Even though the actual Pro Bowl game itself has devolved into a shell of its former self, with the competitiveness of an afternoon pickup game of ultimate frisbee, the individual player selections to the Pro Bowl should represent the best of what the NFL has to offer. This is usually the case, but as with anything else involving sports, there are a few notable outliers which will make fans today do a double-take. There have been some truly sub-par players to appear on a Pro Bowl roster over the years, making a mockery of what is typically considered one of the league’s highest honors.
Most of the players on here made the Pro Bowl on the strength of one individual season, but some of them didn’t even have that to their credit. In either case, they don’t deserve to be remembered with the upper echelon of players from their era. Despite the anonymous nature of their careers, they’ll be remembered in the group of players who somehow were able to sneak a Pro Bowl-appearance on their resume. It’s a kind of elaborate form of highway robbery, but these players were able to pull it off.
Ranked below are the 15 worst players to ever appear in a Pro Bowl.
15. Matt Cassel
Matt Cassel has hung around the league so long, based on the merits of one or two seasons. It’s not the safest strategy in the books, but it does seem to be working for him. Every six years or so, Cassel will have a quality season filling in for a regular starter, and it will prolong his career even further, when it should have been finished a decade ago. He’s done this for the Patriots and the Chiefs, but also has stunk it up with the Bills and Cowboys to show distinctively that he doesn’t have what it takes to be a franchise QB in the NFL. Even so, he has made a Pro Bowl, and while it’s a testament to his ability to somehow remain in a league that is a level above his skill set, it doesn’t actually make him a Pro Bowl-worthy quarterback.
14. Braylon Edwards
Pretty much the definition of a one-hit wonder in the NFL, Edwards was seen by the Browns as the next elite receiver in the league after the 2007 season. After that, he never came close to matching his statistical totals from that year. It was still good enough for a Pro Bowl appearance however, and being considered one of the hallmark (if only for a year or two) players of the Y2K Era. Edwards had at least one good season, but it’s difficult to call it anything but a fluke, and as a result, his career on the whole of it isn’t very impressive. Not a slight to him, but Edwards is one of the worst receivers to ever receive the honors, even if it did come in the midst of his one worthy season.
13. Nick Foles
Nick Foles had a completely unsustainable season with the Eagles in 2013, which saw him toss 27 TD passes with only two INTs for the entire year. Clearly, he wasn’t as good as those statistics indicated, and he fell into mediocrity a short time later. Still, it was enough to land him on the Pro Bowl roster, and it’s likely the only one he will ever be a part of, as he is now the subject of backup duty in Kansas City. Foles was always a longshot to be a great NFL QB, so some might say that his one quality season was a victory for his career, and it would be hard to argue against that. Even so, all things considered, Foles is a bad starting QB, and the fact that he was able to make a Pro Bowl is simply a miracle.
12. Marion Barber
For as highly touted as he was, Barber in retrospect wasn’t very good, and was a glorified one-lane runner for most of his career. He had several seasons where he racked up a considerable amount of touchdowns, but that doesn’t really tell the whole story. He never rushed for 1,000 yards in a season, and was merely a quality “change of pace” level asset to the Cowboys in his heyday. Plenty of goal-line touches skewed his statistics however, and his numbers indicated that he was better than he truly was. The league gets it right with running backs most of the time, but Barber was severely overrated, and wasn’t an elite player even in his prime.
11. Derek Anderson
Current backup quarterback for the Panthers, there was a time when Anderson was actually considered a quality starter in the pro ranks, though it feels like a half-century ago at this point. Back in 2007, Anderson had his own outlier of a season with the Browns (who else?), and fooled everyone into thinking he would be a successful QB over the long-term in the NFL. He wasn’t. From 2008 onward, Anderson was a disaster as a starting QB. While he probably deserved the one Pro Bowl nomination that he received, he’s definitely one of the worst at his position to ever make one. Anderson is an example of how the NFL can quickly drag any player back down to Earth after a small amount of success.
10. Chad Lewis
While a solid tight end in his day, and a member of some of the best teams in the history of the Philadelphia Eagles, it’s a mystery as to why Lewis ended up getting as much Pro Bowl praise as he did in his career. Again, a reliable player, but nothing about his numbers suggested that he should have been on such an elite roster. In the end, he got three selections in his career. When compared to the likes of Gronkowski and Tony Gonzalez, Lewis isn’t even in the same universe as a threat at the position. It’s not a slight to him, but there must have been several better choices from the same era. It’s certainly difficult to overlook, but there have also been more egregious choices for the Pro Bowl over the years, so it doesn’t stand out as much as it could.
9. Andy Dalton
Even though he isn’t widely considered a true, elite quarterback, Dalton is still one of the most overrated players of this era in the NFL. Besides being completely ineffective in any kind of big game, he has always had a wealth of talent around him, and just can never produce at a level that is expected of someone in his position. He’s just good enough to stay on the field, but absolutely cannot elevate the talent around him. There’s no way he should have been able to sniff the Pro Bowl, yet found himself there, mostly at times when better quarterbacks declined the nomination. Still, the praise that some pundits still have for Dalton is baffling, and not representative of how much of a detriment he really is. With all the problems the Bengals are having, the Pro Bowl is probably the last thing on his mind however.
8. Marcedes Lewis
Nothing but a mediocre talent who has stuck around the league on the strength of one season, Lewis continues to defy the odds. Now 10 seasons into his NFL career, he has shown that if any given player just barely shows enough flashes of brilliance, that a team will keep paying them based on potential. The Jaguars have had far more talented tight ends over the years, but Lewis remains the constant, and is destined to stay in Jacksonville until his retirement. No matter how many games he misses due to injury, or how unproductive he is over the course of any season, the Jaguars keep giving him a payday, which indicates why they’re at the bottom of the barrel in the AFC right now. Lewis has made a Pro Bowl, but is career-long production isn’t even close to that level.
7. Trent Dilfer
Always one of the choices on the short-list of the worst quarterbacks to ever win a Super Bowl, Dilfer was also one of the worst players to ever make a Pro Bowl. He really was inept as an NFL QB, and only because of the elite Baltimore Ravens defense of the 2000 season can he lay claim to a championship. Other than that, Dilfer’s career was an abject failure, and he was was never able to better his mediocre play as time went on. Dilfer started over 60 games in his career, and was never able to throw for 3,000 yards in a season. He was just completely dreck, and not capable of playing the position well at a professional level. In addition to a Pro Bowl, it also landed him a spot as a ham-fisted analyst on ESPN. Some athletes just have all the luck in their career, and I’m sure Dilfer isn’t complaining.
6. Marcellus Wiley
Any praise Wiley’s career gets is based on the strength of two seasons out of a total of 10, which is a pretty low batting average overall. The fact is that Wiley just wasn’t that good for most of his career, though he was able to take a statistical leap during the extremely brief prime years of his career. For every other season, he was anonymous, another face in whatever defensive line he was a part of. It scored him a couple of nice paydays, but his legacy can’t compare to the best at his position during the same era, most of which accompanied him on the Pro Bowl roster he was a part of. Nowadays he can be found hacking it up on SportsNation, showcasing how his mediocre football career was probably more entertaining than his attempt to be a television personality.
5. Elvis Grbac
Grbac played for three different teams in his seven-year NFL career, and was mediocre with all of them. Definitely one of the most questionable choices for a Pro Bowler, he had just one good season, but even then wasn’t in the realm of top-five QBs in the NFL at the time. His best days came with the Chiefs, during the 2000 season, but one outlier of a season doesn’t change the lack of success during an entire career. Grbac is one of the worst players to ever appear in a Pro Bowl, and the only reason why he isn’t higher is simply because he had an extremely short window of success. His career was decidedly mediocre, and Grbac never really gained enough relevance to have it stand out, but this Pro Bowl selection was a pretty poor choice.
4. Stephen Alexander
Chad Lewis may have a headscratcher of a tight end to include on a Pro Bowl roster, but Alexander was just a flat-out bad tight end. He had a substantial career in length, but absolutely zero stand-out seasons. Why he was ever chosen to represent the league with the best players in the sport is a complete mystery. Alexander was the definition of mediocre, but somehow got the nod to the all-star ranks. He’s certainly the worst tight end from a pure skill level to ever end up going to one, but there are players who are just as bad who weren’t as anonymous, and are more note-worthy as talking points. Still, from a sheer skill level (or lack thereof), it’s hard to come up with a player who was worse than Alexander when it comes down to it.
3. Kordell Stewart
For quite a long time, Stewart was overrated by many fans who believed that his elite running ability as a QB made him a lot better than he actually was. Instead, his mediocre pocket skills, and erratic arm were put on display soon enough. Stewart was on the brink of winning a title with the Steelers, but that was due more to the quality of talent around him, than was his own skills as the signal caller. He did make a Pro Bowl, but he’ll always be remembered as the ultra-light version of Michael Vick, and that’s definitely not high praise. Not quite the worst QB ever to ever make the all-star ranks, but he’s definitely up there, and for a certain generation, he might be exactly that.
2. Jerry Azumah
Azumah had a couple of good seasons with the Bears, but for the rest of his career was largely burnt toast at the cornerback position. Another example of a few good seasons deviating from the norm, making a player appear better than he really was. For his first three years in the league, Azumah could barely get on the field, and then when he had an against-all-odds couple of quality seasons when he was eventually named a starter. Compared to the quality of elite secondary players there were in the Y2K era however, Azumah just didn’t stack up. He wasn’t nearly as durable, and couldn’t match the statistics of the all-time greats. Still, he appeared on a Pro Bowl roster, and was one of the worst corners of all-time to do so.
1. Vince Young
Coming out of Texas, Young was considered to be the quarterback prospect of a generation. Seemingly a hybrid of Randall Cunningham and Peyton Manning, Young was predicted to have an elite skill set. When the Titans selected him in 2006, he ended up being anything but that, and floundered quickly. He earned several Pro Bowl nods, but unlike many others on this list, he didn’t even have one strong season to go along with it. The league clearly wanted this guy to succeed, so he could sell apparel for years to come, and become a household name, but it just couldn’t be ignored any longer. By 2011, he had a one-year stint as Michael Vick’s backup on the Eagles, and he was absolutely dreadful with the time that he saw under center. It ended up being his last season in the league. Next to JaMarcus Russell, Young will go down as one of the most high-profile QB busts in league history. The difference is, he was able to make a Pro Bowl with only mediocre statistical evidence to back it up.
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