When NFL Pro Bowl voting wraps up, not every worthy player will have a ticket to Honolulu.
Griping about snubs is an annual tradition when the results get tabulated. Say what you want about the Pro Bowl's merits as an actual game of football, but the honor of getting invited is still important to a player's place in the history of the NFL. So when fans see their favorite players left off the roster, they have every right to take it as an affront.
There's a ton of great players in the league, which is unquestionably a good thing. But when talent concentrates at a certain few positions, not everyone who deserves to be a Pro Bowler will be named one.
Quarterback: Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
Peyton Manning and Drew Brees are obviously going to lead all quarterbacks in votes. Nick Foles and his ridiculous 28:2 touchdown-interception ratio will make it too, as will Philip Rivers at the head of the San Diego Chargers offense and Cam Newton for leading the Carolina Panthers. And people love voting for Tom Brady, who has made every Pro Bowl (when healthy) since 2007.
So, what room does that leave for Tony Romo?
The Dallas Cowboys passer is tied for third in the NFL with 31 touchdown throws this season, but he's still not going to crack the top six in QB voting.
Yardage has something to do with this. He has 3,828 yards passing, but in today's pass-happy NFL, that's only good enough for 10th in the league. When the name right above yours on the league leaders list is Carson Palmer, it's going to hurt your Pro Bowl chances.
Then there's this:
Tony Romo has 7 INT in losses w/team tied or up by 1 possession in 4th quarter/OT, nearly twice as many as any QB since '06.— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) December 16, 2013
Fair or not, the crushing moments when Romo costs his team wins weigh as heavily on voters' minds as the huge numbers he puts up. That's a big part of why he hasn't made a Pro Bowl since 2009.
Eight wide receivers will be voted into the Pro Bowl. Let's just throw out some names: Calvin Johnson, DeMaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant, Josh Gordon, Antonio Brown and Eric Decker are all locks. DeSean Jackson is the best wideout on the exciting Philadelphia Eagles offense, so he's in too. And like Brady, Andre Johnson has made the Pro Bowl every year he has played in at least 13 games since 2006.
That's eight guys right there, leaving out the current leader in receptions...
Congrats to WR Pierre Garcon on becoming the Redskins leader for receptions in a season. (107)— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) December 22, 2013
Arguably the league leader in spectacular catches...
And the guy who made Scott Tolzien look like a professional quarterback.
Scott Tolzien has a fan in Jordy Nelson http://t.co/x2P71ot81y— Bob Glauber (@BobGlauber) November 14, 2013
Pierre Garcon, Alshon Jeffery and Jordy Nelson have all had fantastic seasons, but the league is flooded with great receivers right now. That's a wonderful thing for anyone who loves explosive offenses and big scoring, but it's unfortunate for these guys in this instance.
Garcon is overshadowed by the various controversies surrounding the Washington Redskins, Jeffery is second to Marshall and Nelson has had to prop up backup QBs since Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone.
None of that is their fault, but they will pay for it here.
Defensive End: Chandler Jones, New England Patriots; Rob Ninkovich, New England Patriots
Casual fans may have vaguely heard of Rob Ninkovich, who was a linebacker for the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI. But how many have heard of Chandler Jones?
Ninkovich leads all defensive linemen in tackles, and Jones is third. The two have emerged as the Pats have played without Vince Wilfork or Jerod Mayo, both of whom are on injured reserve, though the two ends are still by no means known nationally as stars.
Patriots DE Rob Ninkovich is the top rated 4-3 DE against the run at +10.3— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) October 16, 2013
Because of that relative anonymity, it's unlikely both will be tabbed for Honolulu. Jones probably has the edge, with 11.5 sacks compared to Ninkovich's 7.0; sacks are simply a sexier stat when it comes to voting for defensive ends than tackles.
Chandler Jones dives for sacks like he's a character in Madden 1994.— Doug Kyed (@DougKyedNESN) December 15, 2013
If the Pats defense around them was better, they'd probably be getting more love—but then again, maybe they'd still be nameless contributors.
Linebacker: Paul Posluszny, Jacksonville Jaguars; Daryl Smith, Baltimore Ravens
If Ninkovich was first in tackles at inside linebacker, he'd be a shoo-in for the Pro Bowl. The position is all about leading, be it on the stat sheet or on the defense in general.
Vontaze Burfict and Kiko Alonso will both make successful bids with their crazy tackle numbers; they're first and third, respectively, in that category. Luke Kuechly and Navarro Bowman also have triple-digit tackles and are at the middle of great defenses, so they'll make it as well.
LB Paul Posluszny (2nd in NFL in tackles, 139) has the led the team in tackles for four straight gms, T-6th longest streak in Jags history.— Tad Dickman (@Tdickman89) December 18, 2013
That leaves out Paul Posluszny, who's second in the league in tackles but is hindered by the fact he plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Though they are 4-3 after entering their bye week winless, the Jags are still synonymous with football futility, so Posluszny's production comes with a caveat.
Daryl Smith is on the playoff-hopeful Baltimore Ravens, but he's not the dynamic figure Ray Lewis was, and he's more of a jack-of-all-trades statistically. He trails all mentioned ILBs in tackles, but he tacks on 4.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and three interceptions with his strong play against the pass as well as the run.
Those numbers are impressive, but as with Posluszny, voters may not be willing to give him the consideration he deserves.