For the last several years, The NFL’s traditional game honoring the best players around the league, the Pro Bowl, continues to lose its meaning and significance. Turning into a popularity contest like that of the NBA’s All-Star Game, plenty of players are missing out on a check that they are commendable of because either they do not play on the best team, their play is being overlooked or simply because they aren’t a household name, the latter conceivably being the main reason.
The 2014 NFL Pro Bowl had a couple of players deserving of the job from many positions. One person who should have made it is Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, who threw for almost three thousand yards, tossed 27 touchdowns to only 2 interceptions; a popular quarterback who got in is Tom Brady, who is arguably one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the sport, but was not necessarily up to par this season due to losing three of his top weapons – wide receiver Wes Welker to free agency, tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez to injuries and off the field issues – while in the process of getting acclimated with rookies Josh Boyce, Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins. Despite the fact that Tom Brady threw for almost 1,500 more yards than Foles, Foles did however toss three more touchdowns and eight less interceptions in four less games than Brady, while also possessing an NFL rating of 119.2 in comparison to Tom’s 88.0.
That is just an iota of a sample to show the direction the Pro Bowl is headed in. The left tackle position has become so heralded that no right offensive tackles were chosen for the 2014 Pro Bowl. But that is neither here nor there. Arguably the most difficult position in the NFL, the cornerback position, had a few members of their fraternity snubbed of a Pro Bowl ballot by other satisfactory cornerbacks, but one can argue that a couple of the guys who got in over others was because of popularity. One of the all time great cornerbacks Deion Sanders had a huge part in choosing who got in, as he and Jerry Rice are captains in this years’ Pro Bowl, a new dimension to the game attempting to help it regain its significance. There are a couple of cornerbacks who irrefutably deserved the trip and got their ticket, but some of the player options are questionable at the position.
One traditional aspect of the Pro Bowl that has been lost is the equal amount of players from both conferences at certain positions. The 2014 Pro Bowl roster at the cornerback position features eight cornerbacks –Alterraun Verner, Richard Sherman, Patrick Peterson, Darrelle Revis, Brent Grimes, Brandon Flowers, Aqib Talib and Joe Haden – only three of the eight representing the National Football Conference (Revis, Peterson, Sherman), while the other five are from the AFC. One quandary with the new method of selection is that a team like the Kansas City Chiefs, who went from 2-14 in 2012 to 11-5 in 2013, have had a significant amount of recognition from around the league throughout the season. That being said, a guy like Brandon Flowers, who has played exceptionally well in previous seasons, has not necessarily been the same cornerback, despite the team overall improving and him being one of the captains. Compared to his 2012 season alone when the team went 2-14, Flowers was targeted eighty times and allowed forty receptions, surrendering 479 yards and allowing 3 touchdowns, while also intercepting three passes. In 2013, Flowers fell victim to uncertain circumstances, as the Chiefs secondary got better, but he became one of its weakest links. Flowers gave up sixty-four receptions in the 2013 regular season on ninety-six targets, a 66.7 completion percentage compared to his 50 percent he surrendered in 2012. The receiving yards he gave up also almost doubled, from 479 to 846, one interception compared to three and allowing four touchdowns, a 103-passer rating on him alone by opposing quarterbacks (65.6 in 2012). One can find ways to defend Flowers’ downplay from 2012 to 2013 by stating the heavy dosage of man coverage the Chiefs run, as well as Flowers transitioning to their nickel cornerback role, as covering a slot wide receiver can be one of the toughest tasks in the sport. They have the option to go inside or outside on corners, while that corner has no help in either direction in most cases. But the juxtaposition of his statistics in the given two seasons is reasonable evidence for Flowers to have not been a 2014 Pro Bowler.
One person who should have been considered a Pro Bowl recipient over Flowers is Philadelphia Eagles’ cornerback Brandon Boykin. Boykin is Philly’s nickel corner, which, once again, can be argued as the most difficult position in the NFL. Targeted four times less than Flowers was, Boykin allowed eleven less receptions than Flowers, almost 200 less yards and one less touchdown, while intercepting six balls of his own, allowing a mere 65.5 quarterback rating on opponents when throwing his way. Wes Welker took the position of slot wide receiver to another level; in week four against the Denver Broncos, Boykin was targeted six times, allowed four catches and one touchdown to Welker, but only 37 yards in an Eagles defeat to the Broncos. Flowers was on Welker for the majority of the duration in the Chiefs two meetings against Denver. In week 11, Flowers did not allow a touchdown, but did fall victim to eight receptions on nine targets for eighty-two yards; in week thirteen, Flowers allowed 120 yards on five catches and two touchdowns (one of the catches being a 41-yard touchdown while defending Eric Decker, not Wes Welker). Boykin has had his growing pains sporadically this season, but he has conceivably eclipsed Broncos’ cornerback Chris Harris as the best nickel cornerback in the sport, as Harris has worked his way into being the starter and Champ Bailey the Broncos’ nickel. Boykin displayed his value in a win-or-go-home week 17 game against the Dallas Cowboys, as he had the game-winning crucial interception that sealed the game and an Eagles playoff birth.
Another NFC cornerback who considerably should have gotten a Pro Bowl bid over Flowers is Green Bay Packers’ Sam Shields. Shields has dealt with the growing pains of shadowing the best wide receivers on opposing teams from AJ Green to Calvin Johnson to Dez Bryant. But Shields has never gotten discouraged, as his numbers and film have shown. Shields, a wide receiver at the University of Miami who converted to cornerback his senior year of college has shown vast improvements the past two seasons when given a bigger task. He conceivably has the best closing speed in the sport, and similar to Seahawks’ Richard Sherman, he has the hands and breaking speed of a wide receiver as they were both heavily recruited at the position in high school to their early college years. Shields has given up 50 percent of balls thrown his way, 42 out of 84, while also recording four interceptions and twelve passes defensed, compared to five for Flowers.
Shields and Boykin are two cornerbacks mentioned not only for their exceptional play this season, but because they are in the NFC, and the position would have still been a quid pro quo tradeoff if either of the two were selected as opposed to Flowers, evening the odds of four corners from each conference in the Pro Bowl, rather than five from the AFC and three from the NFC. Other NFC recipients who could have been considered, even though they haven’t been starters for the entire season are Byron Maxwell of the Seahawks, Tramaine Brock of the San Francisco 49ers and Captain Munnerlyn of the Carolina Panthers. The three cornerbacks mentioned have not been playing on the same level of Alterraun Verner or Richard Sherman, but they have been as important to their team as Brandon Flowers has been to the Chiefs.
The list goes on and on of other cornerbacks who could have been considered rather than Brandon Flowers. From Jason McCourty to Logan Ryan to Chris Harris; several other cornerbacks played with the tenacity that Flowers exemplifies on the field while statistically having a year as good or even better than that of Flowers’. Oakland Raiders free agent to be wide receiver Jacoby Ford even said Flowers was the best corner he ever had to deal with, along with Champ Bailey. But as for the 2013 NFL regular season, Flowers has not had a Pro Bowl caliber season, therefore showing that the Pro Bowl is becoming a popularity contest and players whose names are not common at the moment in the NFL are being stripped of a golden opportunity. When a player goes into the Hall of Fame, the number of times he has been to the Pro Bowl is almost mentioned every time. There might be an asterisk next to that accomplishment in the future for Pro Bowl recipients to be.
(Please note: the statistics used in this post were provided by http://www.profootballfocus.com)