After the Pro Bowl rosters were announced Tuesday evening, I asked three of those who were honored which players were snubbed in the voting. Shockingly, each of them said, "No one."
That's not to say some selections didn't raise eyebrows. It was more a statement that perhaps more than in any recent year the fans, coaches and players -- who had an equal third in the voting -- got the team as right as possible.
Complete 2009 Pro Bowl rosters
Some people consider it strange that the Falcons and Bengals are the only teams above .500 with no one on the roster. But tell me this: If Cincinnati has the best starting cornerback tandem in the league in Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph, which one would you put on the team? And whose spot would he take?
The Jets' Darrelle Revis and Oakland's Nnamdi Asomugha arguably are the two best shutdown-corners going, and Denver's Champ Bailey perennially rates among the league's best. Who are you going to sit?
The voters got it right in this case, although they left room to argue at other positions. Following are some players who should have been on the teams but are not:
• Eagles cornerback Sheldon Brown: Teammate Asante Samuel got the start at one cornerback spot, largely because he's tied for the league lead with nine interceptions. But Brown has had the better season. He is tied for fifth with five interceptions and has returned a pick and a fumble for touchdowns. More impressively, he played through a strained hamstring injury and was there for the Eagles at a point when their season was teetering. Samuel's picks are nice, but the stats don't show how many times he jumps routes and is beaten on a double move. Or how he sometimes struggles to make tackles. Brown is a more complete player and has had the better all-around season.
• Minnesota wide receiver Percy Harvin: Outside of Brett Favre, Harvin has been the most important addition to the Vikings offense this season. You could make a case that the rookie is actually the straw that stirs the drink. Is it a coincidence that Favre's two lowest passer ratings of the season came in games that Harvin missed, or was limited in, because of migraines? Or that the only two-game stretch in which Favre has thrown more INTs (two) than TDs (one) was those games that Harvin was out or limited? Not in my mind. Harvin deserved a spot because of his ability to impact games as a receiver, runner and returner. He makes the offense function efficiently as much as anyone not named Favre.
• Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss: Teammate Wes Welker got one of the wideout spots, as a reserve, but let's be clear here: Randy Moss makes Wes Welker, not vice versa. Moss is the one who clears out the safeties so Welker can do his damage underneath. Moss is the one who causes insomnia for defensive coordinators. The speedy receiver leads the league with 13 touchdown catches and ranks seventh in yards. Welker may be first in receptions and second in yards, but he has just four TDs. You win in this league by scoring. No perimeter player is better than Moss at that.
• Redskins middle linebacker London Fletcher: It's time for fans, coaches and players to hang their heads in shame that Fletcher has never appeared in a Pro Bowl. He is as consistent as the sun rising in the East. Every year he leads his team in tackles and ranks among the league leaders in that category. His intensity is matched only by his leadership. You have to wonder if this pro's pro will ever receive his just recognition.
• Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez: Gonzalez has more touchdown catches (6 to 1) and first-down receptions (53 to 44) than Dallas' Jason Witten, yet Witten got the nod? Ridiculous. That's not to say Witten didn't have a good year, but Gonzalez repeatedly came up with timely catches for the Falcons and helped hold the offense together while QB Matt Ryan and running back Michael Turner were sidelined with injuries. He may have been hurt by the fact he changed conferences this year after being traded from Kansas City, but he still deserved a spot.
• Colts safety Antoine Bethea: When people talk about Indianapolis' safeties, they invariably limit the conversation to Bob Sanders. But folks in the Colts locker room and organization will tell you that Bethea is a key to the defense. He makes many of the adjustment calls, gets everyone aligned correctly and this year -- with Sanders battling injuries yet again -- had to babysit a secondary that started rookie cornerbacks on various occasions.
• 49ers noseguard Aubrayo Franklin: He doesn't have the "name" of the Pro Bowlers at his position, but Franklin has had an outstanding year. The 3-4 defense doesn't work without a hog in the middle, and Franklin consistently demanded double-teams and kept offensive linemen off of Pro Bowl middle linebacker Patrick Willis. The 49ers haven't had a winning record for seven consecutive seasons, and Franklin apparently paid the price for that in this year's voting.
• Bengals middle linebacker Dhani Jones: He's in a tough spot because he has to compete with Ray Lewis and DeMeco Ryans for the Pro Bowl spots, but Jones has been instrumental in the Bengals' resurgence. He makes the calls and tutors a young linebacker corps that includes Keith Rivers and Rey Maualuga. Someone has to keep things in order and makes plays when they're presented, and Jones has been that guy for Cincinnati.