Let's start with a simple premise: the vast majority of players who make the Pro Bowl deserve it. Fair enough.
But, of course, not every deserving player gets selected. In fact, some of the best players in the league get completely douched by the Pro Bowl selection process each year. And, of course, a whole host of entirely undeserving frauds find themselves with a ticket to Honolulu.
Here are the top five players who got douched by the Pro Bowl selection process in 2004, and the top five frauds who should have the decency to turn in their Pro Bowl nomination and give it to a more worthy player.
Rodney Harrison (S, New England) – Harrison gets the 2004 Massengill Award as the most douched player in football this year. Not a single defensive back, and only four players in the entire NFL, have recorded more tackles than Harrison (124). Only one other DB, Robert Griffith of Cleveland, who has 90 tackles, even ranks in the top 20. Harrison's also recorded eight pass deflections, three sacks, three forced fumbles and two interceptions. Last year, he was an emotional and physical leader for the Super Bowl champions and the No. 1 scoring defense in football. This year, he's been the sole healthy member of an injury riddled backfield on a defense that, despite its problems, still rates No. 6 in the league in points allowed.
Drew Bennett (WR, Tennessee) – Bennett certainly made Santa's nice list this season, but found a big lump of coal in his Pro Bowl stocking. Bennett leads the AFC in receiving yards (1,171), averages 15.4 yards per reception and has scored 10 touchdowns (third in the AFC and No. 1 among conference receivers who don't play for Indy). Bennett has 19 catches of 20 yards or more this season. Only Terrell Owens, with 20, has more. He's been the safety net that has allowed perennial back-up QB Billy Volek to step into the starting role and post a highly respectable 91.6 passer rating.
Donnie Edwards (ILB, San Diego) – Edwards stands alone as the league leader in tackles with 135 and is the most impenetrable force on a unit that ranks No. 2 in rush defense (the Chargers have surrendered just 1 yard more on the ground all season than No. 1 ranked Pittsburgh). Edward's also been great in pass defense, with four interceptions and 11 deflections. He's no Donnie-come-lately, either. Edwards was second in the league last year with 161 tackles.
Simeon Rice (DE, Tamp Bay) – Rice is a complete donkey, as anyone who saw his recent interview with Rich Eisen on the NFL Network can attest, but he remains one of the best pass rushers in football and has 12 sacks this season. Among the 12 defensive lineman named to the Pro Bowl, only two (Dwight Freeney and Bertrand Berry) have been more adept at getting to the quarterback in 2004.
Brian Griese (QB, Tampa Bay) – Griese is quietly having a career season in Tampa Bay, but lost out on the popularity vote to Atlanta's Michael Vick among NFC quarterbacks. Compared with Vick, Griese has more passing yards (2,311-2,278), more touchdowns (17-13), a higher completion percentage (68.8-55.7), fewer interceptions (10-12) and a much higher passer rating (97.2-76.6). Of course, Vick's team is 11-3. Griese's is 5-9.
Jeremiah Trotter (ILB, Philadelphia) – Sure, Philly leads the league with nine Pro Bowlers this year. But if Trotter's any indication, Eagles fans can credit their team's overflowing stocking to a woefully weak NFC or a highly successful ballot-stuffing effort in Philly. Trotter has made just 66 tackles all season – 26 NFC linebackers have recorded more. In fact, 66 tackles isn't even impressive for a defensive back, let alone an inside linebacker. Trotter has also failed to earn a Pro Bowl roster spot with one sack, one pass deflection, zero forced fumbles and zero interceptions. We're embarrassed for him just writing this. Be a man, Trotter. Turn in your ticket to Honolulu.
Joey Porter (OLB, Pittsburgh) – Porter gets credit from the fans and "pundits" as a pass-rushing specialist, but his seven sacks puts him behind 22 other NFL defenders. Meanwhile, an unbelievable 46 AFC linebackers – including four linebackers from Cleveland alone – have recorded more than Porter's uninspiring 48 tackles. He's recorded zero interceptions and recovered zero fumbles, though he has caused three. Porter probably benefited from having his best day in Pittsburgh's biggest game, a 34-20 victory over New England, when he recorded season highs with seven tackles and three sacks.
John Lynch (S, Denver) – Here's a player clearly clinging to a reputation forged during his Super Bowl season with Tampa Bay two years ago. Consider this: John Lynch is third in tackles – among Denver defensive backs. Lynch has made just 57 tackles, five passes defended, two sacks and one interception, and two return yards. In his best games this year, he made six tackles (twice).
Hines Ward (WR, Pittsburgh) – Ward is tied for sixth in the conference in receptions (75), ninth in receiving yardage , rates just 14th in yards per catch (13.0) among the top 20 receivers in the conference and has scored only four touchdowns all season. Seventeen AFC wide receivers have scored more.
Takeo Spikes (OLB, Buffalo) – Sixteen AFC linebackers have recorded more tackles than the 83 made by Spikes this season. And with just two sacks, he trails 23 AFC linebackers, most of them outside backers. He got a boost by his four interceptions and two touchdowns, but a long list of AFC linebackers have a better claim than Spikes to a Pro Bowl spot.