On Tuesday, the NFL announced the official rosters for the 2012 NFL Pro Bowl. While the game itself is frivolous and even the honor itself has lessened in recent years, it's still something that seems to be gotten right more often than naught. It also helps that the San Francisco 49ers ties for the most amount of representatives in the game this time 'round. The 49ers have had more written about them this year than in some time, but as we've been doing all season, it's par the course.
Eight players made the official roster as starters or reserve players, while a whole slew of alternates were also listed. That's more representatives than the Green Bay Packers and the same number as represented by the New England Patriots, who like their chances at another Super Bowl this season. For that reason alone, it feels really odd to consider the idea of "snubs," but it's something that has to be argued either way.
To preface the talk of potential snubs on the 49ers, let's simply relent that maybe certain players didn't deserve a Pro Bowl nomination - maybe left tackle Joe Staley. That isn't to say he didn't for sure, but let's just disarm those who might take the "too greedy!" angle and suggest that any of the snubs below be in place of Mr. Staley, yes? Good! Onto the snubs.
LB NaVorro Bowman
If you listen to Jon Gruden, the best linebacker combination in the NFL is Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. If you listen to someone who doesn't just vomit love and sunshine on whatever group of 106 players he happens to presently be witnessing, you'd likely hear (this season) that Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman are the two best. Earlier in the season, Bowman was making plays that no other linebacker was making, covering extreme amounts of distance and wrapping up players who had no business being wrapped up.
Up in the press box at Candlestick Park, the media had to correct themselves more than once when calling out which player it was that just made the play. "That's No. 52, Patrick Willis on the tackle ... Correction, that's No. 53, NaVorro Bowman with the stop in the backfield."
Statements like that were a virtual regularity, and he kept it up throughout the entirety of the season. He's not a huge stat guy, but he's given coverage duties on running backs, tight ends and slot receivers, and he does it very well. On top of that, he's one of the reasons the 49ers can actually stop a screen pass now, one of the things that killed them for years. Bowman was absolutely one of the three best inside linebackers in the NFC this season.
LB Aldon Smith
Eager to know how much consideration Smith got from the voters outside of the fan ballot. It was probably a significant amount, but the NFL neglected to include him on the fan ballot, which accounts for 1/3 of the vote. It's really unclear as to why he wasn't included, because at that point he was already putting up the sack numbers. Von Miller, a fellow rookie who has fewer sacks, was interviewed on the NFL Network on Tuesday and asked about the rookie sack record.
You know, the rookie sack record that Aldon Smith needs half a sack to tie and a full sack to break, while Miller needs three. Yeah, that record.
Aldon has been tearing through people lately. Absolutely tearing. When he collides with a tackle or tight end, it's violent and explosive, and he's often on his way to the quarterback. Against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, you can count on him getting that sack record. Even outside of rookies, Aldon is only behind the truly best in the NFC in regards to pass-rushing. And yet Von Miller makes it. That's got to be the very definition of a snub.
OG Mike Iupati
Iupati has been the best player on the 49ers offensive line all season. The fact that Staley made it over him is somewhat confusing, but it's very possible that his selection was all name recognition. That being said, both have been solid this year, generally holding down the fort while the right side of the line absolutely collapses. But it does extend beyond just pass blocking.
When the 49ers user some intricate blocking scheme that involves a player getting outside, even if it's to the opposite side of the line, it's Iupati showing the most hustle to get out in front of Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter or whoever happens to have the benefit of following such a smash-mouth behemoth. He does all the little things and is undoubtedly one of the better guards in the NFL, and is most certainly a snub this season.