It barely even counts for the sake of pageantry anymore. It's the equivalent of any other All-Star game in any sport. It means nothing, it's like a pat on the back for people who do well but don't get into the Super Bowl. It's the Pro Bowl. A nice weekend before the big game during which the best of the losing teams get together to play a game that doesn't count, in front of a television audience comparable to about a tenth of the Super Bowl.
More often than not, the game includes a decent cross-section of players who either did well that year, did amazing enough the year before for everyone to remember, or a bunch of "alternates" after the real stars declined in favor of allowing injuries to heal, spending time with their families, washing their hair or watching paint dry.
Admittedly, whether it counts or not, the game is usually infinitely more entertaining than anything else on TV that day, but only because it is football. The plays are a bit more creative, as coaches and players are willing to take more chances in a game that does not matter, and occasionally two rivals try to mercilessly tune each other up given that penalties are less of a concern when one's paying club is not involved.
Ultimately though, some years involve a deeper pool of talent than others, and when primary selections and alternates bail on their invitations, there can be some pretty sad Pro Bowl selections. Here is our list of the worst players ever to play in that game. It will include players from before and after 1995. Before that time, only coaches and players voted, and of course, now, fans are included in the voting process. This list will also include any player who played in the game, whether as one of the players voted or an alternate.
Furthermore, this won't be a list of players who had subpar careers overall, but made the Pro Bowl during a year or two of outstanding play. Nor is this a list of players we simply don't like. This is a list of players, and a year in which they played in the Pro Bowl but should not have.
Sorry for the quarterback-heavy list. Also, sorry for the first entry, this is going to hurt a few of you.
15 Andrew Luck - 2012 (Hear me out...)
I wrote "hear me out" up there because I know that Andrew Luck had a very respectable rookie year and has now grown into one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Furthermore, he has some pretty zealous fans and I wouldn't want anyone to throw their computer against a wall after seeing him on this list. I have immense respect for Andrew Luck, but his rookie year was not worthy of a Pro Bowl appearance.
14 David Garrard - 2009
He isn't one of the worst quarterbacks to ever play the game but there is no reason he should have been in the 2009 Pro Bowl. He shouldn't even have been an alternate. Gerrard threw only ten interceptions on the year, so there is one positive.
13 Jeff Saturday - 2012
This is one example of a player getting into the Pro Bowl off name recognition and past success rather than performance in the season. Center Jeff Saturday was one of the best in the game and played on a Super Bowl winning team with the Colts in 2006. He made six Pro Bowls and was a first team All-Pro twice.
12 Brett Favre - 2008
Much like what I had to say about Andrew Luck, I have to say here about Brett Favre. He is one of the best to ever play the game and I have great respect for his career. Much like Jeff Saturday however, one of his Pro Bowl selections was due to prior success. In 2008, when he played with the New York Jets, Favre passed for 3,472 yards and had a 65.7 completion rate. The team went 9-7.
11 Trent Dilfer - 1997
It was his fourth year in the league and Trent Dilfer was playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Much like most of the rest of this list, his season wasn't completely pathetic, but it was nowhere near what should get a man into an All-Star game like the Pro Bowl.
10 Andy Dalton - 2014
Like quite a few names on this list, Andy Dalton was in the Pro Bowl because many, many quarterbacks declined to show up. A couple were in the Super Bowl, Joe Flacco's wife was having a kid, yadda, yadda, yadda. Dalton had an alright year and isn't an atrocious quarterback. He's just very average, except in the red hair department, in which he is outstanding.
In 2014 he threw for 3,398 yards with a completion rate of 64.2%, which was 12th and 16th in the league. Not atrocious. He was tied for third most interceptions however, with 17. On the short list of good things about his season, the Bengals went 10-5-1, but that was more due to the effective rushing game and a defense that performed well.
9 Vince Young - 2006
This goes back to Vince Young's rookie year and it was an impressive rookie year, but there are some stats that were simply disturbing. To start out with some positives, the Titans went 8-5 with Young under center and he had 83 rushing attempts for 552 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. He was an entertaining player and looked promising.
8 Brent Fullwood - 1989
A disappointing first round pick for the Green Bay Packers from the late 1980s, Fullwood's 1989 year wasn't atrocious but there wasn't anything impressive about it. Plenty of other running backs obviously declined.
7 Tucker Frederickson - 1965
6 John Hadl - 1972
Overall, John Hadl was a pretty damn good quarterback, playing sixteen relatively successful seasons in the AFL/NFL between 1962 and 1977. For just over a decade he played for the San Diego Chargers. 1972 however, was a very rough year for him and there is no way he should have been a Pro Bowl quarterback. He did have a career high in that year, but it was interceptions, with 26, enough for the largest number in the league. Back then it was okay (still not ideal) if a quarterback tossed as many picks as touchdown passes, but Hadl only threw 15.
5 Jim Hart - 1977
4 Jay Novacek - 1993
There is no question that Jay Novacek was a hell of a tight end. He played in five Pro Bowls and helped the Dallas Cowboys to three Super Bowls. He earned those rings, but ultimately, one of those Pro Bowls is tainted due to the fact that he had a poor year and was only there because the other tight ends in the NFC were terrible that year. In my humble opinion, God-awful competition does not create an All-Star.
3 Dave Krieg - 1989
Dave Krieg had a pretty solid career, even more impressive is that fact that he was undrafted. There were some years in which he was an obvious choice for the Pro Bowl. 1989 was not one of those years.
2 John Stallworth - 1983
During his time in the league, John Stallworth was one of the best in the league. He played wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s when they were the dominant force in the league. Remember the Iron Curtain? He was one of the key guys on offense. Four AFC Championships and four Super Bowl victories to match are on his resume.
1 Mike Boryla - 1975
Boryla played four excruciatingly unimpressive seasons as an NFL quarterback, three for the Philadelphia Eagles and one for the Buccaneers. In 1975, tons of quarterbacks backed out of the Pro Bowl and he ended up going. In seven games, he threw for 996 yards. He threw six touchdowns and twelve interceptions. His 52.4% completion rate wasn't the worst in the league but everything else about his year was around the bottom.
He used his appearance in the Pro Bowl to have probably the best game of his career. He threw two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to win the game for the NFC.
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