Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sorry, but I have a problem with London Fletcher being named to the Pro Bowl

12-year-vet London Fletcher was essentially added to the NFC Pro Bowl roster Sunday night immediately following Garrett Hartley's game-winning kick in overtime.

It became official Monday morning when he - along with six other NFC players - relieved QB Drew Brees, OT Jonathan Stinchcomb, OG Jahri Evans, C Jonathan Goodwin, LB Jonathan Vilma, and safeties Darren Sharper and Roman Harper.

According to new NFL format, the Pro Bowl is now held one week before the Super Bowl as opposed as one week after. As a result, players from the two Super Bowl contending teams are unable to play and reserves must be called upon.

But I digress.

London Fletcher finished the season second among defensive players in tackles according to NFL.com. Fletch recorded 142 total tackles, two sacks, seven pass deflections, one INT and one forced fumble. In comparison, Jonathan Vilma, the man he replaced, notched 110 tackles, two sacks, 11 pass deflections, three INTs, and zero forced fumbles. Washington finished the season 10th in total defense while New Orleans finished 25th.

It's pointless to argue which star-linebacker deserved it more this season because - like all American sports - all-star games have become mere popularity contests. However, it is undeniable that a Pro Bowl appearance for London Fletcher was mightily overdue. Just compare London Fletcher with arguably the most decorated LB in NFL history Ray Lewis:
  • Since 2001, Lewis has accumulated 1,045 total tackles, 36.5 sacks, one safety, 28 INTs, 12 forced fumbles and two TDs. As a result, Lewis has been named to a record 11 Pro Bowls and has twice been named NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
  • In that same time, Fletch has accumulated 1,244 total tackles, 30 sacks, two safeties, 15 INTs, 11 forced fumbles and three TDs. He's never missed a game in his 12-year career, yet this year's Pro Bowl - due to Vilma's inability to attend - will be Fletcher's first appearance.
He belongs. Congrats London. Looking ahead, it'll be interesting to see how Hall of Fame voters treat the Susan Lucci of football.


As happy as I am for London Fletcher, I have a serious problem with this year's Pro Bowl format and believe Fletcher's appearance - along with 14 other replacements - deserves an asterisk.

The NFL is moving in the wrong direction in attempting to fix its all-star game. If deserving top performers from each year are to be sent to the Pro Bowl, the NFL must scratch the fan vote. 50% of the vote should come from coaches and the other 50% should come from players. Neither coaches nor players should be allowed to vote for teammates.

Also, voting should occur at the end of the season as opposed to early/mid-December. Kansas City RB Jamaal Charles racked up 515 rushing yards in the final three games of the year, yet Pro Bowl voting had already ended.

Lastly, the Pro Bowl should take place after the Super Bowl so nominated players are able to participate. It's no surprise the NFL's top players will play on the NFL's top teams. Why penalize them for performing above and beyond their peers?

London Fletcher deserved to make this year's Pro Bowl before Garrett Hartley made that kick. He's deserved to make several others too. But for the deserving 12-year-vet to make his first Pro Bowl appearance because Super-Bowl-bound Jonathan Vilma was prohibited to play is not only wrong, but denotes the sole blemish on an otherwise impeccable resume.

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