"You can look at the Pro Bowl teams every single year and I could tell you where all of the players are going to come from – the teams that are winning," Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick said earlier this week. "You are not going to find a lot of Pro Bowl players on teams that aren't doing very well. I am not saying there aren't good players on those teams but when you look at the rosters, year in and year out, you are going to find a high percentage of those players come from the teams that win. I tell the same thing to the players that I will tell you, 'You want to be in the Pro Bowl? Win.' That will get you there quicker than anything else."
I guess in a season where just about everything that Belichick has said and done has worked out he was due to get one wrong sooner or later.
On Wednesday the league announced the rosters for this February's Pro Bowl and the 12-2 Patriots, tied for the best record in the league, will be sending just two players, defensive tackle Richard Seymour and cornerback Ty Law, to Hawaii for the all star affair. That's right -- a team that has won 10 games in a row and is in position to earn home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs only has enough talent to send two representatives to a collection of the league's best.
On the other hand a team like the Baltimore Ravens, sitting at 8-6 and fighting with the Bengals for its playoff life, will send eight players to the Pro Bowl. And while a strong case can be made for most of the Ravens representatives, and for that matter for just about every player that was named to today's AFC and NFC squads, there is also a strong case to be made for as many as a half dozen other Patriots.
Winning isn't necessarily a primary factor in Pro Bowl balloting, but it generally stands to reason that the team with the best record in the league has proven to have enough talent to be considered among the best.
Don't think that fact hasn't been lost on the players in the New England locker room, even those who will be making the trip to the south Pacific.
"It is an honor to be chosen to go, but it is kind of bittersweet because even though we have one of the best records in the league, we only had two guys get selected," Law said. "It's sort of a shame and it just goes to show you how we still have so little respect across the league. I'm thrilled to a certain extent, but it's not as enjoyable as I thought it would be. I thought we would have at least five or six guys that have played well enough to be on that team, especially guys like Rodney Harrison, who by far and away is the best safety in the league right now. Tyrone Poole has played at a tremendous level. It would have been incredible to see Tedy Bruschi get to his first Pro Bowl for the things that he's done for this team. Tom Brady is one of the best leaders in football, period. I'm very happy to be selected, but I'm a little disappointed that I wasn't joined by more of my teammates who I feel were more than deserving. A lot of 12-2 teams would send eight or nine guys over there. It's a little disappointing in that aspect, but at the same time, I'm thrilled to be regarded as being amongst the best at my position by my peers, the fans and the coaches."
"You always feel you should have more guys make the team, and I definitely feel that Rodney Harrison was very deserving," Seymour said. "I think a few other guys also deserve it, but definitely Rodney. I see the work that he puts in and the way he plays on the field and how he's really contributed to this football team. Things like that happen, but in the end, I think it will only make him stronger."
So the three-way voting system of players, coaches and fans seems to have disregarded the fact that defensive co-captain Rodney Harrison, a guy who has a Pro Bowl resume already, is tied for the team lead with 120 tackles while adding two sacks, two interceptions, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and nine passes defensed while helping to hold together a secondary that sports three new starters and lost a former Pro Bowler just before the regular season opener.
It ignored a guy like Tedy Bruschi who is second on the Patriots with 119 tackles, while adding a sack, two interceptions that he returned for touchdowns and two forced fumbles because he probably isn't as glamorous a pick as guys like Ray Lewis and Zach Thomas.
It looked past Tyrone Poole who has not only solidified the spot opposite Law, but with 55 tackles, 6 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles has arguably had a better season.
In the end this slight could turn into a positive for the Patriots. If there was any complacency, any cockiness or any relaxing going on in the locker room at Gillette Stadium, this should put an end to that. All the disrespect and overlooking that Patriots fans have been complaining about in recent months has now been proven true as opposing coaches, players and even fans have cast their votes as to how talented they think the New England team is.
Don't think for one second that these Patriots or their coaches will overlook that fact.
Ironically, the team tied with the best record in the NFC, the Philadelphia Eagles, also has only two Pro Bowl representatives. That means the two teams with the longest winning streaks in football -- the two teams that have evolved into the favorites to meet in the Super Bowl -- are a bit insulted right now. That may not be a very good thing for the rest of the NFL because while the combined rosters may be sending just four players to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl on Feb. 8, they may all be playing on Feb. 1.
I'm pretty sure that is a trade they would accept any day.