8 NFL Players Who Made the 2011 Pro Bowl Based on Name Recognition

Elyssa GutbrodContributor IDecember 31, 2011

8 NFL Players Who Made the 2011 Pro Bowl Based on Name Recognition

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    Every year the NFL Pro Bowl is supposed to be a pleasant way to reminisce about the season behind us as we watch the best of the AFC square off against the best of the NFC.

    Unfortunately, since Pro Bowl selection is based on a voting process by the fans, the coaches and the actual NFL players, there’s a lot of subjectivity about who gets to go. The players who make it to the Pro Bowl aren’t always representative of the best that their respective conferences have to offer.

    The rosters for the upcoming 2012 Pro Bowl game have recently been announced, and as always, it’s a star-studded list. Many of those guys deserve the accolades, but not all of them.

    Some of the Pro Bowl selectees are wrapping up seasons that are, quite frankly, not good enough. These guys are pretty good, but they’re certainly not representative of the best the NFL has to offer.

    Given the way the voting works, there’s a good chance that these guys have achieved a Pro Bowl invitation based more on their name recognition value than on the actual body of their work in 2011.

    Who has ridden their good name to the Pro Bowl this year? Did they take a spot away from someone whose play merited it more? Keep clicking to find out.

Eli Manning

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    The NFC is loaded with great quarterbacks this season, including three who have an average quarterback rating of over 100.0. Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees represent two of those three, but Eli Manning is not the third.

    That honor actually belongs to Tony Romo.

    Romo has a better touchdown to interception percentage, too, and a better completion percentage to boot.

    Manning isn’t a bad quarterback by any means, but he’s not the third-best that the NFC has to offer. He has gone to great lengths this year to improve his public image, and clearly that hard work has paid off.

    It’s not just Romo who was snubbed in favor of Eli Manning. If you rank NFC quarterbacks by statistics, you’ll see that from a quarterback rating perspective, Manning comes in at sixth place on the list.

Matt Forte

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    There’s no question that Matt Forte was having a career year before he was sidelined by injury. His name was quickly gaining recognition among those who love professional football as a star running back on the rise.

    That being said, he’s been placed on injured reserve. His season is officially over despite his outstanding invitation to the Pro Bowl.

    It was no secret that Forte’s injury was severe enough to likely end his season when the balloting for the Pro Bowl was taking place, so it makes no sense that his name was on the NFC roster.

John Kuhn

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    Without pulling up Google, name the most popular fullback in the NFL.

    Chances are good that the name you came up with was John Kuhn of the Green Bay Packers or Vonta Leach of the Baltimore Ravens.

    The fullback is a position that’s difficult to quantify statistically, so there’s very little means for fans to actually gauge who is better than who. Instead, the voting here likely came down to name recognition.

    That’s where Kuhn in particular had an edge.             

    Anyone who has watched a Green Bay game this year has probably heard the “Kuuuuuuuuuuhn” chant that comes out whenever the fullback takes the field on a crucial down. He’s so popular among Packers fans that the chant is audible even during road games.

    It’s not that Kuhn doesn’t deserve the honor of a Pro Bowl selection, but it is pretty clear in this case, he wasn’t picked for his outstanding play alone.

Greg Jennings

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    Thanks to a stint on YouTube a year ago, Greg Jennings of the Green Bay Packers has huge name recognition across the country. He capitalized on the popularity of that clip after the Super Bowl, making a circuit of talk shows and even producing his own version of the video.

    Surely that is the reason for his Pro Bowl selection this year. He’s also an outstanding receiver, but statistically, he’s not quite the cream of the NFC crop.

    Other NFC wide receivers had better statistics than Jennings—Roddy White had more catches, more yards and as many touchdowns, for example. Even teammate Jordy Nelson had better numbers than Jennings this season.

Antonio Gates

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    Antonio Gates is a veteran tight end with a lot of fans. He’s extremely reliable and gives his all to the team.

    Thanks to his long and excellent career, Gates has developed a big following. In particular, he’s a popular and consistent option with the fantasy football crowd (when he’s healthy).

    He’s definitely one of the top five tight ends in the AFC, but there are others who had better seasons than his in 2011. Aaron Hernandez, who has been overshadowed by teammate Rob Grownkowski, comes to mind in particular.

Dwight Freeney

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    Over the course of his career with the Indianapolis Colts, Dwight Freeney has become a staple of the team’s defense.

    He has demonstrated consistent, solid performance on the field and has become the type of disruptive force that defensive coordinators love and offensive coordinators hate.

    Based on his performance this season, though, Freeney’s Pro Bowl selection sticks out like a sore thumb. Fellow AFC starter Andre Carter and backup Elvis Dumervil are both statistically well ahead of Freeney.

    There are a number of other lesser-known AFC defensive ends who would have been more appropriate for a Pro Bowl appearance this year, including Freeney’s teammate, Robert Mathis.

Ray Lewis

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    Is there a more fearsome inside linebacker than Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens?

    Well, maybe there is this year.

    In fact, there are a lot of linebackers who have been more prominent and effective on the field in 2011, many of them from the AFC.

    Thanks to injury, Ray Lewis has had a pretty pathetic year by the standards fans are used to. Compared to the body of work that other players like Brian Cushing have produced, Lewis should have never been in the running for a Pro Bowl appearance this year.

Brian Urlacher

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    Twelve years after his debut in the NFL, Brian Urlacher continues to be a key part of the fearsome Chicago Bears defense.

    That being said, he’s had an uninspiring season in 2011.

    This year, Urlacher doesn’t stand out in any particular category as the consummate professional that we’re used to seeing. He hasn’t been tackling as well as he’s capable of, and he hasn’t recorded a single sack. He hasn’t had an interception or even a defended pass in over a month.

    He’s popular among the fans, though, so to Hawaii he will go. It’s a shame, really—that roster spot would have been much better occupied by London Fletcher, who is having a monster year.