The rosters for the 2009 Pro Bowl have been announced, which of course means it is time for the annual rite of passage in which all of the media pundits will harp on the same three things: the players that were snubbed, the players that got in but didn't deserve to and, perhaps most importantly, the flaws in the selection process. Though I'm quite sure some of my personal opinions regarding players that didn't deserve to get in (I'm talking to you, Jason Peters) and vice versa will come to the forefront, my focus will be on the process itself because more often than not that is where the problems originate.
Most of the discussion on the process seems to focus on the fans having the ability to stuff the ballot box. That does not overly concern me, though I do think giving the fans one-third of the say might be too much say. And I don't really care if one team's fans, like the Redskins, overwhelm the fan vote. More power to them. If you've got a problem with that, rock the vote or mobilize your fanbase to do the same.
I am much more intrigued by the rest of the vote, primarily the vote of one's peers which made getting selected to the Pro Bowl such an honor in the first place. There are some significant holes in the way in which players vote for the Pro Bowl that have to be rectified immediately in the interest of continuity and fairness. I have gone through the process a number of times on a number of teams and know that seemingly every organization does it its own way, some of which are better than others.
First and foremost, we need uniformity among teams so the process is the same throughout the league. One team I was on simply had every player go into their own position room and fill out a ballot and turn it in like a fan voting online, with no discussion whatsoever. Some guys filled it out in less than five minutes. Not good.
There is no way that I, as an offensive lineman, would know how well the corners or safeties around the league are truly playing. And do you honestly think the wide receivers really know what defensive tackle is doing the best job stopping the run? Please. All they know is what they hear on the scouting report, if they were even listening during that portion, or from the media hype machine that carries certain players to Hawaii every year.
Players should primarily and often do only vote for the position groups they compete against or among. That means offensive linemen should vote for other offensive linemen, defensive linemen and linebackers. This varies from team to team. Then their votes are reconciled with the other position groups on the team to form one unanimous vote, for all intents and purposes, among the 53 guys on a team.
That only works, or course, when the position groups decide to vote in unison, which is fairly common but can often cause heated discussions and some players may be forced to vote for players they do not deem worthy of the selection. That is where the politics can come into play. There is a long-held belief among a large segment of players that there is a mild form of collusion among the perennial Pro Bowlers to ensure they all make their way back to Hawaii yet again.
Since Pro Bowlers are almost always the leaders of their position group if not their team, they tend to have a tremendous amount of influence during the voting process and thus the ability to push the room, as the case may be, in a certain direction. That might be part of the reason why a veteran stalwart that is having a subpar season, like Charles Woodson, gets selected.
Though I never really bought into the collusion theory it did seem to me like forcing a group consensus unfairly diminished each individual voter's ballot. For example, though I think Justin Tuck, Julius Peppers and Jared Allen are all three-down players and very deserving, there is no way I could have left John Abraham off the ballot with what he has been able to accomplish this season for the Falcons while being their only legitimate pass rusher. Yet if I was on a team and we decided collectively to go with the other three, my vote would no longer matter.
The best way to do it is to allow each player to vote the way he wants to individually while allowing him to converse with other teammates at other position groups that he trusts for their objectivity before making selections at positions he does not watch as much on film, lest reputation trump performance. That is the way it often goes with kickers and punters. Though some teams just vote for whichever punter has the best average, only the punters and special teams' coaches really know who is having the best year when net average, weather, and punts downed inside the 20 are taken into account.
The news that Tampa Bay Bucs defensive end Greg White has legally changed his name to Stylez G. White as a direct result of his affinity for the like-named character in the movie "Teen Wolf" has my mind racing. At first all I could think about was how ridiculous it is for a man of White's age to feel the need to legally change his name. I mean, can it not just be his nickname?Can he not just ask his friends to call him that? Does it really need to be legitimized in perpetuity on a legal document? Is this just a publicity stunt or another non-descript player's way of getting his name into the mainstream media, even if it is for just a day or two?
But before I became so flustered that I got all red-eyed and demanded a keg of beer, I realized Stylez has potentially created a cottage industry and the possibilities are endless. Who wouldn't want to go by the same name as an 80's movie character? Like...
• Ronald Miller Romo, for the Cowboys quarterback's ability to go from total geek as an undrafted free agent from Eastern Illinois to totally chic as a Pro Bowl quarterback and having a pop-star girlfriend. Maybe money can indeed buy you love.
• Chunk Jenkins, in reference to the Goonies character and Jets noseguard that has had trouble with his weight over the years.
• Luke Skywalker Fitzgerald, for the Cardinals wide receiver's ability to make plays in the air.
• Jabba the Rogers, for Cleveland's all-encompassing defensive tackle?
Terminator Tuck. The Predator Ware. Iceman Ryan. I could do this for days.
As for me, well, there are probably no similarities whatsoever -- especially if you ask my wife -- but this is my column so from now on you can just call me Maverick.