I know I'm lining up for the firing squad by posing any kind of argument as to why a member of the Washington Redskins deserves to be in the Pro Bowl.
I'm well aware of the wrath that I'm willfully incurring as I set forth to write this. But at the heart of that very same 5-11 Redskins team is a player who is, at the very least, deserving of a trip to Honolulu.
London Fletcher may not be the most electrifying player in the game. He doesn't possess the incalculable athleticism of Patrick Willis or Ray Lewis' showmanship, but for 14 seasons, he has played it to the bone, Sunday after Sunday.
If we look to consecutive games played as a metric for intensity over the years, then consider that Fletcher has 223 of them.
Need something more quantitative?
At age 36 (which is like 104 in football years), Fletcher has recorded 163 tackles in 2011. Not only is that the highest in any season of his career, that's also good for best in the league.
That's right. Father Time is leading the NFL in tackles.
With one game left in the pipe for 2011, it looks like juuuust maaaybe Fletcher could be sidelined with an ankle injury. If so, one of the great streaks in professional football will end. More important, and even more doubtful, is Fletcher's future with the 'Skins—and with football in general.
While London Fletcher's personality is infectious to say the least, his age is finally churning up questions about his durability. Whether he remains in D.C. or finds work elsewhere, one can't imagine London Fletcher leading defensive huddles for much longer.
So, assuming that we have in the past week witnessed London Fletcher's swan song, what better way to send off one of the NFL's most enduring players than with a Pro Bowl nod?
Unfortunately, we won't see it happen.
While Fletcher's name is absent from the Pro Bowl roster, players like Philip Rivers and Dwight Freeney made the cut.
Philip "Worst Day of My Life" Rivers, who boasts a league-leading 19 interceptions, and Dwight Freeney who, with 7.5 sacks, plays for a dreadful Indianapolis Colts defense.
"But the Redskins are an awful 5-11 this season," you say. "You can't captain a defense on a team that bad and expect to make it."
Well, Freeney's Colts are still front-runners in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. Therefore, win/loss totals should factor in little, if at all, in determining whether or not a player is worth a Pro-Bowl bid.
It's also worth mentioning that there are only two MLB spots on either roster, which doesn't exactly bode well for depth. Plus, you have Brian Urlacher and Patrick Willis listed for the NFC, who are both fantasy gods as well as household names.
As much as I pull for Fletch, it's hard to imagine him beating out two younger, highly marketable players.
London Fletcher is simply a rare breed.
He doesn't pepper our Twitter feeds with asinine remarks about other players or the league. He doesn't frequent TMZ headlines about late-night parties with suspect characters. He isn't repeatedly fined by the league using questionable tackling methods and seeming unapologetic about it.
He's a guy that simply plays hard and with conviction, because in any other universe, he may never have made it as a football player at all.
By rights, he shouldn't have made it here. Coming undrafted out of John Carroll isn't the same as, say, bolting in the first round out of LSU.
Yet, here he is 14 years later, the proverbial and literal center of the Redskins defense. If this was 2000, we'd probably be able to push for a recount. Regrettably, the season will end prematurely for London Fletcher and possibly ingloriously, with him on the sidelines—a place he doesn't often see.
What I'm lamenting is, in large part, the inability for us to celebrate a player like Fletcher, who doesn't come around very often. Two-thirds of the Pro Bowl vote is comprised of players and fans, and I would expect every person within the majority vote to have a guy like this marked on his or her ballot.
The fact that he isn't troubles me.
In reality, though, the Pro Bowl—like so many other things—is often determined by things far more nebulous than a player's individual talent and his contributions throughout the season. While being a brand and exuding flash would have certainly helped, Fletcher has defined his career by staying away from either of those things.
The true football fans will recognize this and acknowledge that, in a perfect world, Fletcher would have been a shoo-in.
Even now, at age 36, London Fletcher is a monster in a 5'11" frame. A Madden cover couldn't capture that.
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