.
Or 39 like Brett Favre. I mean, I love to watch Favre be Favre, but is there any reason the 15th-rated passer in the NFL should be headed to the Pro Bowl - especially when he leads the league in interceptions with 17?
Actually, I can think of one reason: Because the 16th-rated passer, Eli Manning, is also headed to the Pro Bowl. (Which means the 17th-rated passer, Jason Campbell, must have just missed out.) Who can figure this stuff out?
Here’s a guy who didn’t make the Pro Bowl just because his team bites: Calvin Johnson, the second-year wideout for the winless Lions. Johnson is fourth in the NFC in receiving yards (1,165), second in touchdowns (10) and third in average yards a catch (17.9; minimum: 40 receptions). And he racked up these numbers, I’ll just point out, while playing with quarterbacks like Dan Orlovsky and rust-laden Daunte Culpepper.
But Detroit, because of its 0-14 record, simply doesn’t exist this season - just like the Bucs didn’t exist in ‘76, when they lost all their games. Which raises the question: What would a receiver on such a club have to do to get voted to the Pro Bowl? Catch 150 passes? Score 24 TDs? Invent a totally original end zone celebration?
Other ruminations about the Pro Bowl selections:
cOne of the receivers who outpolled Johnson was the Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald. I’ve got no beef about him being on the NFC squad, though. (Teammate Anquan Boldin, on the other hand…) Fitzgerald has 418 career receptions, and he’s still just 25. That’s more than Randy Moss (414) had at that age, and it’s way more than Jerry Rice (147) had.
cI’m not sure enough attention is being paid to the year Dallas’ DeMarcus Ware is having. Ware needs just one more sack in the last two games (Ravens, Eagles) to reach 20. Only one player since 1991 has had that many - Michael Strahan in ‘01, when he set the record with 22.5 (with Favre’s falling-down assistance on the final weekend). Obviously, Strahan’s mark is also within reach for Ware.
Just five other pass rushers, by the way, have had 20 sacks in a season since the NFL started keeping the statistic in ‘82 - Mark Gastineau (22 in ‘84), Lawrence Taylor (20.5 in ‘86), Reggie White (21 in ‘87), Chris Doleman (21 in ‘89) and Derrick Thomas (20 in ‘90). Surprised not to see Bruce Smith’s name on that list? So was I.
cThe Dolphins’ Joey Porter also has a shot at 20 sacks. (He has 17.5 so far.) It’s been a big year for sacks - the Redskins just weren’t invited to the party.
cWhere the 76 position players (read: nonspecialists) going to Hawaii were drafted:
First round: 38
Second round: 12
Third round: 8
Fourth round: 4
Fifth round: 2
Sixth round: 0
Seventh round: 2
Undrafted: 10 (!)
Two of the players who were passed over in the draft, Steelers linebacker James Harrison and Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, came out of Kent State. (Gates played basketball in college, not football.) If I were a general manager, I’d assign a scout to just hang around the Kent State campus and keep his ears open. Who knows? There might be a gymnast or platform diver - or maybe even a football player - who has Pro Bowl potential.
cA year after the Patriots scored an astounding 589 points, only one of their of offensive starters got elected to the Pro Bowl (receiver Wes Welker, the Pats’ version of Dustin Pedroia). The explanation you keep hearing is that New England’s offense dropped off after Tom Brady got hurt - and that’s certainly true.
But the last time I checked, the Patriots were still putting up 25 points a game, second in the AFC. And since they turned Matt Cassel loose, they’ve hung 41 on the Broncos, 48 on the Dolphins and 49 on the Raiders. Somebody else from the unit should have joined Welker on the Pro Bowl roster. (Guard Logan Mankins, maybe?)
cOne of these days, the NFL is going to call the fullback position what it really is: the blocking back spot. The Redskins’ Mike Sellers, who has been cracking helmets for nine seasons, richly deserves his Pro Bowl selection, but come on, the man has 18 touches this year (six carries, 12 catches). He’s a 270-pound pulling guard who lines up in the backfield.
And is Clinton Portis ever glad he does.
About the Author
Dan Daly has been writing about sports for the Washington Times since 1982. He has won numerous national and local awards, appears regularly in NFL Films’ historical features and is the co-author of “The Pro Football Chronicle,” a decade-by-decade history of the game. Follow Dan on Twitter at @dandalyonsports –- or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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