Pro Bowl Snubs: Players Who Deserved the Spot but Didn’t Make It


The NFL Pro Bowl, an annual all-star exhibition game, is a coveted honor for any player. However, the selection process, which incorporates votes from fans, players, and coaches, isn’t without its flaws. Every year, deserving players are inexplicably overlooked, sparking passionate debates among fans and analysts alike. This article delves into the phenomenon of Pro Bowl snubs, exploring the reasons behind these omissions and highlighting some of the most egregious examples from recent seasons.

The Pro Bowl Selection Process: A Balancing Act

The Pro Bowl selection process is a complex one, attempting to balance objective criteria like statistics with more subjective notions of impact and leadership. Fan voting, which often constitutes a significant portion of the overall vote, can be heavily swayed by popularity and team loyalty. Players tend to favor teammates, and coaches might prioritize players they’ve faced directly. While these perspectives offer valuable insights, they can also lead to snubs of deserving players on less flashy teams or those with less established names.

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Types of Pro Bowl Snubs: Statistical Dominance Ignored

There are several ways a player can be considered a Pro Bowl snub. Perhaps the most clear-cut case involves players who lead their respective positions in key statistical categories but are inexplicably left off the roster. In the 2023 season, for instance, a linebacker might have amassed the most tackles in the league but still be overlooked in favor of a more well-known player with flashier stats like sacks. Similarly, a wide receiver might have led the league in receiving yards but miss out due to a lack of touchdowns. These Pro Bowl Snubs highlight the limitations of relying solely on statistics and the importance of considering a player’s overall impact on the game.

The Case for Underrated Stars: Scheme Fit and Quiet Domination

Another common scenario involves players on teams that don’t achieve a lot of regular-season success. A dominant defensive lineman on a struggling team might not garner as much national attention as a counterpart on a playoff contender, even if their production is statistically similar. Additionally, players who excel within a specific scheme might be overlooked. A running back in a run-heavy offense might not rack up eye-popping rushing yards but still be vital to his team’s success due to his pass-blocking and receiving abilities. These “glue guys” who quietly contribute to winning football are sometimes unfairly snubbed in favor of players with flashier stats.

The “Replacement Factor”: Injuries and Opportunity Costs

Injuries can also play a significant role in Pro Bowl snubs. A player who starts the season on a tear but suffers a mid-season injury might see his candidacy derailed, even if his production prior to the injury was Pro Bowl-caliber. Conversely, a player who emerges as a star due to a teammate’s injury might benefit from a larger role and elevated statistics, propelling him into Pro Bowl contention despite a less impressive overall body of work. These unforeseen circumstances can create situations where deserving players are left off the roster.

Looking Beyond the Stats: The Advocate for Advanced Analytics

The rise of advanced analytics in the NFL offers a potential solution to the Pro Bowl snub problem. These metrics attempt to quantify a player’s impact beyond basic statistics, taking into account factors like win probability added and completion percentage over expected. While advanced analytics aren’t a perfect solution, they can provide valuable insights that can help identify players whose contributions might be undervalued by traditional metrics. Incorporating these analytics into the Pro Bowl selection process could lead to a more objective evaluation of player performance and potentially reduce the number of Pro Bowl Snubs.

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Summing It Up

The Pro Bowl selection process is far from perfect. Fan votes, player biases, and a focus on traditional statistics can sometimes lead to the exclusion of deserving players. Recognizing different types of Pro Bowl Snubs, appreciating the impact of underrated stars and scheme fit, and considering advanced analytics are all steps towards a more objective selection process. Ultimately, the goal is to ensure that the Pro Bowl truly showcases the best talent the NFL has to offer, celebrating the players who have had the most significant impact on their teams throughout the season.

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