The NFL Pro Bowl is an odd popularity contest. It’s part fan favorite, part reputation and part merit based. It’s just like voting for prom royalty in high school. Except instead of a crown and flowers, players receive $25,000.
It isn’t the players’ fault. They are just part of a broken system. All they can do is go out and perform to the best of their ability. Most of the time the voters get a majority of the selections right but there is usually one or two that don’t jive with the performances witnessed on the field.
Take Arizona Cardinals’ and NFC Pro Bowl starting safety Adrian Wilson for example. By all accounts, including his own, the 2010 season hasn’t been his finest season. He may have had his fourth highest total in tackles (84) of his career with a game to go, but a lot of that was based on poor play by the defensive lineman and linebackers in front of him. His biggest impact, two interceptions and a blocked kick, all came in the first game of the season against the St. Louis Rams. Not exactly what you’d expect from one of the two best safeties in the NFC.
Wilson was so disgusted by his performance after a Week 10 loss to the Seattle Seahawks that he gave quite a pointed commentary about his play up to that point of the season.
“I’m playing like s—,” he explained. “Can’t sugar coat it.”
He was just as brutally honest about his selection to the Pro Bowl while talking to team’s official website Tuesday evening.
“To be honest, I am very shocked,” Wilson said. “Someone told me, ‘You always go in a year later than you’re supposed to go, and you always get that one last one when you don’t really deserve it. I hope this isn’t my last one and I understand that this hasn’t been one of my greatest years.”
It may not have been Wilson’s greatest year but you don’t have to look too far to find a suitable Pro Bowl replacement.
Wilson’s secondary mate Kerry Rhodes had a career defining year. He’ll set a career high in tackles for a season with five on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers. Along with his impressive tackle totals, the safety added four interceptions, two of which he took back for touchdowns. His impact was felt defensively all season.
If any Cardinal, outside of special teamer Jay Feely, deserved a Pro Bowl bid, it was Rhodes. Even Wilson agreed.
“Kerry deserved it way more than I do,” Wilson told the team’s official website.
Despite not being the most likely candidate for the Pro Bowl from the Cardinals, fans should still celebrate the career of Wilson. He’s been an integral part of the franchise for years and probably got snubbed for the Pro Bowl more than a few times early in his career.
The game should be a reminder of the impact he’s had on the franchise and he should enjoy it. It’s not his fault the system is broken. It’s not his fault Rhodes isn’t there. It’s just a reminder that the Pro Bowl voting is flawed and that’s someone else’s problem.
In the end it’s all just a popularity contest anyways and there’s nothing wrong with being liked.