In 2006, when the Chicago Bears put together a 13-3 record and went all the way to Super Bowl XLI, they had eight players go to the Pro Bowl.
A year later, despite disappointing everyone across the league with a 7-9 mark on the heels of an appearance on Super Sunday, the Monsters of the Midway still sent four players to Hawaii.
But in 2008, although they are still mathematically alive for the NFC North title and their 8-6 record is better than most every prognosticator predicted in training camp, Lovie Smith's crew had only one player get the nod for the league's annual all-star game: weak-side linebacker Lance Briggs.
A yearly ritual for football fanatics across the country involves scouring both the AFC and NFC rosters to come up with a list of deserving players that got snubbed, but do any Midway Monsters have a reason to complain after the NFL announced the honorees Tuesday afternoon?
In a word: no.
Six Bears just missed the cut. Defensive tackle Tommie Harris was a first alternate. Center Olin Kreutz, punter Brad Maynard, and tight end Greg Olsen were all second alternates. Return man Devin Hester and middle linebacker Brian Urlacher were both third alternates.
Harris, who had made the Pro Bowl each of the last three years, hasn't been himself this season and still doesn't appear to be fully healthy. Kreutz, a six-time Pro Bowler, simply isn't the player he used to be and was left off the team for the second straight year. A case can be made for Maynard, who leads the league in punts dropped inside the enemy's 20-yard line. Olsen is still the backup to Desmond Clark on the depth chart, but him getting as much attention as he did in the voting proves that he's a star in the making. Hester has done well in his transformation into a receiver, although his ability in the return game has suffered substantially. And then there's Urlacher, the face of the franchise, not being selected for the second consecutive season and may have finally lost half a step at the age of 30.
Many Bears fans may be shocked to see rookie tailback Matt Forte not even make the list as a third alternate. Even though the NFC is loaded with top-tier ball carriers in 2008, Forte is fifth in the conference in rushing (1,115 yards), leads all running backs in catches (58), and only seven players in the league have scored more touchdowns than he has (11). The second-round draft pick out of Tulane has done everything short of cook the pregame meals and fly the team plane.
Forte has been sensational, no question about it, but is he truly more deserving than Adrian Peterson of the Vikings, who leads the league with 1,581 rushing yards and averages 4.9 yards per tote? Or Michael Turner of the Falcons, who has rushed for 1,421 yards and led the out-of-nowhere turnaround in Atlanta? Or Clinton Portis of the Redskins, who has put up 1,337 yards on the ground and is second in the NFL with 13 runs of 20-plus yards despite a new injury every week?
If any ball carrier in the NFC has a beef, it's DeAngelo Williams of the Panthers. He's rushed for 1,229 yards, averaged a Barry Sanders-like 5.5 yards per carry, and trails only Turner with 14 rushing TDs. Not to mention that Williams has done all this while sharing the load with first-rounder Jonathan Stewart – Forte, on the other hand, has been practically alone in the Chicago backfield since Week 1.
There certainly are some serious Pro Bowl snubs this season, just as there are every year. First-year Jet Brett Favre getting the nod at QB in the AFC over Philip Rivers of the Chargers is a joke, regardless of the fact that New York is 9-5 while San Diego is 6-8. In the NFC, defensive end John Abraham has been a terror for the Falcons with 15.5 sacks, although good luck choosing between Minnesota's Jared Allen, Carolina's Julius Peppers, and New York's Justin Tuck to stay home.
But as far as the Bears are concerned, while Forte certainly looks to have a few Pro Bowls in his future, both Kreutz and Urlacher have most likely seen their last.
John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.
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