The San Francisco 49ers and their fans have to be pleased with the amount of Pro Bowl love their team received. Eight Niners make the Pro Bowl, tying them with the New England Patriots for the most selections from any team.
The Green Bay Packers are sending seven players to the Pro Bowl. Same with the Ravens. The Steelers and Saints are sending five apiece, as are the Bears (which we’ll get to later). The Giants and Cowboys will fight it out for the NFC East title on Sunday night — each team had two players chosen. The Lions and the Falcons are heading to the playoffs as wild card teams and their only Pro Bowl selections are Calvin Johnson and Tony Gonzalez.
Three Raiders made the cut: Sebastian Janikowski, Shane Lechler and Richard Seymour.
The Niners haven’t sent this many to the Pro Bowl since 1995, when 10 guys went to Honolulu. This year’s Pro Bowlers:
David Akers, placekicker
Dashon Goldson, free safety
Frank Gore, running back
Andy Lee, punter
* Carlos Rogers, cornerback
* Justin Smith, interior lineman
* Joe Staley, tackle
* Patrick Willis, inside/middle linebacker
* Pro Bowl starter, but since Akers and Lee are the only kicker and punter on the NFC squad they should be considered starting players as well.
The Lucky Ones
Without a doubt, the 49ers deserve eight Pro Bowlers. I’m just not sure all the right ones are going. Akers, Gore, Lee, Rogers, Smith and Willis are no-brainers. Staley and Goldson, I’m not so sure. Staley’s a great quote and Goldson has leveled opposing receivers with some great hits, but both have had some slipups this year. Staley was absolutely terrible in Week 2 against the Cowboys, and while he probably played 10-12 games that could be considered “very good,” should a left tackle get the starting nod in the Pro Bowl when his quarterback has been sacked a league-leading 41 times?
Goldson has been around the ball a lot this year, with 6 interceptions and 8 passes defended. He’s also had a few stupid penalties this year and his over-aggressiveness has led to at least a passing touchdown or two.
That graphic to the right? That’s Pro Football Focus’ “cumulative defensive summary” (subscription required). PFF takes a look at each individual player’s performance on every play during the season. If we’re going to assume that the names at the top of the list are there for the right reasons, it’s reasonable to assume that the guys on the bottom deserve to be there as well.
Stats can be deceiving, but in my opinion Donte Whitner was a better safety than Goldson all season.
For what it’s worth, Staley ranked in the bottom half on Pro Football Focus’ offensive rankings for San Francisco with a score of -1.0, which put him ahead of Jonathan Goodwin (-4.1), Chilo Rachal (-8.1), Anthony Davis (-12.4) and Adam Snyder (-20.5). Staley was also “credited” with 6 quarterback sacks, second only to Davis, who PFF says allowed 8.
According to PFF, the best 49ers offensive lineman — by far — is Mike Iupati (who ranks second on the offense with an overall ranking of 8.6, behind Alex Smith who registered a 15.8). After spending a few afternoons watching and re-watching the line in slow motion, I’d tend to agree that Iupati is the best o-lineman on the team.
Snubs and the Chicago Bears
Since several NFL writers had NaVorro Bowman on their midseason All-Pro lists and the 49ers were the best team against the run in the NFL by a wide margin, it’s kind of surprising that he wasn’t made a starter — let alone chosen for the team. Like I wrote on Twitter after the lineups were announced, “Maybe if Bowman did some sort of birdlike celebration every time he tackled someone behind the of scrimmage, he’d earn a Pro Bowl spot.”
Aldon Smith is fifth in the NFC in sacks with 14, but it’s he’s a rookie at an incredibly deep position in the NFC, defensive end. Tough to find fault with a roster that includes Jared Allen, Jason Babin and Jason Pierre-Paul at that spot.
Let’s go back a little bit and explore this Bowman thing, especially in regards to who made it. Brian Urlacher made the team — surprise, surprise — since everyone knows who he is and likes to say “Urlacher.” Let’s just say it’s interesting that the Bears had three guys named to the Pro Bowl (Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman) from a defense that currently ranks 17th in points allowed at 21.9 per game (the 49ers are 1st with 13.5) and 18th in yards surrendered at 353.7 per game (the Niners are 4th at 308.1).
Another 49er was beaten out by a Bear. Blake Costanzo, who handles his return coverage duties with the kind of maniacal fury that would land someone in prison if displayed anywhere else than a football field or a military battlefield, was left off the team in favor of Chicago’s Corey Graham. I can’t pretend to have watched the Bears’ special teams unit much besides the occasional Devin Hester highlight, so we’ll leave that one be.
Alex Smith wasn’t going to make this team no matter what Jim Harbaugh said, something we already went over last week.
Okay, enough of these spoiled brat ramblings…
It’s a tribute to this out-of-nowhere amazing season that I’m actually writing a post complaining about Pro Bowl snubs when the Niners are sending eight guys. (As an aside, this will have to go down as the best kicking/punting year in Bay Area history, unless the Niners’ and Raiders’ foursome can somehow trump what they did in 2011 next season.) And truthfully, everyone who made the cut deserves to be congratulated; even if there are qualms with any of the selections, everyone chosen had to have done something to make the squad.
Plus, if the 49ers surprise everyone and make the Super Bowl, nobody on the team’s going to be available to play in the Pro Bowl a week before anyway. And all of the snubs were named alternates, including a few guys I didn’t mention…