Well, the initial Pro Bowl teams are out and, as usual, a slew of players got douched for Pro Bowl consideration despite having obviously superior seasons to players picked ahead of them.
Sure, it sucks for these players. But it's opportunity for us to present to you our second annual All-Douched Team, featuring men who clearly should have earned Pro Bowl status but did not get it. Last year, New England safety Rodney Harrison earned the debut Massengill Award as the most douched player in the NFL. This year, the honor goes to another highly productive but overlooked AFC defender.
But first, a few definitions are in order. Getting douched is not the same as getting snubbed. You get snubbed when you have a great season but don't get to the Pro Bowl because there are three other guys at your position who had great seasons, too. Yeah, it sucks. But you can't really argue against any of the players who did make the team.
You get douched when you had a better season than anyone at your position but get left off the team because the guy in front of you had a great season five years ago and now appears in a funny United Way commercial each Sunday.
Cincinnati running back Rudi Johnson (1,352 yards, 4.4 YPC, 12 TDs) was snubbed. He has had a great season but missed out on the Pro Bowl during a year in which Edgerrin James, Larry Johnson and LaDainian Tomlinson were more productive. Carolina cornerback Chris Gamble got snubbed. He has had a great season but so have the three men voted onto the NFC roster at cornerback: DeAngelo Hall, Ronde Barber and Nathan Vasher.
But Tennessee defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch got royally douched and will lead the Cold, Hard Football Facts 2005 All-Douched Team out of the tunnel of NFL Pro Bowl justice.
(All stats used in this article are following Week 15, when the Pro Bowl team was announced, unless otherwise noted.)
Kyle Vanden Bosch, DE, Tennessee
Vanden Bosch gets the 2005 Massengill Award as the most douched player in the NFL. Of course, he committed a capital offense in the eyes of Pro Bowl voters: He plays on a shitty team. Still, he has had a monster season and right now may be the best defensive end in football. He's second in the NFL with 12.5 sacks this season and sixth among AFC defensive lineman (and ninth in the NFL overall) with 60 tackles. He has also forced three fumbles.
Compare that with Indy's one-trick pony at defensive end, Dwight Freeney, who has a nifty 10.5 sacks but stands behind some 80 (yes, eight-zero) other NFL defensive lineman with just 33 tackles this season, a figure that's only slightly higher than the number of fawning magazine articles this season in which Freeney was featured as the face of the Indy defense. Despite being a non-factor against the run for Indy, Freeney gets the nod in the Pro Bowl popularity contest over a far superior player.
Erik Coleman, FS, N.Y. Jets and Greg Wesley, FS, Kansas City
Coleman and Wesley were victimized this year by the biggest fraud at safety perhaps in the history of the NFL: Denver's John Lynch.
Coleman has 100 tackles this season (2nd among all NFL DBs) and 2 INTs. Wesley, meanwhile, has picked off six passes and posted a highly respectable 78 tackles. Compare that to Lynch, who has picked off two passes and made but 50 tackles despite playing in all 14 games for Denver this season. That places him 88th in tackles among NFL defensive backs and gives him an average of just 3.6 tackles per game, which is roughly the number of times your average NFL umpire makes a tackle when he's run over by a ballcarrier.
Lynch is a lightweight when it comes to impact players, yet he somehow clings to his reputation as one of the league's heavy hitters. Credit the mortal enemies of the Cold, Hard Football Facts: opinion, hearsay and hype.
Mark Brunell, QB, Washington
Every year in the NFC, there's one quarterback – and we should create an annual award for this – who gets douched by Pro Bowl voters in favor of Michael Vick. Last year, it was Brian Griese. This year, it's Mark Brunell.
Entering Week 16, Brunell led Vick in every major (and in most incredibly minor) passing categories, including yards (2,790 to 2,136), completion percentage (58.9 to 54.3), passer rating (87.0 to 71.8) and total (rushing and passing) touchdowns (20 to 19). Of course, Vick leads all QBs in rushing yards and overblown media hype for the second straight season.
In the past, Vick supporters defended their boy by saying "yeah, his passing numbers aren't that great, but all he does is win." Well, the Falcons, who played in the NFC championship game last season, stand at just 8-7 and have been eliminated from playoff contention. Brunell, who was injured in Washington's win over the N.Y. Giants this weekend, has led the Redskins to a 9-5 mark, a late-season surge and a likely playoff appearance – all following a 6-10 campaign in 2004.
Patrick Pass, FB, New England
Sure, the fullback position has all but died at the NFL level. And Pass is one of those hybrid players who, though he's called upon to block quite a bit (a traditional fullback role), is often used in the passing and running game. However, he was the top vote getter among fans to represent the AFC in the Pro Bowl at the fullback position. But he was douched in favor of Lorenzo Neal of San Diego. Yes, Neal is a great football player. But Pass this year leads him by a sizable margin in every meaningful offensive category:
Pass has 42 rush attempts for 205 yards (4.9 YPA) and 3 TDs, as compared to just 28 carries for 96 yards (3.4 YPC) and 0 TDs for Neal.
As a receiver, Pass has caught 21 balls for 225 yards (10.7 YPC) and 0 TDs. Neal has caught 24 passes for 145 yards (6.0 YPC) and 1 TD.
Todd Heap, TE, Baltimore
Heap suffered from the classic Pro Bowl douche move: He was snubbed for a more popular player and fan favorite. In this case, it was Kansas City's perennial Pro Bowler, Tony Gonzalez. Yes, Gonzalez is having a great year, and the numbers are very close, but Heap has a slight advantage in every single receiving category this season, despite playing in one of the worst passing offenses in the NFL.
Heap has 69 catches for 803 yards with 6 TDs, versus 68 catches for 788 yards and just 2 TDs for Gonzalez. Heap also outpaces Gonzalez in catches of 20 yards or more (12 to 8) and catches of 40 yards or more (1 to 0).
Nick Barnett, MLB, Green Bay
Barnett is victim No. 1 of quarterback Brett Favre's historically monumental effort to single-handedly throw away an entire season while still winning an unending hymn of praise from the "pundits." (For the record, Favre threw away yet another game Sunday night, his 9th of the season, with a four-INT performance in a 24-17 loss to Chicago.)
How has Favre cost Barnett a Pro Bowl appearance? Well, following that loss to Chicago, nobody realizes that Green Bay has one of the more stout defenses in football. The Packers rank 8th in total defense (296.3 YPG), despite continually being placed in shitty situations by Favre, who has tossed a truly stunning 28 INTs this year, 11 more than any other QB in football.
Barnett has led the valiant defensive effort. He leads all NFC linebackers with 129 tackles, has one interception which he returned 95 yards for a touchdown, and forced 1 fumble while recovering three more. But, with Favre the center of attention, Barnett might as well have played the 2005 season all by himself on the infamous blue turf of Boise State instead of the legendary "frozen tundra" of Lambeau Field.