Three members of the Green Bay Packers were selected to the 2012-13 Pro Bowl team. Here is our analysis of the picks, snubs and the game itself for Green Bay:
- QB Aaron Rodgers: The fifth-overall vote getter and a no-brainer selection. For a second-straight season, Rodgers will start for the NFC. His numbers aren’t otherworldly (see: 2011), but Rodgers has still thrown for 3,980 yards and 35 touchdowns while completing 67 percent of his passes. His passer rating of 106.2 leads the NFL.
- LB Clay Matthews: Despite missing four games with a hamstring injury, Matthews still leads Green Bay in sacks with 12. Overall, he’s sixth in the NFL in the category. Without the injury, who knows where Matthews’ season could have ended up. Lost in Matthews’ sacks and elaborate dances is his elite ability to play the run. Once a player teams could target in the run game, Matthews is now one of the better 3-4 linebackers in causing havoc in that area. He’s an all-around player in the truest sense. San Francisco’s Aldon Smith (19.5 sacks) and Dallas’ DeMarcus Ware (11.5 sacks, five forced fumbles) will start.
- C Jeff Saturday: Given that the vote is divided into thirds—fan, player and coaches—you can’t really blame just the fan vote for getting an undeserving player onto the Pro Bowl squad. However, that’s exactly what Saturday is. Rated as the No. 30 center in the NFL this season by Pro Football Focus, Saturday was benched in Week 16 and—barring injury—won’t play another snap for the Packers. At 37 years old, Saturday was average to below average for most of the season.
- LG Josh Sitton: While 2012 wasn’t his best season (2010 remains his gold standard), Sitton was more deserving a Pro Bowl trip than New York’s Chris Snee. As of now, Sitton will have to live with being a first alternative. Sitton allowed just two sacks, and his “Pass Blocking Efficiency” was in the top five of NFL guards, according to PFF. Fair or not, the fact that the Packers gave up a boatload of sacks and still lack a running game the league respects likely hurt Sitton’s case.
- WR Randall Cobb: Was there a non-quarterback who impacted the game on as many levels as Cobb this season? The second-year receiver caught 80 passes for 954 yards and eight touchdowns, returned 31 punts for 292 yards and a touchdown, returned 38 kickoffs for 964 yards and ran 10 times for 132 yards. Altogether, Cobb combined for an NFL-high and franchise record 2,342 all-purpose yards in 2012. If Cobb misses Week 17, he’ll still end this season with the 22nd most all-purpose yards in NFL history. As it stands now, Cobb will only be a first alternative at kick returner.
- WR James Jones: Many worthy receivers got snubbed, so there’s little sympathy for Jones and his NFL-leading 13 touchdown receptions. The rest of Jones’ numbers—58 catches, 722 yards—just don’t add up to a Pro Bowl selection. He needed to be over 1,000 yards to have a chance.
- CB Casey Hayward: Chicago’s Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings were deserving of the starts at cornerback, and Arizona’s Patrick Peterson is a young, exciting player with seven interceptions. But you have to wonder if Hayward would have received more Pro Bowl love had he played on a higher percentage of the Packers’ overall snaps. Over 673 defensive snaps, Hayward was as good as it gets. He defensed 11 of the 70 targets his way, intercepted six others and allowed zero touchdowns. Overall, his passer rating allowed of 27.7 was the best in the NFL among cornerbacks, according to PFF. In the slot, Hayward allowed just one catch for every 14 routes he covered. Based on stats alone, Hayward deserved to go.
- FB John Kuhn: The fan’s choice at fullback unsurprisingly received little to no love from NFL players and coaches. While a strong pass protector and willing receiver, Kuhn is a limited player who struggles in short yardage situations. He also does little to improve the Packers’ run game as a lead blocker. Kuhn is an alternative, but the Pro Bowl might have actually got fullback right (Minnesota’s Jerome Felton).
- S Charles Woodson: Again, the fan’s choice was dead wrong. Woodson hasn’t played since breaking his collarbone against the St. Louis Rams, and he wasn’t spectacular while manning a new position this season. In fact, there’s might be some truth behind the argument that says the Packers have been better defending the pass without Woodson. The veteran will be an alternative.
- CB Tramon Williams: While third in the NFL in passes defenses, nothing about Williams’ 2012 season screams all-star. He was good, but nothing more, and probably nothing less. According to PFF, Williams graded out as the NFL’s No. 26 cornerback. Over 96 targets, Williams allowed 51 catches for 665 yards and two touchdowns. However, the big plays lacked from Williams’ game this season. He’s an alternative.
- DT B.J. Raji: Cracking the NFC interior lineman was a tough task in 2012. Justin Smith was a lock, and Henry Melton’s ability to rush the passer from the inside gave him a big advantage over Raji. Tampa Bay’s Gerald McCoy, and Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley were all better players this season. Raji has come on strong as of late, but he’ll rightfully be nothing more than an alternative for the 2012 Pro Bowl.
This pick is obviously Saturday. How the voters could snub Minnesota’s John Sullivan for Saturday is ridiculous and one of the many reasons why Pro Bowl selections no longer carry any real weight outside the contract bargaining table. Consider that Saturday graded out as PFF’s worst run-blocking center, while Sullivan was an anchor behind Adrian Peterson’s potentially record-breaking season. A great person who has taken everything about his benching in stride, Saturday is on his way out of the NFL after 2012. But he won’t leave without a trip to Hawaii first.
Sitton’s Pro Bowl nod is a long time coming, but Cobb is likely the Packers’ worst Pro Bowl snub this season. The NFC has so many good receivers, and Dez Bryant (88 catches, 1,311, 12 touchdowns) and Roddy White (87, 1,309, seven) probably have stronger cases to be on the team than Cobb. However, one could argue that Cobb was one of the NFL’s 25 most impactful players of this season, everything considered. Substitute Cobb for Victor Cruz as the NFC’s fourth receiver or for Leon Washington at kick returner and no one even bats an eye. Even if the recognition becomes more hollow every season, Cobb deserves the nod.
Pro Bowl: Stay or Go?
The Pro Bowl and everything about it—the game, the voting, the importance of a selection—can’t be eliminated fast enough. The idea of an all-star game in football simply doesn’t work like it does in baseball or basketball, sports where you can go half-speed and the product doesn’t suffer. In football, you get embarrassing displays like we’ve seen the past couple of seasons. Saturday’s inclusion on the team is just one of many examples of a flawed voting process. Not getting even the most simple of decisions right—like John Sullivan starting at center for the NFC and Saturday staying home—devalues the recognition across the board. And overall, an All-Pro selection should carry much more weight now than any Pro Bowl nod. People complain about Hall of Fame and MVP voting from writers, but they get the decisions right more often than a mixed bag that includes fan voting.
Zach Kruse is a 24-year-old sports writer who contributes to Cheesehead TV, Bleacher Report and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He also covers prep sports for the Dunn Co. News. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.