Pro Bowl Selction Process Needs To Be Punted

December 19, 2008 – 2:47 am by Ryan Phillips

Many bloggers I respect have weighed in on how this year’s Pro Bowl rosters have some glaring omissions. First on the “where are they?” list is San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers. Despite leading the NFL in passer rating (101.4), touchdowns (28), touchdown percentage (6.6), yards per completion (8.23) and only throwing 11 interceptions, Rivers was left off the AFC’s roster. Rivers shouldn’t just be on the AFC squad, he should be starting. Especially when you consider that selections Jay Cutler and Brett Favre are having mediocre seasons by comparison. You can read more about the “Rivers-Favre Incident” here, here and here.

Lost in the uproar over the Rivers snubbing is an equally mind-boggling omission. For the third straight year, San Diego punter Mike Scifres will be first alternate to Oakland’s Shane Lechler.

Now you’re probably saying one of three things right about now: 1. That’s crazy, how could Scifres be snubbed for the third straight season? (if you fall into category No. 1, you’re obviously a Chargers fan), 2. Lechler is a great punter and probably the best in the NFL. He was the right pick, or 3. Who gives a sh*t? No one cares about the punter anyway.

Regardless of the fact that he plays the NFL’s least glamorous position, Mike Scifres has done it better than anyone during the past five seasons. He owns the highest net average in the league over that time, yet he’s never been voted to a Pro Bowl. This season Scifres is at or near the top of virtually every statistical category for punters and he still got ignored.

Let’s look inside the numbers.

Scifres’ net average is 41.8 yards, the best in the NFL.
Lechler is second at 41.4.

In his 46 punts this season Scifres has just three touchbacks, for a 6.5% touchback percentage.
Lechler has 11 touchbacks in 80 punts, for a 13.8% touchback percentage.

In his 80 punts this season Lechler has put 28 inside the 20-yard line, that’s 35%.
Scifres has put 18 of 46 inside the 20, or 39.1%.

Lechler’s punts are returned for an average of 9.7 yards.
Scifres’ are returned for an average of 6.2 yards.

Scifres also leads the NFL in average hang time at 4.57 seconds.

So despite beating Lechler in virtually every statistical category, Scifres will be missing out on the Pro Bowl once again. And sure, the Pro Bowl is lame, but the guy is a punter, what the hell else does he have to look forward to? When quarterbacks get shunned I tend not to care because they have their fame and their millions of dollars to keep them company. But for punters, a selection to the Pro Bowl is the ultimate achievement. For once you get to stand out and be noticed.

The sad part is – unlike with baseball – fan voting only makes up one-third of the final tally. So we can’t just blame a crazy fanbase for voting in its hometown players. I think we can safely assume that the 37 people still attending Raiders games didn’t tip the balance towards Lechler.

Clearly the other people voting just put in whoever was there last year without examining the statistics. They failed to even care about recognizing the type of season Scifres has had. And that’s a shame. Not to mention the fact that the NFL picks its best players by concluding the voting for the Pro Bowl when there are still three games left in the regular season…how screwed up is this system? What, you can’t wait three weeks for the players and coaches turn in their ballots?

Until the selection process changes we’ll go on having ridiculous omissions that just make the league look bad and make the voters look even worse.

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