In one of the more absurd elections in recent Pro Bowl history, fans and media failed to vote Marshawn Lynch into what amounts to the NFL equivalent of an All-Star game, despite the fact that Lynch in 2011 has so far amassed 1,108 yards, 12 touchdowns and provided new, eye-popping meaning to the importance of yards after contact.
The only Seahawk voted to the Pro Bowl: safety Earl Thomas, whose 2011 season lacked the statistical production (rookie record five interceptions) and flair of his inaugural year, when he didn’t make the Pro Bowl. But he made the NFC team this year as a starter.
Thomas has started all 15 games this season and is second on the team with a career-high 88 tackles (64 solo) with two interceptions, six passes defensed and two fumble recoveries. Earlier this season, he established a career-high with 10 tackles (four solo) vs. Cincinnati (10/30).
Thomas becomes the first Seattle player to earn a trip to Hawaii since 2008, when the Seahawks were represented by offensive tackle Walter Jones (ninth appearance) and linebacker Julian Peterson (third).
The Seahawks have five alternates to the NFL’s annual all-star game. Cornerback Brandon Browner, safety Kam Chancellor and fullback Michael Robinson are first alternates, Lynch is a second alternate and punter Jon Ryan a third alternate. Alternates would be named to the team if a selected member of the NFC squad cannot participate.
That Lynch is only a second alternate is ridiculous. However, Pro Bowl selections are often, if not mainly, the result of a team’s record — and not mainly based on individual performance. Seattle’s 7-8 mark heading into its season-ending game on Sunday at Arizona obviously worked against Lynch, penalized by Pro Bowl voters by simple dint of the fact that Seattle didn’t win more games.
But Lynch couldn’t have done much more than he did. Starting in Week 8, Lynch reeled off 135 yards and a touchdown against Dallas, 109 yards and a touchdown against Baltimore, 111 yards against Washington, a season-high 148 yards and two TDs against Philadelphia, 115 and one TD against St. Louis, two touchdowns at Chicago and 107 yards and a touchdown against San Francisco.
Lynch became the first Seattle runner since Shaun Alexander in 2005 to produce a 1,000-yard rushing season. But that was the least of it.
Starting in Week 4 against Atlanta, Lynch scored touchdowns in 11 consecutive games, a franchise record. The old mark had been nine games in a row scoring at least one touchdown, that by Alexander in his MVP season in 2005.
Last week against San Francisco, Lynch became the first runner since 2009 to rush for 100 yards in a game against the 49ers (107), and the first runner in 2011 to score a rushing touchdown against San Francisco.
Lynch also made each of his runs both an adventure and a testimony to the virtues of resoluteness. And he has manged to amass 1,118 yards and 12 touchdowns with an offensive line that, a month ago, lost three of its starters.
NFC running backs on the Pro Bowl team include Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy, Chicago’s Matt Forte, and San Francisco’s Frank Gore (only three running backs are selected from each conference).
We can buy into McCoy, who has run for 1,309 yards and an NFL-leading 17 TDs (but only 84 yards against Seattle on Dec. 1). But Gore didn’t have any better of a season than Lynch — 1,202 yards and eight TDs (4 fewer than Lynch). What Gore did have going for him, in terms of Pro Bowl voting, was San Francisco’s record — 12-3. That’s why he is a Pro Bowl selection and Lynch is not.
Matt Forte? Forte missed three games with an injury, including Chicago’s 38-14 loss to Seattle on Dec. 18 in a game in which Lynch scored twice. So why is Forte a Pro Bowler and Lynch is not? Easy: Forte plays for the higher-profile Bears instead of the lower-profile Seahawks.
Pro Bowl selections really count for nothing until Hall of Fame voters begin assessing a candidate’s worthiness. If Lynch ever comes up for consideration, and that’s years away, no Pro Bowl selection in 2011 will comprise his chances, when he should have made the Pro Bowl team easily.