The Pro Bowl has suffered, when it comes to participants, since the league has moved it to between conference championship games and the Super Bowl for television interest purposes. There can be little debate about this. This year is just the latest, but it’s not hyperbole to say that this is the least accomplished (based on this year’s numbers) group of quarterbacks to ever participate in the Pro Bowl.
Likely MVP Cam Newton is playing in the Super Bowl. Tom Brady and Carson Palmer, two other veterans who put up great seasons, just lost last week (and Palmer is nursing a thumb injury that affected him in the last two games). Aaron Rodgers is not in Hawaii. Andy Dalton hurt his thumb before the season ended. Ben Roethlisberger hurt his shoulder in the playoffs.
Russell Wilson is the lone MVP caliber participant among this year’s pro bowl group, and the only one, if you were selecting the best six quarterbacks this year, that you would have put in the game. Tyrod Taylor missed 3 games with an injury, but by rate stats has the second best season of this group. Eli Manning had another solid year, but not much different than others when he has not participated because there were better options. Jameis Winston had a very good season by rookie standards but not by typical pro bowl standards. Derek Carr and Teddy Bridgewater showed promise in their second seasons, but they did not put up typical pro bowl campaigns.
This group of six quarterbacks played for teams that collectively went 48-48 this year.
Using the average “Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt” rankings of the quarterbacks who actually played in the game, here are the worst groups of collective quarterbacks by production that season [all pro bowl and passing data via pro-football-reference.com]:
- 2015: Russell Wilson, Tyrod Taylor, Eli Manning, Jameis Winston, Derek Carr, Teddy Bridgewater (14.0)
- 1975: Ken Anderson, Jim Hart, Dan Pastorini, Mike Boryla (13.0)
- 1989: Warren Moon, Randall Cunningham, Mark Rypien, Dave Krieg (11.8)
- 2014: Drew Brees, Andrew Luck, Andy Dalton, Tony Romo, Matt Ryan, Matt Stafford (11.7)
- 2013: Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Nick Foles, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Alex Smith (10.7)
The only one close was 1975. Dan Pastorini put up near league average numbers, while Mike Boryla wasn’t even a full-time starter, but had to come in as an injury replacement. To put his participation in perspective, he would be like if Brock Osweiler or Blaine Gabbert was selected this year after others declined. But the group comes in slightly ahead because Ken Anderson put up a MVP caliber season and Jim Hart was also in the top 5 in getting the St. Louis Cardinals to the playoffs.
You’ll notice that three of the five lowest average pro bowl seasons have come in the last three years. It looks like, along with glow-in-the-dark uniforms, that this is the new normal.